I got the train down to Coventry on the Sunday. Well, train to Newcastle, coach to Darlington, train to Birmingham, train to Coventry. About six and a half hours after setting out I arrived at the hotel.
It was the inaugural UK Open last week, five days, 38 games. It had attracted a few overseas competitors including Nigel Richards, the current world champion.
The first 11 rounds were a round robin, the field having been split into three groups of approximately even average ratings.
Game 1: David Steel
David bonused on move 2 with POETISe. I caught back up with HaVERIN(G) on move 4 but David's DIDDLY (51) and M(A)X (46) saw me behind again and struggling to close the gap. David gave me a lifeline with OCA, allowing me to score 40 with JELAB, hooking the L, to take a 7 point lead. GRU(B) from David and I was close to a bonus. I needed a play that gave me a chance of getting a bonus but I could still win without it. I opted for F(O)N, as I could not afford for David to score there with the unseen K. It paid off - David blocked the place for a 7 with LIVEN and down went DOPESTE(R) for a flattering score line at the end.
Game 2: Paloma Raychbart
I started with ZOOTY. HABU from Paloma, and I had 7 clunky consonants. I opted for H(OU)F, keeping back WX. (H)ACEK from Paloma and W(A)X for 40 for me, keeping DRANT. A pickup of BE and down went BARTEND on the following move. ELOGIST from Paloma, QA(T) from me followed by REMANIE. A pick up including 2 Ss and I was happy to see DIDOS for 40. I balanced with VOL and then SECTATO(R). Paloma bonused back with REsILED, and I took out the triple with AMPERE. Paloma made an opening with RIA. There were no As left but the second blank was unseen. I blocked with RUG...
Game 3: Phil Kelly
Phil's run of FAT(A)LIST, Mi(S)UNION, GOOEY and YO outscored my E(R)OTESES, AVION, HET and QI. I was forced to change on move 8, being 54 behind after Phil's play and I made no inroads in the next few moves as I balanced. MeTERED on move 12 to take the lead and the last 4 tiles. I was resigned to losing this game as there were only 2 unseen vowels, but I got one of them. FED from Phil to take a 27 point lead, but keeping KRSW. I blew it with AJNP - in ensuring I blocked W(EA)K from Phil I played N(EA)P instead of P(EA)N...
Game 4: Chris Harrison
This game was neck-and-neck after 8 moves apiece, STILLED and SECTION from me to Chris's DETAINE(D) and (G)LOATInG. Chris then moved ahead with WUSSY and YO. I still had hope - I needed either the second blank or one of the three unseen Rs at the end. Unfortunately Chris was hogging them all...
Game 5: Mike O'Rourke
A dream start for me - FERMATA immediately followed by SIDALCE(A) and WOM(E)RAS for 48. (S)aLVAGER from Mike, but he was still 100 behind. I continued scoring well, and when Mike bonused again with RUNTIER I still had a 100 point lead. Another bonus, (S)IENITEs from Mike but with bonus-friendly tiles I made an opening with WIG. Mike blocked with ZOO, but I played out with STEADIN(G).
Game 6: Barry Grossman
My start and with 7 consonants I had to change. Barry plonked down BUOYING. I got back to within 10 points with GAZIEsT. It was then nip and tuck before I gambled with EH, and Barry hit it immediately with SARNEYS. A face-value reply of NOVIT(I)ES from me. I needed another bonus to stand a chance, so made another opening with OD. Barry had GRAILEs - game over.
End of day 1, 3.5-2.5. Not great, but it could have been worse...
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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