The real event started at 2 p.m. on the Saturday.
Game 1: Ray Tate. W +114
Ray got a bonus on move 2, but with some steady scores of 30+ I got back to level the scores, and moved ahead with CHASTER immediately followed by UNPOETIC onto the C I had just played.
Game 2: Brett Smitheram. L -74
It was unlucky to get drawn to play Brett on game 2. He is one of the major threats for winning the title, and you would not expect this match until later into the tournament. The game started like a rocket. Brett opened with BOOZE for 38, giving me the E I required to change a dreadful rack into ULTRARED for 60. Brett replied with BUSHIDOS from the B, and I hit back with OBLIQUES around the L. Unfortunately I picked 6 vowels from the bag and could only respond to his 45 point play with ADIEU around a D for 14. I slipped to 40 points behind, but slotted in TITANATE around an A to take a 30 point lead. Brett soon bonused back followed by a play for 50 to seal the win.
Game 3: Lynne Murphy. W +151
This game started slowly, with me having to change on move 4, only having scored 87 after 5 moves. I then slotted in EPACRID for 85 to take a healthy lead. Very pleased to spot an 8 onto an A with AGLRSTU on my rack - had been on the verge of dumping LUG when GASTRULA leapt into my head, scoring 80. Followed up with a 52 and 45 point play to make a big win.
Game 4: Di Dennis. W +69
Di started with OKA, and with a consonant heavy rack I played VIAL around the A. Di then played VIOLD under OKA around my L, and the board was already blocked after 3 moves! I changed, and Di played SILEX for 40. Things were already not looking good for me - Di is excellent at blocking the board to maintain her advantage. However, I slowly started pegging her back, getting a triple hooking an E onto ALGA, and then another hooking a C onto DARI. I then made half an opening with BUMP to allow a word to be played hooking above or below the B. I was rewarded by picking a blank, and managed to play LIGNITE. Di immediately bingoed back for 80 to resume a 60 point advantage. However, I had a 39 point response and then got BRADOONS down around an A to take the lead and run for the line.
Game 5: Mike Whiteoak W +142
I opened with a bonus, TENOURS and continued to score steadily, getting ANNALISE on move 5 to take a stranglehold on the game. Played TITANATE yet again near the end of the game, killing the place where Mike could have played SIDEREAL onto an L.
Game 6: Barry Grossman L -95
Barry is one of my bogey players - although the last time we played he let me off the hook when he didn't spot the B hook onto EGAD to win the game. I was not so fortunate this time around. Barry bonused on moves 2 and 4, and with 2 other 40+ plays on moves 3 and 6 I was really struggling. I was 125 points down when I had a glimmer of hope as I turned over a blank, to be immediately dashed when I turned over the second blank as the next tile. I realistically needed 2 bonuses to win the game, and scoring 89 for SARCOMAS onto a triple was not going to be enough. Barry hit back immediately with a 42-point X play - game over.
So end of day 1, and I was 4-2 up. Still in with a chance, with only one player on 6-0, and quite a few on 5-1. My spread was okay at over +300. I was getting superstitious about players whose names started with B...
Game 7: Gary Polhill L -47
Gary started well and kept on going. Near the end I managed to narrow the spread, choosing to play DREARING onto a G for 80 and emptying the bag. Gary had EFLLSTU on his rack, and I was ruing not playing RANDIER hooking the last 3 tiles above StE... Gary had seen FULLEST but did not see the possibility of playing it, and just played FULL elsewhere.
I was now getting a phobia about players whose names rhymed with ARRY. I was temporarily back in the pack with a 4-3 record.
Game 8: Amy Byrne W +230
This was my biggest win of the whole tourney and my highest game score - 572. Amy is a lovely lady, but there is no room for compassion in serious competition.
