As is normal with these events I did not sleep well. I decided to get up rather than doze for another half hour or so, and meandered into breakfast. Femi was the only player already in the dining room. I just had some fruit, toast and coffee.
I wandered into the playing room early and claimed the table with my set...
Game 9: Gareth Williams
Gareth had had a dreadful time on day 1, only one win.
Gareth started with FOETI and it didn't take long for me to issue the challenge. I balanced my rack with KYE, and was holding COIGNED. I thought there was a reasonable chance that Gareth would give me a place to play it, but no joy. I did bonus on move 4 with INDITED but Gareth scored 69 with ZA(T)I on the triple I had opened to reduce my lead to 30. With AAELRRS I dumped AR, and picked LR... I changed LLR on my next go and Gareth took a small lead. I was rewarded with OARIEST the go after, and slowly extended my lead for the rest of the game.
W: 459-328 + 131
Game 10: Theresa Camilleri
I had choices on my opening move and eventually settled on ROOTAgE. MEWLS from Theresa - did she have another S? I scored well with MUX that also balanced my rack - and I picked vowels. I prayed Theresa would not block the free R, and quickly plonked down FILA(R)IAE when she played AGON parallel to the X. JEDI from Theresa, and I had choices again as to what/where to play. I decided to risk opening the 9x with ANEUrIN for the best score. Theresa replied with OUTLERS. I took off the 9x with PO(N)CE for a 120 point lead. Some good scoring from both of us(T: TREZ 45, KHI 34, LANDED 34; Me: VOR 29, YE 33, WAVY 34, QADI 34, BETTY 30), but the gap never closed.
W: 490-360 +130
Game 11: Di Dennis
Despite me having 3 bonuses in the first 4 moves (BRUcINE, (M)ALAISES and AN(S)WEREd) I was only 20 points up with Di's responses of LEMONIE(R), PICK(L)E, TR(E)Z and I(N)SULANT. The rest of the game Di was struggling with a lack of vowels, whilst I was drowning in them. Luckily I had enough to counter any danger spots that Di created, and held the lead through to the end.
W: 426-403 + 23
Game 12: Christian Brown
I had only played Christian once before, at last year's BMSC. He played very well and beat me...
He took first blood in this game with DEVOURS on move 3. I was getting used to my 5 vowel racks by now, but still took a long time on what to respond with. I had really wanted a floating T for ACOEME(T)I, and in the end played CAMEO(S). Another dump of OPIU(M) the next go to balance and keep the board open. BANT from Christian and I had a complete brain dead moment when I challenged and gave away another 5 points. However, ASKLENT from me. Christian held, then neutralised the clock to challenge. He had started writing out the challenge when he changed his mind. I called the director and, possibly erroneously, it was deemed that the challenge must stand so I got my 5 points back. I must check this rule - some people said the challenge can be withdrawn up to the point of it being taken to be checked. This, theoretically, means that someone can neutralise the clock and decide what they want to do on no-man's time. I am in no way saying this was the case here, but the rule could be open to abuse. Anyway, back to the game. Christian took the triple with GREW for 45, but a good pickup from me and SONGMaN. HEID from Christian and I was only a point up. VALUE(R) for 34+5 cleared a bad rack, followed by WEFT (38). I risked NAZI (35) holding the last S and an R, and picked the second blank. Christian blocked, but picked the unplayable Q from the bag...
Game 13: Wayne Kelly
Wayne opened with CONgEES, but I hit back on moves 2 and 3 with LENTORS and PALATEs to take a 50+ point lead. (R)EXINE on move 6 gave me an extra 5 points to extend the lead to about 100. A dump of VI(E)W on move 7 gave me UNNER(V)ES on move 8, and a lead that was defendable.
Game 14: Paul Allan
I had a blank on rack 1 but awkward tiles, opened with JIN and picked the Q. Changed 6 on move 2. I was still struggling, playing off a couple of tiles at a time and Paul was moving slowly but surely ahead. However, my rack was improving and when Paul opened the 9x with OGAM I hit it with bAIL(M)ENT for 131+5 and a 75 point lead. Paul bonused back with RESILES. I had repicked the Q, but this time with a U and QUOD for 38. Another nice pickup and GOALIES was waiting, but Paul blocked it. As I turned the board I noticd the C for (C)ALIGOES and gained another 5 points and a 100 point lead. A dump of RU(S)A from Paul, and VIO(L)D to balance/score from me. MARK from Paul blocked my CATEN(A)TE but ENACT scored reasonably and blocked. By the time Paul got PlANTLE(T) he was still 50 adrift...
Game 15: Brian Sugar
Going into the last game Allan and I were level on 11-3, two clear of the field. Allan had a 16 point advantage.
Brian opened with BAH and I dumped the Q. GIO from Brian and KAT from me. Then it all went horribly wrong. ANEROID from Brian for 90. A couple of balancing moves from me but Brian bonused again with PATNESS on move 5 and I was 158 adrift. I put in a rally with successive moves of RAISINY(87), FLEX(54) and ZORIL(68) to get back to only 22 behind. However, I knew that Brian had a blank and an S when he played a bonus and then realised one of his hooks was wrong. He dumped a couple of tiles. I had a consonant heavy rack but could balance it with B(I)NT and picked the other blank. Brian bonused, as expected, with StEALER. I made another opening with PED(S). Brian blocked the bottom potentially high-scoring bingo line and I could not see anything from the P at the top. I settled on (E)NUrETIC and again 20 behind. Unfortunately my last five tiles would not play out in one go...
Allan had won his last game and the title - 12-3 is an impressive result in any tournament but especially so in the Masters. In some ways I am perversely pleased that I lost the last game - I came second two years ago on spread difference of about one point/game and that was really depressing...
Tournament rating of 209, ABSP rating increased by 3 to 197.
Average game score 454.8, blanks 19/30.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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