It was the UK Masters scrabble tourney at the weekend. This is an invitation only event for, initially, the top 16 players in the UK, working its way down the ratings list for reserves.
Allan came over on Friday morning and we played a couple of games, which he won, before setting out just after 2 p.m. to the B&B I had booked just past Preston. The B&B was very good - we had rooms in a barn conversion set back from the main road so it was nice and quiet. It is part of Farm Stay UK
We sussed out the local Italian and booked a table for later that evening. I was quite good diet-wise - we shared a garlic bread, then I had a steak and fresh strawberries for pudding. Breakfast was continental and I had fruit, a croissant and a piece of toast...
We were on the road by about 9 a.m. and arrived at the venue in Stone with plenty of time to spare. After checking in to the hotel Allan drove me to a supermarket in town to buy some fruit - there were danish pastries and chocolate biscuits available in the playing room but I was trying to ignore them.
Game 1: David Webb
David had arrived early and booked his table, much like the fabled Germans and beach towels. However, although he had his board he had forgotten to bring tiles! Rather than split my set up we used all of my equipment. In an event like this we generally just set each playing table up and leave the equipment there for the duration of the tourney.
My first rack had potential for 8s but David's opening play of WOF did not provide a floater I needed. I dumped SOG, retaining a second S. A good spot of MARATHON by David, but I had the simple 4x INANEST to take the lead. I had a vowel-heavy pickup so QAT by David and my dump of EUOI saw us back to level. lOWRIDER by David, countered with EISwEIN by me. Then David played the excellent BEDEAFEN which I challenged to give him another 5 points and a 90 point lead. I was clawing my way back with YLEM for 44, JA/AY for 53 but nearing the end was still 50 behind. Holding ACEEILU I made an opening up the top with EM - I could see several 7s with what was left in the bag. I was rewarded with a P, and PECULIA took me 12 points into the lead. I needed to pick one of the unseen vowels from the bag to have a chance of a win. I got an N...
L: 463-488 -25
Game 2: Phil Appleby
Phil has not played much this year and said he has done no work on the new words. Even so, he is a very capable and dangerous player.
The game started slowly, Phil blocking my AIGRET(T)E with MEAT. My dump of GE(I)T was rewarded with REALTIE on the next move. Phil opened the 9x with FORB for 34, and I spent a long time on my rack of CORONET before dumping it around an E on the board. Phil bonused with FREELOAD to briefly take the lead but I immediately responded with PERINEA. XU from Phil for 52 set up my pIGEONS for 87 and a 100 point lead. Good scoring moves by Phil were countered with better scoring ones from me (ZO 44, VINED 33, BAWD 33). CRAM(P)ETS from Phil emptied the bag, taking the Q. A playout of VALETIn(G) increased my winning spread.
W: 532-382 +150
Game 3: Craig Beevers
I hate started the game with QI. It almost always leads to a blocked board at the start. When Craig responded with GIF I was forced to split a rack of potential (AEEPPST) with PEST/QIS/GIFT. A bad pickup, but I was pleased to spot POYOU to clear it out. Craig immediately hit it with ZONER for 48 and the lead. My rack hadn't improved but OYER scored well. Craig just dumped an F for 22 - either he was consonant-heavy or was fishing. I was still drowning in vowels, and AWA(V)E helped to clear them. I was quite surprised when Craig played UDO, but no complaints - GOX for 45. JIRD from Craig allowed me to clear my rubbish with (J)UKU. Craig then changed and I got my first and only bingo down, TENACES, and a 100+ lead. Craig made openings and I blocked. He eventually got a low-scoring vERON(A)LS to get back within touching distance. With 3 left in the bag Craig played off (A)MI to make another opening. I could only see the possibility of ASTONED at the bottom of the board, and if he had that it was unblockable, so I concentrated on blocking the top and crossed my fingers...
W: 402-344 +58
Game 4: Ed Martin
Ed opened with RADIX for 42, and I spent the rest of the game regretting having played Q(A)DI rather than Q(A)ID when Ed played LAZING for 80. UPRATIN(G) from Ed 2 moves later and I was 160 behind. I kept on battling and AGAROSe on move 10 got me back to with 25, but Ed had RELAtES to kick me back down again.
L: 392-461 -69
Game 5: Adam Philpotts
Another vowel-heavy start. HOVEN from Adam, and a dump of (H)UTIA from me. I blank pickup gave me EqUATIO(N) on move 2 and the lead, which I kept until Adam bonused with ADONISE. C(O)REY kept me only 7 behind, followed by SALTIES to retake the lead. I was closing down the board, but Adam had LATERIS(E) one move too soon for me to kill that last bingo line.
L: 341-407 -66
Game 6: Femi Awowade
ZINGY for 56 to open from me immediately countered with REOR(I)ENt as a 4-x and 78 from Femi. UNH(E)ATED back from me and an extra 5 points when it was challenged. There was some very heavy scoring on both sides (Femi: ZOEAL 33, BRAVA 29, VINY 42, OX/AX 50, PE(H)S 32; Me: PRIM(E) 36, CANTEeN 72, QAT 47). My rack had converted back to vowel heavy and after a dump of H(I)OI followed by BOWIE Femi then made the mistake of hooking an S onto it with JUGGLES for 113 - or 0 as I challenged. I decided on balancing my rack rather than attempting to block the high scoring J spot, but picked out a load more vowels. When Femi bonused two moves later with LIST(E)NED he briefly took the lead, but had set up a place for my LETTUCE, and I had just enough ammunition left to hold on for the win.
W: 496-482 +14 (10 points in penalties when WALDO was also challenged...)
Game 7: Gary Oliver
Gary was having a bad time, having lost all his games. After opening with CRINGE keeping back a duplicate G I had AGIRSW?. I decided to try WAR(R)InGS as a 4-x, but it came off. However, GAWSIeR the next go for 91 and a good lead. Gary tried (R)ETANNED which I almost let go when I misread it as RETAINED. Luckily I hadn't written the score and it came off. I chickened out of VISORIN(G) on my next go, and played R(E)VISION as I knew Gary couldn't take advantage of it. FYTTE for 57 and I had the game in a stranglehold.
W: 501-341 +159
Game 8: Allan Simmons
Allan was a win ahead of me so this was an important game. Allan started with ACT, and I dumped DZ for 33. QAT from Allan and CANINES for me on move 2 for a 76 point lead. Allan couldn't take advantage of the triple and partially blocked with P(A)RED setting up (C)OYER for 44 for me, and I extended my lead to 100+ over the next few moves. VINES and FEOD from Allan pegged me back a bit. Allan tried ABIESEs, but it came off. Apparently ABIES is a tree and he sent me a link to a bonsai site this morning which mentions abieses :) With, for a change, a consonant heavy rack, I blocked the spot with (W)I(L)Ja for 48 to get back to a 3-figure lead, and prayed for a vowel pickup. Allan dumped EE to make an opening, and with my single vowel I blocked with GRUMP/MEE. RIG from Allan, and my 4 vowel pickup I dump ANGO(R)A. OE from Allan, and I block with UNAI. (J)ErKIEST from Allan only limits the damage.
W: 444-334 +110
So, end of Day 1, 5-3 up and a decent spread, which I am not unhappy with having been 2-3 down. There are two players a game ahead on 6-2, David Webb and Christian Brown.
Most of us had opted for the evening meal at the hotel. I could not resist the bacon and duck starter, which was more like a main meal. I could not finish my main course lamb which was very good, and only coped with a third of my Belgian waffle and summer fruits dessert... We retired to a lounge for coffee, and for a change people wandered off to bed relatively early.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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