It did not start well on my first rack - 5 vowels with ST, but starting first is a free go so I changed, keeping SATE and was rewarded with a dream pick of ILR. LITERALS off of Amy's opener onto the triple immediately followed by SALICINE across to the next triple. 4 more scores averaging over 37. Amy changed and I dumped LU tiles to balance my rack. Amy made an opening, and I got the easy REDEALS parallel on the triple for 92, followed by 4 more scores averaging 32.
Game 9: Margaret Staunton W +88
This game started slowly for both of us. I was concentrating on scoring reasonably but keeping my racks balanced, eking out a 50 point lead. Margaret tried SAUTIER which was quickly challenged off - SATIRE+U makes no 7. I then opened a triple for 30 points to tempt her to break up the SATIRE stem, knowing with 1-point tiles she could not score much and the ploy worked when she took it with AITU. I then had a seriously stupid moment when I played COENURIS off a C (URINOSE didn't fit anywhere), so lost a turn (COENURUS/COENURI are fine). Luckily she didn't block it so I got down COINSURE the next turn - didn't really want to play it as it ended one short of a double word, and I knew she had an S. I managed to capitalise on it 2 moves later with CATTIES for 98. Margaret spotted a great outplay from AAINRS? - rather than a face value 7 she played TSARINAS from a T, hooking the first S to the front of HA for 80.
Half way through the tourney and I am now back in the chase at 6-3.
Game 10: Ross MacKenzie W +148
This was an embarrassment of simple bonuses on my part - RETAILS, URALITES and RAIDERS.
Game 11: Christian Brown L -62
If Christian can keep up his level of play that he achieved in this game against me then he will be a player to watch in the future. An early bonus of BEDESMEN by Christian saw him take a 70 point lead, followed by another bonus. I pegged it back to only a 34 point deficit with HARPOON, but he immediately hit me with SACRARIA onto the A to be 100 behind yet again. I managed to claw some of it back, to narrow the spread.
Game 12: Anne Ramsay W +77
I bingoed on move 3 with TOUGHEN. Anne bonused back on move 6, but was still 26 behind. A good score each, and then I got GENITORS off a G for 80. Near the end being 100 points ahead I tried ERINITIC onto a C ( lots of ITE words can also be ITIC words), but this came off the board.
Game 13: Nick Deller W +96
I had set myself the target of 9 wins by the end of day 2, so I needed to win this one. I started with a couple of 30+ moves and got bingoes down on moves 4, 6 and 10, including ANTIAIR. I haven't noted what the other 2 were on my scorepad, and I have a dreadful memory - once a game has finished it normally gets banished to the underworld unless there was something of special note.
End of day 2 and target achieved. A good spread meant that I was top of the group on 9.
Game 14: Ed Martin W +13
Balanced on rack 1 and rewarded with DISHIER on rack 2 for 84. Ed bonused on move 3 after changing on the previous go, catching me up by move 5. My brain went to mush in this game, and I missed loads of bonuses on move 6. Of all the ones I spotted none went on the board, and I went into panic mode, losing loads of time before deciding to block the 9-timer Ed had just opened. My rack deteriorated and the game became a war of attrition, with the board becoming more and more blocked. Ed eventually made half an opening and I was able to play GROTTOES from the open G to go 93 in the lead. Ed made another opening, and after looking at what was left in the bag decided to optimise my score rather than block. I couldn't see a bonus onto the triple, so didn't think any other potential bonus would score enough. This was the correct strategy as Ed played out with PROJECT that had two places to play.
Game 15: Shane ONeill W +116
Shane made a mistake early on in this game, trying AMPUTING onto a G. I challenged it off. On his next move he played off TAMP, keeping UNI which is not a good leave. His rack did not recover from this. I kept scoring steadily, passing up a bonus of DOZIEST for 75 points using a blank, and played just ZED for 43. I was rewarded with RESORTS on the next move. Now that I was well in the lead I concentrated on turning over tiles, playing a series of reasonably good scoring 5 letter words to empty the bag as quickly as possible. When Shane eventually got a face value bonus down he was still 100 points adrift.
