We set off for Berwick railway station just before midday on Friday. My train was at 12.40, but with the snow we were not sure how clear the roads would be. As it was once we got to the main road it was clear, so we got into Berwick with enough time to stop off at Morrisons for me to get some cash out and buy a sandwich pack for the journey.
I had to change trains at York to get the Trans-Pennine express to Liverpool. Luckily it was only a 15 minute wait and the trains were on time. At Liverpool I got a local train to Leasowe. I had looked on a map before I set off and it was just over half a mile to the hotel so I decided to walk. It started to sleet after I had set off, but I was well wrapped up - leggings under trousers, T-shirt, rugby shirt, sweatshirt and jacket. By the time I arrived at the hotel at 17.50 I had overheated so much I thought I might collapse...
I was met at reception by John, who was helping to run the tourney, who told me there were a few other players staying on the Friday night and many were meeting up around 7 p.m. to eat. Once I had my room sorted out and had stripped down to a single layer of clothing I wandered back downstairs, ordered a pot of coffee from the bar and settled down in one of the lounges to chill out with John, Viv (also helping to run the event) et al. Just after 7 p.m. John, Viv, Amy, Sheila, Jackie and I went to the restaurant in the hotel to eat.
I got an early night but did not sleep very well. I never do in hotels - my room was too hot and too light - I am used to pitch black at home. I wandered down for breakfast just before 9 a.m., and then decided to go for a walk. I met up with Amy after I set off and we walked along the beach and up to Moreton before setting back to the hotel. I then went back to my room and did an hour revision of 6+1 stems. When I wandered down to the playing room most of the other players had arrived.
Game 1: Paul Thompson
I had never played Paul before - an unknown quantity. He had apparently had a very good result at the Nottingham Nomads event the week before and his rating improvement had jumped him into the A division here. I think he was very nervous playing me as he played very slowly. I got RADULAE as a 4-x on move 4 followed immediately by BROMELIN - consecutive scores of 90 to put me well in control despite Paul scoring 98 immediately after. I was watching his clock going overtime and started playing off one or two tiles to rack balance and not empty the bag quickly. I gained 100 points on the clock.
W +187 : SJZ
Game 2: Mike Whiteoak
I started with NOTATES followed by gUMPTION as a 4-x. Mike was scoring well, but UNTRADED by me on move 4 and REaLTOR on move 6 meant I was never under pressure.
W +103 : ??SX
Game 3: Ben Tarlow
Another new player for me. He started well with ZONED for 50 and he was always slightly ahead until I bonused with AEROSAT on move 5 to take a small lead. I pulled away on move 8 with BODHRANs for 92 and strangled the game on move 10 with RESIDENT.
W +121: ?SSQ
Game 4: Wayne Kelly
I don't think I have a very good record against Wayne. I am sure he can tell me as he keeps stats on all his games. I was 33 down after 2 moves, but having balanced my rack was rewarded with AGNISED on move 3. TROAKED on move 5 followed by a score of 50 put me well ahead, so when Wayne bonused back on move 6 he was still 70 adrift. He scored steadily but REOBTAIN by me on 11 sealed the game for me.
W: +57: SSSX
Game 5: Terry Kirk
Terry was not having a good time having lost all his games, but I know he is a very good player. Terry balanced on move 1 and bonused on move 2. I replied with ANTIDOTE on move 3. Terry had a series of good scores (36,66,41 and 53) to take control. Despite having the majority of the power tiles I was powerless on a tight board.
L: - 32: ?SSSJXQ
I sat out the last game of the day, so finished the day 4/1 with a good spread and in 2nd place.
Again I did not stay up late, and again did not sleep particularly well. I had a wake-up call at 7.45. I felt a little nauseous when I got up, and put it down to nerves and lack of sleep. However, Kat was also feeling unwell the next day - we put it down to alcohol at first but it persisted through the day with her. We wondered whether it was something we ate - we both had had the salmon for dinner the night before.
Game 6: Martin Harrison
Martin is rapidly becoming my bogey player. I had played him twice before and lost both games. This one was no different. Despite replying on move 1 with ARISTAE for 91 it was all downhill from there. Martin bonused back on move 3 to get the scores level again. A 53 point X play by me was immediately negated by another bonus by Martin. Consecutive scores of 46, 41 and 31 by Martin meant that when I eventually got TONSILS on a blocked board I was still 24 behind.
