2019 Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament, part 1

October 15, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 15, 2019

It’s been more than a year since I last wrote about Scrabble. Those posts detailed my 4-4 record with a minus-53 spread that saw me finish sixth in the 10-person lower division.

Since then, I’ve participated in four tournaments that have until now gone unremarked-up on this blog:

• A 4-12 debacle in Wilmington, N.C., in which I finished 12th out of 12 in a single-division event in October 2018. I was seeded 10th but lost 12 games against four wins, with an abysmal spread of minus-1,036.

• A 9-7 performance in the January 2019 Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament. I was fifth out of 18 in the lower division and exceeded my No. 14 seed. I started out 3-5 but went 6-2 on the second and final day.

• A 3-5 record (with a minuscule plus-3 spread!) in the Duke PBMT late bird event, which was good for third place. I had been seeded seventh in the eight-person field.

• A 2-4 outing in June that saw me follow seeding and finish last out of six people with a minus-321 spread. The only person I beat was Erik Salgado — twice, in fact, by scores of 441-323 and 382-346. I mention this because Erik won Division 3 at the national Scrabble championship the following month, topping a 71-person field as a 15-seed. (He also won a 20-person division in the run-up to nationals despite being seeded 12th.)

I play fairly regularly in the local Scrabble club, where I’ve done so-so, and last month, as I mentioned briefly in another post, I had a nice three-game run (before a final-game flameout) at the Orlando Scrabble club.

At any rate, I returned to competition this month at the Robb Griffith Memorial Scrabble Tournament, which honors a local player. I was seeded atop the eight-person lower division.

My first opponent, P.M., was participating in her first tournament. I took a 93-46 lead midway through the third turn with RESiDES/IOTAS, a 69-point bingo, and added to my advantage in the next two turns with ZEN 32 and TEA/TI/EN/AGLOW, which scored 37 points thanks by using the triple-word-score bonus in the bottom-left corner.

P.M.’s highest-scoring move generated 24. She played FE/FAE*/ED for 30, but I successfully challenged it off the board. She had an interesting play that I nearly challenged, CULLET, which is a term for broken or discarded glass that is used to help make new grass.

I had two other noteworthy plays: STINKeR/OWNS, a 77-point bingo, and VEX/FE/REX 41. It all culminated in a 473-248 victory.

The final board of game 1 at the Oct. 12, 2019, Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament.
The final board of game 1 at the Griffith Memorial Tournament.

Game two pitted me against R—, who had beaten me in our initial encounter but lost the next two. Playing second, I took a 120-74 lead with my fourth move, DEARIEs/DE/ED, a 73-point bingo. In turn seven, I played SEXT/AZONS for 47; my other notable move, in turn 11, was QUITE, which placed the 10-point Q on a double-letter-score bonus and the E on a double-word-score bonus to produce 48 points.

We had a strange play in turn 10. Holding EILLLS?, R— played what I initially thought was LiLLIES*/BOLTS, a 67-point bingo that would have made the score 258-251 in my favor. However, I was instantly suspicious of the move, because I thought (correctly!) that the plural of lily is lilies.

After I announced my challenge, I noticed that R— had actually put down LiLLEIS*/BOLTS — that’s lilleis, not lilies. I carefully wrote down the actual move and put it in the challenge computer, which naturally rejected the play. Not until after the game did R— learn that the word he’d intended to play was a phony.

R—’s best had just one play worth more than 32 points: LAITiES/LEGGY 81. I finished with a 403-333 win, which moved me to 2-0 with a plus-295 spread.

My third foe was H.G., whom I’d beaten in our first game and split games with in October 2018. (Those contests, incidentally, were played during the previous edition of the Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament.) Playing first, H.G. went ahead 98-46 midway through turn 3 with SAINTED/NE/ED, a 66-point bingo. But I retook the lead, 180-141, in turn 5 with ALIGNIng, a 78-point bingo that benefited from using not one but two double-word-score bonuses.

I challenged H.G.’s TRY/PUCKY*, a 38-point play, off the board in turn 9. My only remaining notable words were FEAR/MA/ER, a triple-word-score–double-letter-score bonus combo that descended from the top row in the center column to score 31, and SUQ/INLANDS, a 32-pointer. The latter move prompted H.G. to make an unwise and unsuccessful challenge. I went on to a 416-332 win, bumping my record to 3-0 and my spread to plus-379 at the conclusion of the morning session.

To be continued

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