It was the Scottish Masters scrabble tourney at the weekend - an invitational event for the top 12 Scottish players - held at St. Margaret's School in Edinburgh.
Allan and I decided we would drive each day, as it was only about an hour away, rather than stay over in Edinburgh on the Saturday night. Allan was due to pick me up at 8.45 on the Saturday, but phoned at that time to let me know he was on his way but running late. He arrived just gone 9.00 but we still had plenty of time. We had completed our first best-of-25 match on Thursday, which I won 13-6 with a lot of good tile picking, and he had my prize of a bottle of red wine with him. He is 2-1 up in the next...
Game 1: Caroline Atkins
I don't think I had ever played Caroline before. I had two low scoring bonuses (BETITLE and ???) on moves 2 and 4, with Caroline getting a high scoring bonus on move 3, so I was still only about 20 points up. I then went through a series of low scoring plays as I was suffering from a lack of vowels, and Caroline had overhauled me by move 9. I was even forced to dump LS onto the end of BE when I had no vowels, but the last 2 S's. I picked a vowel and made an opening for a bonus starting with an S but Caroline blocked it. She was suffering from too many vowels, and on her next move played off ANEE from an R for 6, blocking my dump of RC from an O for 5! By this point I had picked the last blank, and with 7 left in a vowel heavy bag decided a change must be made. I picked two Os from the bag, but this did not give me a bonus. I played off one of the Os to make a very hard to block opening, given what was unseen, and picked a life saving E, allowing me to play out with ORiENTS to scrape home.
W: 379-357 (1)
Game 2: Lorraine Gordon
I started with a balancing move for 6 points, leaving RATE on my rack and was rewarded with INERTIA on the next play. Another balancing play on move 3 for 11 was rewarded with CATERAN on move 4. Another bonus play for 75 on move 7 (???) and I was well in control. Lorraine bonused back near the end, but it was too late.
W: 438-354 (0)
Game 3: Ross Mackenzie
Again I started with a balancing move of TOE from AEEORTT and this time drew UNS from the bag. Ross bonused with ITERANT, giving me the easy 4x URANITES. Ross, however, followed up with consecutive scores of 42, 33 and 44 to take the lead. Back to back bonuses from him a couple of moves later saw me in real trouble. I pegged some of it back with lEAFAGE but ran out of ammunition and tiles.
L: 438-472 (1)
Game 4: Simon Gillam
I have played Simon before so I know that he is an out and out blocker. He started with MEATY and my rack was ADLRSTU. I spent an age trying to find the non-existent bonus and eventually dumped LUD. Simon played DOFF onto the ED I had created. My pickup was the less than helpful GNN, so I played off GNAT. Simon then completed the blocking ploy with VLY. The war of attrition had started, and I managed to outscore him to take a small lead. Simon was forced to play Q?S for 37 to get back ahead, and I played off QUEER off the Q to keep level and make an opening - Simon's plays had shown a lack of vowels and luckily for me he could not take advantage of the triple I had opened. I then played PEAG down the side for 41 and a 30 point lead. 3 goes later I got TEASERS for 80, and Simon immediately replied with CELERIES around one of the Es. A late ZONA/TO/EN by Simon put him slightly ahead, and with 6 vowels and an S I was forced to play OES underneath to score. With EHIIUX as my last rack there was nowhere for a 2-move play out, and I lost on countback by 2.
L: 371-373 (0)
Game 5: Kate Surtees
Kate had got off to a great start in the tourney so was obviously playing well. I started well with SETUALE on move 2, but Kate hit back with a bonus on move 4 to retake the lead. Heavy scoring by me on the next 3 moves saw me take a bonus+ size lead, and this was maintained for the next few moves. I was sitting with SNIFTER on my rack and nowhere to play it when Kate made an opening play of LEG, letting me hook the F in front of it. Kate got a bonus off of it onto the triple, but the tiles were running low by now and I held on to win.
W: 458-405 (1)
Game 6: Amy Byrne
I always seem to have nice balanced racks against Amy, and this game was no exception. DIAZOLE on move 1, oVATELY on move 4 and a play out of AREFIED with solid scoring in between. To add insult to injury Amy picked the Q as the last tile from the bag...
W: 524-306 (1)
End of day 1 and 4-2 up. This, theoretically, should have been the easier of the two days. I had all the big guns to play on Sunday. On the other hand I had seen only 4 blanks from the 12 available, so it could have been worse.
I set off to pick up Allan at 8.45 and we arrived at the venue by 10.00, enough time to get a cup of coffee before play started at 10.30.
