Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Toronto: 1231
Just the facts, man


I am seeded 65th and am not expected to do too well against this impressive field. A couple of the right kind of victories will send me over the top. However, a loss against someone seeded below me might crush me.

Game One: Yvonne Lobo, 42nd seed
After a sad little VAW I change tiles twice. Yvonne bingos with JOINTERS for 98 points, and the score is 120 to 166, Yvonne's favour. I find CARDIA for 20 points (not my best play, but my shout-out to my live games trainer Aldo Cardia and a prayer to the tile gods). I change tiles twice and manage to squeak out GOAlIES for 71 points, extending CARDIA to CARDIAE. Final score: 417-271. My first win.

Game Two: Trey Wright, 8th seed
What can I say? It was a perfect game for this talented concert pianist. He had left me limping after scoring with OPIOIDS, FLAnERIE, REMANDS and PHONETIC. The best I could manage was QADI for 34 points. But it was a fun game and a real pleasure to meet this one-time national champion. After twelve plays per side, the score is 272-554. I'm 1-1. Je ne regrette rien!

Game Three: Rachel Matlow, 88th seed
Sixteen whopping moves on my part in this game against the daughter of my Grade Six English teacher. No bingos, just little leaps forward: YAUPS, INION, CUIF, WEDGIE and so forth. Rachel makes QuIT for 44 points and then QuIT for 36 on her next turn. for Final score: 331-292. I'm 2-1.

Game Four: Joel Sherman, 13th seed
I'm nervous and excited to be playing the famous Joel Sherman. We have never played together, although I've known Joel for a few years from his role as club director in New York City. I've always liked him and now that we are facing off, I get to watch and make notes to myself. I am playing like an imbecile, although I manage to hold my own for awhile there. By the seventh play there is a beautiful opening on the board at 15H, where a lone E tempts me. On my rack is EEIRSV?. I am wearing my clock down. I am confused and cloudy. I have been studying new words dangerously close to tournament time and now I am really baffled. The clock is ticking down. I am seeing a blend of DEVISEES and REVISALS, but time is of the essence, so I lay down REVISEEs* across the E. Joel holds the play, does an internal calculation and quickly challenges it off. Joel took a bit of time and then thoughtfully blocked that sweet spot with TIRL right above it. I spent the rest of the game pissing my good tiles away, watching my score wane as his waxed, and struggling to shorten the cumulative gap. No bingos this game. Final score: 249-368. I'm 2-2.

Game Five: Steve Pellinen, 25th seed
I open with TREATY for 26, and Steve flies out of the gate with FLEURY for 24. On his next move, he lays down SALINIFY* and I promptly challenge it off, then exchange seven tiles. He makes ZIGS and CULEX, and then bingos with INDOwED for 82 points, raising him up to 229 to my 153. I find ENCAGES and then UNSATED. Too little too late. Final score: 387-394. I'm 2-3.
Game Six: Ross Brown, 91st seed
Ross opens with HANGED and I find WANGLING immediately. He questions my JERRID but lets it stay on the board. In his ninth move he finds TOLERATE for 66 and I counter with EASIEsT for 77. Final score: 452-317. I'm 3-3.

Game Seven: Carolyn Easter, 39th seed
My last game of the day. Lucky thirteen. That's how many plays per side we managed in this game. In our opening volley I make QI to which she counters with IF, and it's off to the races. Two moves later I bingo with TREPANS for 72 points. Meanwhile Carolyn is making small plays, treading water. After I see TOOTERS for 64, I am feeling confident. I lay down DIGGER and ATMAN and then another bingo, WEIRDED, for 82 points. I've broken away and am heading toward victory. In our last volleys I unload EX for 39 points and JAILED for 22. Score is now 393 to 327 and I am contemplating my end game. I check the tracking. I see that Carolyn is holding a V, a C and an L. I am happy happy happy. And then she blows my mind with VESICLE, to bingo out, which fetches her 101 points plus 16 from me. I stand up and give her a big hug. That was amazing. I am so impressed! Final score: 393-454. I'm 3-4.

At the end of the first day I am 3-4. I've lost all the games that I was expected to lose in this tournament and I've won a game I was expected to lose. Not bad at all. That will garner me a few rating points.


Game Eight: Sid Lashley, 61st seed
Sid opens with MOLE and I come back with WINK for 27, PARITY for 30 and DANGLE for 24, giving me the lead. Then I lay down EARNERs for 68 points, and later, IONIsED for 63. After 14 plays for me, the final score is 379-322. I'm 4-4.

Game Nine: Geoffrey Newman, 81st seed
My opponent opens with ERODERS for 68 points. I am trailing and making little plays like AUREOLE, MAX and FILER, dumping stuff and building some points. Then I hit on FOLIAGE for 76, and now we have us a game. Geoffrey comes back with INEDITA for 82 points, and I am still throwing back small but strong punches. I bingo with SUNRIsE, then play FEZES and QAT to assure my victory against this young up-and-comer. He's very good. Final score: 440-380. I'm 5-4.

