Well, I'll get this over with but it is pretty painful stuff.
I went full of hope - I had got back into my daily routine of studying after the New Year and was feeling reasonably confident. I picked Allan up at 9 a.m. on Saturday and we arrived at the venue in Edinburgh with plenty of time to spare.
Game 1: Simon Gillam
I dumped MILL(E)R keeping ER on move 1, and picked a blank. With HENRYR? Simon gave me the perfect place to play off RHY and things were looking good. OTARIES from Simon, GREENeR from me. We kept neck-and-neck even after Simon bonused again with REPENTS, with me countering with HAJES. In reality the game was virtually unwinnable from here as Simon had picked the second blank and Z on a tight board whereas I was struggling to balance whilst making half openings that Simon was able to block and outscore me. It could have been worse, Simon missing bonuses when blocking with SEAsON...
Game 2: Christine McKenzie
I opened with GALoPED, being surprised when checking afterwards there were only two possible bonuses with this rack. Christine bonused straight back with FROSTI(E)R. I had picked the second blank and dumped LUNK(S) keeping GL?. A pickup of AAAS and I was pleased to spot both bonuses, opting for ArGALAS. STO(V)AINE on move 9 was enough to ensure victory. With very bonus-oriented tiles unseen near the end Y(O)WIE blocked the higher scoring places, with Christine playing out with BRO(M)INES.
Game 3: Allan Simmons
Allan opened with OLEFINE, and I was able to clear a pretty yucky opening rack with Y(O)UTHY. AXE(N)IC from Allan gave me one of the floaters I needed with ADEORRT, albeit only for face value. QUO(D) from Allan, JALOP(Y) from me to almost catch back up. (J)OBE from Allan, (A)BID from me. I overhauled him on the next move with AGISM, deciding it was worth using the S with the other 3 and both blanks unseen. Allan retook the lead two moves later with KEE(L)ED and I realised why I had been struggling - only 1 E so far. WAIT kept me in touch. SONNeTS from Allan was a bit of a body blow, although I had the last S. I was going to need everything to go right from here in. With a grotty rack of FHIPSUW I played off H(E)W and Allan took it off with ZIT - his other option had apparently been ZOI(S)T for 66. I now needed a miracle, so opened a 9x with FRUG. Allan took the triple. My late bonus of ASPIRA(T)E at least stopped Allan with his last rack of EAVING?.
Game 4: Raymond Tate
Ray bonused on move 2 with KATIONS and was still slightly ahead when he bonused again with (G)INnIEST after my balancing B(E)RG from BEGLNRS. I had the dream pickup for DER, to score 101 with SLENDER to take a small lead. A good scoring HONEY(S) from Ray and a balancing M(E)RIL from IILMRRT in reply. Ray opened the 9x with BAYE. I had picked the second blank and vowels but ETOURdI(E) did the trick. Then the wheels fell off - seven consonants from a pretty evenly balanced bag. No real surprise when Ray played AIDOI, and I dumped NTH. Picked 3 more consonants. (D)OZE(R) from Ray to get back to only 7 behind. FMPPRST on my rack, ADEOUVW on Ray's...
Game 5: Caroline Atkins
Consonant heavy again I opened with VOLK. JU(K)E from Caroline. Still only one vowel, and GYRES for a reasonable score. LOOT from Caroline (she told me afterwards she had SOLOIST, and really should have played LOOTS). At last a nice looking rack of AINOPX?, I opted for PAX keeping the O for OXO rather than POX, not liking ANO? from PIX. On checking later there is only one 8 available from this rack. A spent an age on my next rack trying to find something to play down the side of PAX but eventually gave up and played MOLINEs. Caroline bonused on move 7 with STAIRED. I had been going through a vowel patch, but ODEA the move before and now I could dump AU(D)ITED keeping back another U to stay a bonus ahead on a relatively blocked board. REN from Caroline gave me REUSInG for a comfortable lead. QAT the move after and Caroline's outplay of VERDICT kept my win to double figures.