Game 7: Ray Tate
He got off to a flier, bonusing with WOOLlIES on his first move but opening a 9x with an S in fourth. Unfortunately holding ADHIMSS there was no playable bonus response so I took the triple with HAMS, keeping DISS, and picked IIL from the bag :( I dumped DI(L)LI the next move and Ray moved further ahead. ZO for 64 by Ray and I could see how it was going. I dumped one of the Ss on move 5 and got STENDED down on move 6 to get back to just under a bonus down, and some hope but Ray was still scoring well with the J and X and I was back to 90 behind. I tried a desperate UNCLONED when there was nowhere to play NUCLEON but it came off, and Ray blocked the D. I made an opening with LON(E), and got CE(I)NTURE the next go. Hope sprung eternal as I picked BELMRU? from the bag, only to be dashed by Ray playing AERIEST. None of the easy bonuses such as TUMBLER fitted, but after a couple of minutes of going through the alphabet I played REpLUMB/PAR/LEE/UR/MI/BE across the top of AERIEST for 91 to be only 24 behind. Another moment of hope was dashed as Ray played QUIT for 39. If only he hadn't had the last U...
L: 462-398 (1)
Game 8: Allan Simmons
Allan was leading the event and I really needed this game. Allan started by changing all 7, and I played ZED. Allan changed 6 and I played MOANERS/ZEDS for 81. This was going well, 0-107 after two goes. Allan eventually got going on move 5 with TENDRIL, but was still a bonus down. I had an S for TENDRILS and the triple, but held off with a score of 31 elsewhere and a good leave of LIES. RELINES the next go for 83. I picked up dross but was 160 ahead so could afford a change of tiles. Allan was scoring steadily around the 30 mark and was pegging me back. Allan played a face value bonus for 60, which let me play BICKER onto the triple for 61, keeping an S (bickers didn't go on anyway).
W: 472-364 (1)
Game 9: Paul Allan
This was another crucial game. My starting rack set the scene for the way the game went for me - DORRSTV - short on vowels but with a glint of hope. Paul started with JO, and I played VOR underneath, picking RUY. Paul made a balancing play, as did I with DRY, this time picking AEE to give me AUSTERE/DRYS on the next move and a 60 point lead. Again a single vowel, but I played WOMB down the side of austere for 34. Paul then bonused, but I had picked the X and with my single vowel A could play AX for 46 to keep a good lead. Paul bonused again... I now had no vowels but could dump F(LI)NCH for 28 to go slightly ahead. Paul balanced and I had VIMEN/TAM/WEXE and a 45 point lead. And Paul bonused again... I made an opening BAR(B) onto the bottom middle triple, but Paul played DOZE onto another triple for 42. A balancing play by me, I picked the Q and was waiting to play QU(IN)T for 48 when Paul blocked it. I was forced to play QAT for 38 above BARB, leaving two Us on my rack. Paul killed the last bonus spot but I never had the tiles anyway.
L: 376-424 (0)
Any hope I had for winning the event had realistically gone now, but there was still pride and ratings points to play for.
Game 10: Anne Steward
Anne was having a really tough time - she was the lowest rated player there and no-one was showing mercy. I started slowly and Anne was ahead after 3 moves. I responded with a score of 48 and a bonus for 90, balance, bonus for 86. Heavy scoring from then on as I charged for the line.
W: 470-346 (2)
Game 11: Neil Scott
Neil was still in with a chance to win. There were 3 players on 7 wins (Neil, Paul and Allan), with Ross on 6.5. As Allan was playing Ross I could not possibly win...
Neil opened with HOI, and I had BCEKPS?. This looked hopeful, but after a while nothing came to mind so I played off BECK for 31 keeping the very nice looking PS?. Upon checking there was nothing to find. I then picked up four more consonants and it wasn't going to plan. Neil played OWRIE to the triple I had opened, and I dumped YMP(E). Neil played under the CH, making CHA and again I did a consonant dump making CHAW. My next rack was EEELSZ?, and I was about 20 down. I decided against (W)hEEZLES as I wasn't 100% sure of it, it opened the 9x and I could play off ZEES for 46 keeping EL?. I picked up DIIU and was beginning to regret my decision when I dredged up bLUIDIE(R) for 68, opening the upper 9x, but putting me 60 ahead. Neil left the 9x open, playing across the first I, and I killed it with QUAT for 39 onto the T he had just played. Neil bonused on move 7 to take a slight lead. The lead was then changing hands every move, until I got the X for a trivial 54 point play. Neil tried BLUIDIES from the B of BLUIDIER - it looked beautiful but was not staying on the board. I then took the spot with the ultra-difficult spot of BOOSTERs. Neil played off DUI, making DAD one short of the right central triple. I had started laying ANNOY down the side when Neil commented that he didn't know DADA. It put a moment of doubt in my mind and I took it back up to ponder. I convinced myself it was fine and put it back down, knowing Neil would challenge. It came back with a tick and 60 points...
W: 491-335 (2)
My luck had turned in the last 2 games of the day when I got both blanks, but I was still slightly under par for the tourney as a whole, 10/22, but getting better :)
Congratulations to Paul, who had won his last game to win the event 8-3. Ross had beaten Allan to come second 7.5-3.5, an excellent result for him. I jumped into 3rd with 7-4 and the best spread of +620.
Tournament rating 181. New ABSP rating 190.
I think it is the nature of this event that Paul, Allan, Neil and I all dropped in the ratings...
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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