L: -22: SSSSQX
Game 7: Jackie McLeod
This game started slowly for me, changing 6 tiles on move 3 and luckily bonused with LARIATS on move 4 to take a small lead. My replacement rack was not good other than a blank - CILVVY? with nowhere to dump CIVVY. I played CLY for 26, not happy with my leave of the 2 Vs. Luckily for me Jackie was also struggling. I contemplated changing the 2 Vs on the next rack - EILTVV? - but eventually played off VI to make an opening and my luck changed. I picked 2 Es to play VELVETEd on the next move to take a good lead. A couple of 30+ scores followed by ROSEHIP for 78, drawing the last S and blank. I played off the S for 35 - I had likely tiles for a bonus without the S. Jackie had played off the X one place before the middle bottom triple - with no I or U, I blocked the easy vowel dump and balanced. I then decided to block the spot for ZO to score 48 - Jackie then dumped ZO elsewhere for just 24, but blocking the bonus I had eventually got. However, Jackie had picked the Q with nowhere to play it.
W: +244: ??SSSSJ
Game 8: Phil Robertshaw
I bonused on move 2 with RESONANT, but Phil steadily pull back my lead. On move 7 I was contemplating WARRISON off a W - wasn't sure of it with 2 Rs but it is fine - when Phil saved me the worry by playing TWiRLInG there, with me obviously replying with GARRISON. It did not score as much and opened the triple for Phil. I had noted that not many Es had been played, and I picked 4 from the bag. Phil had also picked a few, as he played BEEN on the triple for 32 to take the lead. The best I could manage was EPEE for 15. The scores were very close now and my rack was deteriorating. AAEGIUU - I dumped GU for score and prayed for a double consonant pickup. I managed MT, and could then play AMATE for 32 to hang in there - IU was actually quite a good leave on our board with the Q needing UI to slot across, or a 6 starting with a vowel to the triple. I picked IOOMN, and then played IONIUM to take a 10 point lead, leaving 1 in the bag. I thought I had a good chance now - EEKOOLR would allow options for 2 move playouts. AANSTTVY were unseen, and Phil played NAY for 23 setting up VATS or VAST for enough points to win. I blocked it with EORL for 12, leaving an outplay of OKE/CORK/AWEE for 24 to win.
W: +10: SSSXZ
Game 9: Stewart Holden
I was never in this game. Stewart replied to my opening with a bonus followed by two 30+ scores. I bonused on move 4 with MASTOID, but was still slightly behind. Stewart continued scoring well,and I was forced to change on move 6. It was looking good when I held ?EINRT but then turned over the 7th tile to reveal the Q. I dumped it the next go for 11, and got TRIENEs the next go but again had lost the momentum and was still a bonus behind. My tiles improved and near the end I made an opening - could still win if I could playout with a bonus. Unfortunately Stewart immediately plonked down INSURED to inflict a heavy defeat when my ACORNED/DRACONE had nowhere to go.
L: -148: ?SJXQ
Game 10: Ed Martin
Whoever won this game would win the tournament. I was guaranteed 3rd at worst, and Ed was gurarnteed 2nd. I think this was a game full of nerves and mistakes on both sides. Ed opened with WHOM and I played AMOK below it. Ed played KERF, and I balanced playing AP off the F. Ed spent a long time - I was praying he didn't block the R. Eventually he played MOR/REV around the E of KERF. I inwardly sighed with relief as ENDANGER still went on, making MORE. Ed bonused straight back but gave me a 42 point reply. I picked the Z and could see 2 places to score heavily with it, until Ed played DoLTIsH killing both spots. I had AAEGRTZ, and was contemplating AGAZE but this opened a 9-x with E in 7th. I then saw a good set up play - RAG leaving ZETA to play down the side onto the triple for 80+. I went for it but Ed then just dumped QI there. I was forced on the next move to play AVIZE where I was going to play AGAZE, and Ed negated the score with WEEP on the triple. A war of attrition then ensued - there was only one opening on the board for a bonus ending with an S. We went through a series of one/two tile plays (we obviously both had an S) or changes. Ed won the war (I had had a bonus but dismissed it as misremembered/muddled). I made an opening for a 7, but Ed blocked it. With 4 in the bag I made a last-ditch attempt to win, playing BUS/SCOG onto the triple allowing a bonus from the B or hooking underneath BUS. I picked up 3 vowels and it was all over. Ed told me afterwards that he had REFUSER on his second rack but nowhere for it to go - until I pointed out that AMOK takes an S - for a score of 101...
L: -108: SJXZ
So, Ed won. Wayne had won his last game to overtake me into 2nd place and I had my guaranteed 3rd. I got a tourney rating of 185 - I needed another win to maintain my rating, and have dropped a point to 192.
The weekend was very enjoyable and extremely well run. Many thanks to John, Viv and Len. I got home around 11 p.m. last night - luckily the trains all ran to time so I was not stranded in York.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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