I set off for Perth at 8.15 on Saturday morning, blissfully unaware of the roadworks on the Forth Road bridge. Luckily for me there was virtually no delay going north and I arrived at the venue at around 10.00 giving me enough time to have a cup of coffee, ciggy and prepare for the defence of my title.
Game 1 Tom Wilson W +208
Started slowly with me changing six tiles on move 3. A couple of twenty+ scores on the next two moves and my rack improved with sAURIES to take a good lead, picking CORNAGE out the bag. A series of good scores (58,30,42,45) saw me take a stranglehold on the game. Tom bonused taking the last seven tiles from the bag and I played out with BAPTISE to seal a good spread.
Game 2 Neil Scott L -120
We both changed on our first move, and my rack matured to SERIALS. It was all downhill from there with Neil bonusing on moves 4 and 5 and then scoring heavily with the high-pointers. I suppose if there was to be a game where the tiles were against me it was probably good that it was against one of my main rivals...
Game 3 Helen Polhill W +154
Helen started well but I overhauled her with TENNERs on move 4. KATA/AEROSOL on move 7 gave me a 100+ lead. I then went through almost the rest of the game with the second blank and no vowels, whilst Helen obviously had vowel-heavy racks. The board was getting fairly blocked for dumping tiles. We both changed and I still picked out consonants. Eventually I got a couple of vowels and could play RELINeS to increase the spread.
Game 4 Alec Robertson W +243
Again I started slowly and Alec bonused on move 4 to take a good lead. I bonused back on move 6 with LEANERS and picked both blanks and an S from the bag. I spent some time trying to find the optimum move, and eventually found rOdSMAN for 91. I continued scoring well, and (S)ECRETIN near the end guaranteed another large win.
Game 5 Mary Jones L -13
Mary started with UNFIXEd for 98 and I was struggling with unbalanced racks. I eventually bonused on move 6 with GROSSEd but was still 20 behind. Mary was still scoring well and blocking at the same time, but somewhere from the back of my mind I dragged up TIPCATS to take a small lead. Unfortunately I ran out of vowels and Mary could score enough in the end game to inflict my second defeat.
Game 6 Allan Simmons W +16
Allan was my other major rival and was a win ahead of me. I really needed to win this game. My first rack was EINRSUV - one of those racks when you really want to be replying. Unfortunately I was not, so changed UV. An easy bonus of SHRINED on move 2 but setting up FEHM as a 60 point reply and I was still behind. I had, however, picked LAITIEs from the bag - was not sure of (M)ILITATE. Allan caught me back up by move 6 with RATTLES - he missed (M)ARTLETS. A change from me resulted in another bonus of (M)ENACERs and a lead I could defend to hang on for the line.
So, end of day 1 with 4-2 and a good spread to be in second place. Martin Harrison was in the lead, still unbeaten but having avoided playing myself, Allan and Neil. I stayed overnight in a B&B, having decided it was a little too far to commute. I visited my cousin Iain and his wife Nicola for a couple of hours in the evening and then got an early night. A cooked breakfast in the morning set me up for the day to come.
Game 7 Martin Harrison W +68
I had played Martin twice before and lost both games. I could not afford to let this pattern continue. When Martin bonused on move 3 I thought 'here we go again', but holding EINPRUV I noticed that Martin's earlier play of BONK had not blocked a G and made the decision to go for PREVUIN(G)/BI/IN but was not certain of it. It came back with a tick and 110 points put me in the lead. I bet he wished he had played KNOB instead. I then picked CAUTERS from the bag to apply some pressure. Three moves later and CONTRaS put me well over 100 ahead. With six left in the bag I played off PELLE(T) to leave one. I could see the possibility of POLONIES from Martin, but if he didn't have it there was a good chance he would leave the P for my (P)ArOEMIA for another big win. Unfortunately down went POLONIES...
Game 8 Simon Gillam W +288
Simon is an out and out blocker. Luckily I was starting, and CRaGGED was a good a start for me as any. Simon bonused on move 2 but the top of the board was beautifully open now. I concentrated on trying to keep it that way. FORKED for 42 opened the bottom of the board. I had great tiles in this game, and plays of ANEU(R)INS for 66 (was unsure of UNSAINE(D)), QAIDS for 83, TOXINES for 101 and LEZES for 58 gave me my highest game score of the tourney of 621.
I was now at the top of the table...
