I got to Allan's at just gone nine on the Friday and we got on the road proper about half an hour later after stopping for a get-well card for one of Allan's neighbours and then for petrol, and a diversion towards Morrison's when Allan was on auto-pilot. We tried a new route - A1, M62, a change of plan around Manchester via M56 before the last stretch on the M6 arriving about six hours later.
I spent the evening clearing my cardbox and then had a couple of drinks in the bar before getting a reasonably early night. Breakfast, followed by more studying and watching the Olympics in my room the following morning before ambling across to the playing area for the main event.
I beat Barry Grossman, who is one of my bogey players, in game 1. I was pleased to spot FURtHEs(T) on a blocked board.
I then came unstuck against Sandie Simonis in game 2.
Phil Appleby in game 3 and I opened with the only bonus from AADNPT?. Phil later blocked my bonus from ADENOSY plus a floating P, but there was still an N available to bonus around. The board was getting blocked when Phil played in ZENAId(A)S in the only available slot to get right back in the game. A neatly slotted H(E)MES for 51 sealed my victory.
I lost a low-scoring battle against Martin Harrison in game 4.
Game 5 against Peter Thomas, who opened with QAT, and I was pleased to spot one of the two possible 7s from ABIILR?. Peter decided on his second move to forgo the easy 7s in favour of NORM(AL)ISE. I bonused again on move 3 with UNEDI(B)LE and I should have bonused again on move 5 but played a phony, getting it right on move 6 from AAILNST. A late bonus of (S)ORBITEs from Peter and we were into an endgame. EGNRRTW and I could play out in 2 with WR(I)T and REN(I)G to win.
Game 6 v David Webb. I changed on my opening rack of no vowels, keeping RS and picked IOSST. David opened with ZEE and I spent a lot of time deciding what to play, eventually opting for OS rather than SOS. RETINAE from David, IR(I)SATES from me as a 4x, following it with EXO(50), VIOLA(T)ER (76) and Qu(I)N (66) which was enough to secure the win.
End of day 1, and 4-2.
A dream game against Ross Mackenzie, who has beaten me more than his fair share of times in the past. I opened with TUTENAG and got three other bonuses in the game (REMA(R)KED, CONGEES and REtAILS after Ross made an opening on a very blocked board).
Game 9 v Paul Allan. Paul spent over 5 minutes on his opening move before exchanging one tile. I had been staring at DIIOOPP and plonked down PIOPIO. Paul held for about 3 minutes before challenging. Another wait and then he just dumped an O. Maybe a new record there of only playing one tile after 10 minutes off the clock. I now had 6 consonants but dumped H(O)LM. Paul bonused with (P)INDAREE. ABODE parallel from me to restricted the 9x. WIZ from Paul for 70, but I hit back with GElATIN parallel to ABODE for 90 to retake the lead. tARTARS from Paul on move 7 from j1d, and I had LORRIES for 65 open up a second 9x but opted for S(NEE)RIER instead for 72 and remove potential disaster from the K. It was now nip-and-tuck to the finishing line. I had mis-tracked somewhere and was I little surprised when Paul played (A)XMEN, thinking the 2 unseen vowels were A and O. However, a quick check and HFF were definitely unseen and nowhere for Paul to play all 3, which was all I needed to ensure victory on countback.
Game 10 v Nick Deller. A new smart Nick Deller in shirt and tie, with fashion statement trainers :) I hit first with a bonus on move 2 (PROETTE). Nick retook the lead on move 4 with UBIE(T)iEs for 82. I could only balance with UTU, but hit back with WOOLIER the following move. Consecutive moves of (C)ZARINA (57), AMNIOTE (65) and FLESH (51) was more than enough to counter Nick's IND(O)RSEE and block a 64-point QI play, letting him have 38 instead.
And then the wheels fell off. I lost the next 5 games without really doing anything wrong. I felt I was especially unlucky against Paloma when playing the Q making an opening onto the triple for a 5 letter word ending in I to be immediately hit with gHAZI for 89!
I took my revenge out on Steve Perry in the following game. He helped out with trying (U)RGENTEr...
And then on Graham Bonham, starting with AMItIES (AtIMIES is the only other bonus) and then ASS(I)EGED for 102. Another two bonuses later in the game to record my biggest win of the tourney, 526-304.
Terry Kirk next and another 500+ score, but Terry had not been slouching either. Even though I bonused on moves 1, 3 and 5 Terry had also bonused on moves 3 and 7. There was a danger spot for a 70+ Z play and I was very relieved when Terry, after a lot of soul-searching, played the Z elsewhere. A late ALIEN(A)TE from me killed the game, his bonus at the end just reducing the spread.
The last round was meant to be king-of-the-hill, but other than the top players was not. I pointed out that all the players on 10 wins were still in the running for the prizes and therefore should also be paired accordingly but this did not happen.
Game 18 v Richard Kennedy. I had got away with a phony (MANCHILD) in a previous meeting and it was still playing on his mind. I pulled out a lead at the start, bonusing on moves 3 and 5 to his bonus on move 4, and maintained this lead throughout the mid game. Nearing the end Richard made an opening which I hit with TWINERS to give myself enough daylight to withstand his bonus near the end.
So, 11-7 and 6th place. Tourney rating 186 and no change to my overall rating.
Allan won his playoff match against Ed to claim the title 20 years on from his last win, and making it four in total.
Thanks to all who worked tirelessly to make the tournament such a success.
I am off tomorrow to Laura's in Sunderland to play my BEST quarterfinal against Stewart Holden. Details will no doubt follow.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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