Game 6: Lorraine Gordon
Lorraine opened with POUT, and with a single vowel I dumped D(U)CK. HUIA from Lorraine and I took the triple with BINE. LURE from Lorraine and now with no vowels but 2 Ss I played S(I)NG. YEH from Lorraine, and I preserved my solitary vowel with (E)RF. ZIMMeRS from Lorraine. I had AIORSV? and eventually opted for OVAR(I)tIS to keep the board open. Lorraine changed and PO(t)E got me the lead back. I should have known better - back to one vowel. EA(V)E from Lorraine, (F)LIX from me. Lorraine then bonused with (S)INUATED and JAB from me to try to score, balance and restrict the triple. Unfortunately it didn't work. Coming into the end game I discovered I had made a mistake in the score and Lorraine was 10 points more than I had thought. This threw me a bit, as what I thought was a game won suddenly wasn't. It certainly wasn't when I completely cocked up the end game.
Game 7: Marion Keatings
No photo. I was pleased to spot SUBVENe(D) on move 2. Marion played a phony letting me take the triple for a bonus-sized lead. ANEROID on move 7. Marion came back at me with good scoring. With EIIRSTU I decided to just dump an I as most of the unseen tiles gave me a playable bonus. Marion beat me to it with TOUSIER, but my pickup of an L gave a neatly slotted RULIEST under it. I took the last two tiles, OE, and saw Marion had CEENST?. A moment of panic but the only playable bonus I could see did not score enough. In the end Marion tried something to win, so the spread is flattering.
Game 8: Amy Byrne
No photo. I started with LOONY and Amy played TOAD(Y)ISM. Looking back there was a 4-x through the N for 94, so maybe I was lucky. More good scoring from Amy and another bonus on move 7 to be 136 ahead. I eventually bonused on move 11 with FRIABlE to get to 50 behind, opening the 9x. I picked the second blank, but unfortunately AEFHLM? makes nothing.
Game 9: Ross MacKenzie
I started turning over my tiles. EILRT...looking good...another I...oh well, still has possibilities...another I...b*gger! LIRI for 8. Ross bonuses with TOADIED. I have picked the Q, but opt for WIT for score. I have to dump QI the move after and obviously then pick a U. Ross tried IPOMeAS so from TUNELER I dump EL, as I can see various options for Ross and decided my best chance was balancing. Ross played MyOPIAS, and I had STUNNER(S) in response. AFOOT from Ross meant I was still 60 behind. With another clunky consonant rack I opt for HUB(S) which Ross neatly blocks with KAM. PEND to keep scoring. GEE from Ross, another reminder of my lack of vowels but at least I had picked the second blank. I took a long time with ABJNTV? before picking BANJo to get back within 15 and making an opening. Ross blocked the S(WAIL) hook with Y(ID) which was a little annoying as I had been going to make an opeing with VO(ID). Still, VOX got me back to almost level. This looked like a good choice with Ross's play of (V)UG to now make an opening. I had ACEHOST and was very pleased to spot CATHO(U)SE. I thought at first it was opening the 9x, and then had to move it down one row much to Ross's displeasure as he had RE(C)ITERS in response. With AACGNNR I can see the possibility of F(R)IZ from Ross so block with C(R)AN and pick the Z. FOIL from Ross to take a 4 point lead. I now have AGNORRZ with AEEILUWY unseen. I took a long time before deciding on (T)ZAR as it blocked a4, gave little away with the Z and gave me a chance for a playout. I picked the U. Ross blocked my playout with (V)IEWY but I held on to win.
Game 10: Neil Scott
No photo. Neil bonused on move 3 with B(R)EVIARy. On move 4 my NUTLIKE didn't fit so I played off KU(TI) and bonused with (R)ATTLINE the next go to get back in touch. Neil bonused again on move 7 - can't remember what. He was closing the board down and I was having to sacrifice balance for score. I got DESCEND down near the end to empty the bag - I needed to be lucky with the last 5 tiles from the bag but was not.
Game 11: Ricky Zinger
No photo. The only game where the tiles flowed. Even on my couple of bad racks I was able to clear them. DIIIPSS with an L available to dump (L)IPIDS. Keeping AERS and picking AAE, but dumped EA and picked IT...
So, 5-6 and a tourney rating of 158. This must be my worst result in the last decade. Congrats to Neil on winning with a 10-1 record and well done/commiserations to Ray for second place, also with a 10-1 record. It's back to the drawing board for me...
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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