2019 Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament, part 3

October 17, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 17, 2019

As I noted in my last post, my opponents’ ratings were increasing as the day wore on. Round seven pitted me against the field’s No. 2 seed, D.L., a Durham resident who was returning to competitive Scrabble after a 12-year break.

His rating entering the tournament was 942, but he’d had a rough day, and his record stood at 2-4 with a spread of minus-190. Nevertheless, I expected him to be dangerous — he’d beaten me and a few other players during club play earlier in October.

However, I got off to a good start. Playing second, I turned my opening rack of ADEHIS? into SHADIEr/COWS, a 72-point bingo. Later, I put down ZEST/SCOWS for 43-points, which gave me a 168-57 lead after five turns.

D.L. got right back into the swing of things with his sixth play, ANALISE/ZESTS 77; this bingo drew him to within 34 points. And he opened turn seven with JARRED, a 44-point play that made the score 195-178.

D.L. kept on whittling away at my lead. But I surged ahead in turn 10 with AX/AA/XI, which used a triple-letter-score bonus to generate 52 points. This was a decisive turn in the contest.

I played CaNNIER/ORC 67 in turn 12 and followed up with VEGAN/ORCA/aN 38 with my very next move. I wound up claiming a 433-309 win.

That left two players contending for the title in the final round. N—, whom I’d defeated in round five, was 6-1 with a plus-612 spread. I was right behind her at 6-1 and plus-573.

The two of us met a second time in the final round. Because the third spot in the standings was held by a player with a 4-3 record, whoever won our rematch would be the division champ and whoever lost would be the runner-up.

Reader, it did not go well for me. My first four racks were MIRUVZ?, IIRSUZ?, DISUWZ? and DINNSZ?. Meanwhile, N— played FALTERS/FRIG, a 78-point bingo, to take a 100-12 lead midway through turn three.

She swapped out six tiles in turn five, but even so I was trailing, 126-54. And here I made a serious mistake.

I held DGLNSU?, which makes a single word (GULDeNS) only its own. Hungry points and play off some of my less helpful tiles, I put down DUNGS for 14 points.

I knew that this would open up the double-letter-score/triple-word-score bonus combination in the bottom-left corner of the board. But I was feeling desperate, and I kind of figured that if I didn’t catch a break sometime soon, I was bound to lose.

Well, maybe I was bound to lose all along. N— promptly placed a J on the DLS bonus and fiddled with her other tiles. Ultimately, she played JuDO, a devastating 57-point move that left me at the bottom of a 183-68 hole.

(In retrospect, I would have been better off playing DUNS 10 instead of DUNGS 14; the leave of GLS? was not much worse than LS?.)

I had a glimmer of hope as I contemplated my eighth move while still trailing by more than 100 points. My rack was AKLNSS?, and I played SLAKeNS/FRIGS 71. But my play was phony (I was thinking of slakes) and N— challenged it off the board. My rack, I later learned, makes no valid seven-letter words.

I swapped out some tiles in turn nine and entered turn 10 with DENNSS?, which I did not know at the time makes DuNNESS. (This apparently means the state of having a dun color.) I played REND 12 and drew EOT, giving me ENOSST?.

Well, that rack is easy enough: It forms 16 different bingos. I hooked it onto the end of WUD for STONeRS/WUDS to score 65.

N— announced a hold. (Wud, a Scottish adjective, means insane or mad and does not take an -S suffix.) But instead of challenging, my rival played AX/TA/OX 56, virtually wiping out all of my scoring gains.

The final board from round 8 at the Oct. 12, 2019, Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament in Durham, N.C.
The final board of game 8 at the Griffith Memorial Tournament.

The score was 305-181 at that moment, midway through turn 12. N— ended the game in turn 18 having made a 41-point play (KOI/KAY/APT/IT) and three plays worth 20-something points.

My final six plays scored as follows: 22, 20, 13, 15, 6 and 6.

It all added up to a rather dismal 451-263 defeat. N— secured the division title with an excellent 7-1 record and a truly stellar plus-806 spread. I finished in second place a 6-2 and plus-379.

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