Game 16: Theresa Camilleri W +24
Theresa was posing the greatest threat of the other female players of finishing ahead of me. We were level on games but my spread was superior to hers. I started with a rack of AEEEDRS, and decided to just exchange an E. I drew a C and played CREASED on move 2. Theresa hit back with RECIPES to retake the lead. We exchanged 30+ scores on move 3, Theresa blocking the R I needed for MAROONED, but setting up the alternative 4-timer of ENAMORED for 44, keeping an O on my rack. I picked 3 further Os and was forced to change, keeping ET. I then picked IIIFX. Theresa bonused opening a triple, allowing me to play FIXED for 51. I picked another I, but was luckily able to play TIDILY around an L onto a triple for 33 to rebalance the rack. We were level pegging when she played MOUTH to go 33 ahead. I let out a sigh of relief as she hadn't blocked my play of UNVEILS for 86 to take the last 4 from the bag. ANNN - no single outplay but I could score enough for a safe win.
Game 17: Andrew Perry W +37
I was now leading the field, with Andrew Perry the only other player also on 12 wins but with a lower spread. Andrew bonused on move 2 but I had a 45 point reply. I gained ground until Andrew bonused again on move 5, going 80 ahead. I bonused on move 7 with GROUPIES around an R, but Andrew score 45 onto the triple I opened to still be 88 ahead. On his next move he gave me a floating N and I pounced on it with HANDLIST for 62. I am now 30 behind. Andrew took a long time on the next move and eventually played INDRI, opening up a triple. With a rack of AABILQT I played QIBLA onto the triple for 48, taking the last 4 tiles from the bag and a 2 point lead. AEILNRT was looking up at me, with an O at the top of the board for ORIENTAL. Andrew took a long time blocking it for 32 points. I still had about 9 minutes on my clock and it took me 6 of them to realise there was an I available for an 8, needing to hook the first letter under an S. Down went INERTIAL for a miracle win.
Game 18: Brett Smitheram
The last game was 'king-of-the-hill', the player leading playing the player in 2nd etc. I was a win ahead of Brett but his spread was better than mine so I needed to win to become the British champion.
I bonused on move 2 with INFARES, with Brett responding in kind on move 4 with OXIDATED. I took the triple off he opened for 39 so scores were just about level again. He dumped tiles with DOITIT which gave me the I I needed for ROSELIKE to take a 50 point lead. My rack deteriorated after that with a series of 1-pointer vowel heavy sets (needed an R for NEURONAL on one rack, but no joy) and Brett's scores of 36, 46 and then a bonus for 70 saw him take a 34 point lead. He obviously got a consonant heavy pickup from his next play as I narrowed the gap to 19, but he then extended it to 49. We were running out of tiles and I needed to make another opening. Looking at what was in the bag and from a rack of AAEGLNN I dumped off AN to make NAG and open up a 9-timer with N in position 2, and was partially rewarded with a pick up of ET for the 9-timer ENTANGLE. There was a very good chance that Brett could/would not block the N (AEEIICQVW? unseen from my point of view) as there was also a position to play an 8 from an H and a semi-open Z. Also he may just dump an I in front of it, allowing me to play INELEGANT. Unfortunately for me he had the tiles to play ANEW, and picked an I and the last blank from the bag. If I had picked the I and blank rather than ET the game would have been mine, with bonuses available from both the N and H. Some things were just not meant to be.
I lost by 46, and the title went to Brett for the 3rd time in 4 years. This is the 3rd major tournament that I have lost to Brett on spread - one other BMSC and one Masters title.
He is a worthy champion and I was pleased in the end to hold onto 2nd place. Victory was so close though that I could almost taste it. Theresa finished in third, also on 13 wins but well behind me on spread. Brian Sugar sneaked into 4th place, after starting badly and then easing himself steadily up the table. Di Dennis finished 5th. It is great that 3 women finished in the top 5.
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