I decided to drive to Durham as it is straight down the A1, and I could take my pillow with me in the car. I arrived in plenty of time, with only a short hold up around Newcastle.
Game 1: Jackie McCleod
I started with VEG and Jackie changed 1 tile. I was pleased to spot BE(E)TrOOT but knew Jackie was very likely to strike straight back, which she did with CANDIeS. I had picked a vowel heavy rack, but was able to score well with OHIA. More vowels, and RAIA the next go, followed by MAE then YEA. Jackie bonused with STERNUM to take the lead. I balanced again, taking the triple with FOIST which Jackie immediately extended with ING. However, I now had ADEEGLT and opted for DEL(E)GATE to retake the lead. And then it all went horribly wrong. FOX fron Jackie, and I balanced another vowel heavy rack with (R)UE. CUP from Jackie blocked my bonus so I dumped DI for score and to keep a bonus friendly leave. ZOS, WYND and LAIRISE from Jackie while I was forced into low scoring plays to make/keep an opening for a bonus that never came. At least I was able to block both the Is at the end to stick Jackie with the unplayable Q.
Game 2: Anne Hidden
I had never played Anne before - she had opted to play in the open division rather in the ratings banded round-robin division. She started like a rocket with (C)ARABINE on move 2. My rack was not nice, and I chickened out of YAW(E)Y and opted for the safer WA(N)TY. ABA from Anne, and I cleared the second Y with FEY for 29 but Anne capitalised on it with WAT(T) for 38. By the time I got THEROID down I was still behind after Anne's previous play of LEZ. And then I took off - DETOX (55), PEANUTS (92), JOG (57). Anne blocked my bonus on the next move with FLU but with a blank and three Ss unseen I played fICKLE(53). Anne made an opening with RIS(K) and with AEIRROS the odds on me picking a bonus the next go looked good when I just dumped the O. Anne bonused with DIViNES emptying the bag and I played out with TARRIES.
Game 3: Rahn McKeown
Rahn was over from the States, and hed been dubious about playing in the open division of a SOWPODS tourney. He needn't have worried...
I was replying and had TeNANCY, but Rahn's opening play of BEDIrTY meant I was stuffed. Rahn's second move of GRAPHI(T)E rubbed salt into the wound. BIZ for 34 followed by mOTIONE(D) for 77, but I was still 50 adrift. Rahn bonused again on move 6 with (E)ROTISES and I was forced into a change. Rahn semi-blocked with LOB and I made an opening with VAL(I), which I then had to block with a clunky consonant pickup. I got back to within a bonus behind with SNIFTED, but Rahn then killed the top of the board with CR(O)W.
Game 4: Chris Harrison
I had never played Chris before.
I started with XU, keeping back the blank and had choices on move 2, opting for ONWARdS and picked HOSTIES from the bag. My next rack of AAANNS? actually yields an amazing number of bonus choices and I chose lAN(T)ANAS. Chris bonused back with DWE(l)LING, but it set up the triple for me and I was on 305 after 5 moves. The rest of the game was more mundane.
Game 5: Robert Richland
I opened with SWELTER, balanced with MEOU on move 2 and then bonused again with CAREXES on move 3. I was able to clear my bad racks with WU(X)IA, IONI(C) and IVIES to still score well. Despite Robert's back-to-back bonuses of FIREPAN and (S)OLIDARE I was never in trouble, and H(A)NDOVEr at the end put icing on the cake.
Game 6: Wayne Kelly
Wayne was celebrating his tenth anniversary of competitive scrabble. He presented each of his opponents with a small box of chocolates, which I thoroughly enjoyed last night after I got home.
Unfortunately I didn't photograph this board, which is a shame because it was a cracking game but I cannot remember many details. Maybe Wayne can help out. Wayne started, I bonused on moves 2 and 3 to his on moves 3 and 4. After 4 moves apiece I was 225-197 up, and 9-x opportunities abounded. The game was then nip and tuck as triples where exchanged and the board closed back down. I had to change on move 9. Wayne moved ahead and was able to keep blocking for the win.
Game 7: Steve Perry
Again no photo...
I bonused on move 4, but Steve hit back on moves 5 and 6 to take the lead which I pegged back with the help of two Ss to score well from the triples to regain the lead. I felt relatively confident when Steve levelled the scores, but played of the last A and E to do so, as he had set up the Y that I held for an insurance policy score of 34 if needed on a tight board. In the end I kept scoring well, while Steve did not.
So, 4-3 and with a good spread I was still in the hunt if I could have a good run the next day. Lewis Mackay was unbeaten, and I was due to play him first thing in the morning.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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