Game Ten: Geoff Gibson, 75th seed
Sometimes you feel the game going the wrong way and you can do nothing to stop the bleeding. This was one of those games. With Geoff seeded lower than me I was pretty confident that I would find the way to pull this off. Especially when he played URAEI and then its anagram, AUREI. I played QUODS for 50 points and then it started. He bingoed with REINDEER, bungoed with GROOMED and then two plays later, after his ZAG for 43, he bingoed with ELATIONS for 70. I ask tournament director John Chew to consider the fact that Geoff should be rated higher because of his recent stellar performance in another tournament. I am pleading my case not to let Geoff wipe out my progress so far. John says, "I'll put that on my list of things to do," and writes it down on a long sheet of paper with many scribblings. Final score: 279-460. I'm 5-5.

Game Eleven: Lisa Odom, 16th seed
My third expert. I'm quite thrilled about this! And with my record so far, I can afford the bloodletting and still come out ahead. I open with OIDIA. Lisa makes HOGTIE for 22, and then I play JEEZ for 31 while she counters with FUTZED for 38. I play TWeAK for 45 and then AUROREAN for 76. Score's now 176-130 and I'm feeling pretty good. Two plays later, Lisa plunks down SIDEWALK for 89 and we are neck in neck until nearly the end when I challenge PECH. She makes 45 points and takes a decisive lead. Final score: 363-404. I'm 5-6.

Game Twelve: Robin Pollock Daniel, 4th seed
Yet another formidable expert opponent. I so badly want to find the big words; the impressive words; the words I've been studying. I open with FIND and Robin counters with GRANA. I make BATMAN for 20 and she zings me with ZA for 46. I get the J and start to giggle: All I can find is a spot for 28 points to play JO. I can forget about making any interesting plays to show off my new word knowledge. Now sitting with two blanks on my rack, it takes me an eternity to find ETERniTY for 70 points, and then Robin comes back with VENDORS two plays later. She plays a lovely YOGINI through some stuff on the board. I get WARTS for 34, and then we spill out little words, setting me back and Robin way forward until the final score is 318-423. I'm 5-7.

I rethink my tournament. I have two byes as we all do in this particular tournament. This makes me technically at 7-7, so I am okay. I'm even money. But it's time to get serious and start taking control. I've played all the experts I can handle and have learned something valuable with each of those losses. It's been such a cool ride.

Game Thirteen: Mark Gooley, 54th seed
We are dancing the dance. Mark bingos with RETUNiNG for 70 points. I am unafraid. Then I spot the convergence of opportunity and knowledge: There is AERATED on my rack and
an orphan D on the board. I make DEAERATE. Mark challenges and I get another shot at the bag, making ORBY for 30. I have the draw and the opportunity and the board is wide open. Final score: 365-308. I'm 8-7.

At the end of the second day, I am holding my own. There are two pages posted with the updated standings. Instinctively I look at the second page and do not see my name. I did not realize that I had made it onto the first page. It is humbling and I have to be very careful not to rest on these transient laurels.


Game Fourteen: Anna Miransky, 64th seed
I need this win. I need this win because I am nervous about any more losses. Anna is seeded one directly above me. At the rate I've been going, I should be able to knock her out. But in thirteen moves I will not find the way. I do, however, play CAISSON for a disappointing 64 points, rather than any of its more familiar anagrams, hopeful that Anna will challenge. She looks, ponders, and moves on. Meantime, she plays OUTWEAR for 69 and then ENTREaT for 68. I play JAW; she plays CROUP. It is over. Final score: 352-384. I am 8-8.

Game Fifteen: Sinni Vijayakumar, 19th seed
We are in the final game before the final King of the Hill round. I can feel the tension. I come out swinging with PAX for 32, then COITAL for 33 and then JELLY for 46. I'm an animal. Sinni lays down FOLIAGES for 65. Then I pull out ORDAINED for 70. We are running neck in neck. I play MEWED, BIRDY, AMAZES, GNU and then Sinni plays GUNWALE through something for 20 points. He is ahead by 20 points. I am tasting it. I need it. I will make it happen. I look on my rack and see the play that will bring me there. I play SOUTANE for 69 points. Heading into the final round, it is mine. Final score: 394-345. I am 9-8.

King of the Hill: Abraham Thomas, 38th seed
Abraham opens with POCK and I feel myself a bit light-headed, looking at his play for a second, but then plunking down ZIP for 34 points. He counters with XIS for 39 and then I see uNWASHED for 78. I find CLAVE for 28 points and then FEEB. He is pondering this word. That can only mean one thing: I have studied the new word list and know my way around it. Abraham tries STROBING* and I challenge it off. Then later, KIRTLING* and off it goes, too. I play STORAGE for 70 points, then PRAY for 36. It is clear that I have the draw and the composure. Abraham's clock is dangerously low and falling. I unload junk as we near the end, making OIL, ILIAD, QUIN for 13 points and RID. And it is done. Final score: 403-361. I am 10-8.

Despite 20 bingos for and 21 against, I have a shiny new rating of 1231. No money, but I'm very satisfied.

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