Game 9 Amy Byrne W +125
The game was a lot closer than the score implies. Amy bonused first but I immediately replied with AEROBUs. We were pretty neck and neck until Amy made an opening and I capitalised with TODDLES. Going into the end game I had a bonus sized lead, but Amy obviously had the last S. With 3 left in the bag after Amy had played ISM my rack was heavy consonant laden, and the Q was still unseen. It was 50/50 whether Amy had picked it - she would have played QIS if she had previously had it on her rack. I worked through the worst case scenario for if I emptied the bag. If I picked the Q and Amy bonused out I would still win by 10. I played ZAP and did not get the Q...
Game 10 Anne Ramsay W +30
The first few moves saw us neck-and-neck, then Anne bonused on move 4. I balanced with (K)URU but was not rewarded, and was forced into a change on move 5, keeping ER. I bonused on move 6 with RAISERS to get back to level but Anne responded with TEDiEST. At this point both blanks and three of the Ss had gone, other than the E on my rack there were only two left
and the board was already quite blocked. I decided that I should just optimise my scoring as the chances to play a bonus were virtually nil. I played FETA for 46 and was rewarded with a good pick up for the board. WARY next for 44 and prayed that Anne could not take the triple danger spot. She played elsewhere and ERN for 33 got be back in contention. OP for 31 and I had taken the lead on a terribly blocked board. I had had the Q for a few moves and was praying for an I, and was given one. A couple of minutes passed waiting for Anne to play. Relief as she went elsewhere and I dumped QI for 24. Anne was now also under time pressure, and a change from her meant I could afford a low scoring move of GU(V) to balance and set myself up with the last U and A. There were still clunky consonants unseen (J/C/V/W/B). Anne semi-blocked with TUT/TAHA. We both played a couple of single point moves, jockeying for position. LUV by me for 18 to take a 24 point lead. JO/LO by Anne to take a 3 point lead, but now she was out of vowels and her clock had run over. I played off NAIF for 10, keeping CH. Anne blocked the A and I quickly, but had overlooked the LOCH playout.
Game 11 Ross MacKenzie W +45
Ross, like Martin, had won our last two encounters. I bonused first on move 3 with TOADIED. Ross bonused back on move 4 but I could play QUOP for 37 to maintain a bonus sized lead. Ross looked almost apologetic when he immediately played ANISOLE. I had BEHLOT? but could only see BOTHOLE and BROTHEL, neither of which played. I dumped the H and B for 23, and picked H and E from the bag. Again I could see nothing playable so dumped the HE to make another opening. I bonused the next go with OLEATEs but Ross responded with VERSING to take a 20 point lead which was maintained over the next couple of moves. Ross made an opening, but holding CEKLNRU I was not sure of CRUNKLE and chickened out of it, playing CUR(F) onto the triple instead. Going into the end game I checked the scores and found I had overscored him earlier and he was actually only 2 points ahead. Phew. With one in the bag I dumped L(E)Z for 21 keeping EIKNS, knowing an A would give me a playout of SNAKIE(R). I picked an I, and immediately spotted SINKIER but whilst waiting for Ross to play became less and less sure of it. Ross played off ANOXI(C) leaving AD and I could see that SINKER was enough to win the game so decided on the safe win. Ross then tried AD(VERSING) to snatch victory but off it came.
Allan and I were level on wins and he was catching me up on spread. I had a 42 point advantage going into the deciding game.
Game 11 Iain Harley W +58
Iain started with WHOLE for 30. With an awkward rack the best I could respond with was YEAN for 23. HUM one short of the triple lane for 29 from Iain. There was going to be a race to pick a C. All I could do was balance with FUG for 13, and immediately picked the Q to go with my Z. I dumped ZE to make BONZE to catch him back up on move 3 and then Iain bonused on move 4. This was not going to plan. I played FORT/BONZER for 31 to keep within a bonus. VICE/CHUM from Iain for 38. On move 5 holding AEIQSST I decided to play QIS for 30 rather than QAT for 36, but immediately duplicated the AT on my pickup. Luckily the Q was still available the next go to dump them, stopping one square short of the triple line. At last a good pickup to my rack leave and ASTONED for 90 to see me take a small lead for the first time in the game. A pickup of REPORT? followed by a 40 point play extended the lead to a breathing space. A vowel heavy rack but with the X allowed me to set up an insurance policy for the X. This was needed when Iain bonused with BEA(t) ERS down the side of REPORTs. COX for 53 was enough to seal Iain's fate.
If Allan had won by over 100 the title would be his, but Anne came over to tell me that he had lost to Simon. So 10-2 and +1102 points was enough for me to retain my title. A tourney rating of 193 was not enough to affect my ABSP rating, sitting still at 188.
Many thanks go to Amy et al for another well run tourney.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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