I set off around 11 a.m. allowing plenty of time to get to Laura's, who had very kindly offered to host the match. I decided to fill up with petrol at Morrisons to ensure a stress free trip as I only had a quarter of a tank. What a mistake.
There was a queue into the petrol section as two pumps were coned off and another two were out of action with a fuel tanker blocking them off. But I was sort of committed. Ten minutes later I filled up. Just as I was leaving the two coned off pumps were released and the fuel tanker just beat me out. I was waiting for a gap to pull out of the petrol station when a car that had been parked next to the shop was reversed into me. My stop light then started flashing.
Details were exchanged and I moved my car out of the way. The staff in the shop were very nice and allowed me to use their phone to let Paul know what was happening. Also I was told that they may have the incident on their CCTV cameras which they keep the footage for six weeks. I told Paul I would leave the car for a few minutes as it may just have been overheated from the long wait. If he did not hear back from me I would have continued on my way. Luckily this did indeed appear to have been the problem.
When I arrived at Laura's Stewart was already there having lunch. Laura got me a bowl of soup. Paul had emailed her to let her know I may be late and had sent my insurance details so I could start the ball rolling. So after lunch I phoned the insurers to report the incident.
I was not feeling quite as chilled out as planned when we commenced the match. We agreed to play 5-point penalties. I won the draw to start.
Game 1: I opened with WIGLET and immediately got an extra 5 points. I was never under pressure in this game and won 381-297.
Game 2: My second 5 point gain on move 2 with XYLIC. After a close game Stewart pulled ahead with ESTANCIA and I couldn't pull back the gap. L: 388-415
I opened with BUFFO, (B)LOGS from Stewart and I bonused with LATTInS. (F)IZ from Stewart and I dump J(I)MP from a consonant heavy pickup. Stewart bonused with UN(T)RACES giving me a U to dump the Q. Some heavy scoring from me with LOTAH (40), DUH (36), UVEA (33), TWAY (37) and TAX (47) mean that I am still ahead after Stewart's second bonus dRAI(S)INE. I block the only danger spot of (MIRV)S with OBIED just in time. DESK (57) from Stewart to give him a 4 point lead but I can block his playout RAINE(D) with OTIC to seal the win. He tried a phony to increase my spread. W: 389-349
The interesting point of this game came near the end. With 5 tiles in the bag I played LINEAb(L)E to take a 42 point lead. With about 12 minutes on his clock Stewart held. I had just over 2 minutes left on my clock. Stewart, with full information, kept me held for over 10 minutes while he worked out he could win as long as he did not challenge me. I, on the other hand, had no information whatsover to plan my next move until he eventually played GEY. As it happens I do not think there was anything I could do to win the game, but it did feel a little unfair and maybe this rule needs to be looked at. L: 368-372
Game 5: I got my revenge in this game. I opened with LUREX and bonused with SLOTHED(86+5), dEACONS(69+5 for the hook) and (F)RAULEiN at which point Stewart conceded. W: 409-235
Stewart opened with PHT. I also had a consonant-heavy rack but took the points with ZE(P). WARS from Stewart and I could clear with H(A)MMED. (D)EFILERS (64) from Stewart but (M)EETINGs (90) from me. I kept the margin and when Stewart dumped with TONNE(A)U I bonused with pARANE(T)E - was worried I may have missed a 9x but there isn't one. He conceded a few moves later. W: 391-271
Game 7: I bonused on move 2 with (C)ARNEOUS and again on move 4 with SERENITY. Another concession. W: 361-273
Game 8: We exchanged 68-point bonuses, Stewart opening with RUNDALE and me with ERI(N)GOES. aPHONIA (85) from Stewart on move 4, and EPISOMAL (64+5) in reply from me. Stewart pulled ahead but I closed the gap with SKIDDING. OVERCOaT from Stewart a couple of moves later and I could not close the gap. L: 385-449
It was about 10 p.m. and we decided to stop. A fair amount of red wine and good conversation before we retired for the night - well, actually morning...
I bonused first on move 3 with UNEART(H)S to take a healthy lead but VERTUES from Stewart on move 4 overhauled it after I had picked all consonants. I bonused again on move 7 with DREA(R)IlY. I couldn't, however, cope with Stewart's bonuses on moves 8 (SPITING), 9 (OSTINAT(O)) and 11 (PREE(N)iNG). L: 422-499
Game 10: Stewart opened with QI and I was pleased to spot the playable bonus from AKNORST. Unfortunately Stewart hit straight back with bOBBIES but I could score well with YODE beneath it. He pulled further ahead whilst I was struggling ((R)UELLE from EEELLLU followed by LU(BE)), but then bonused with AVENGER to catch right back up. Not a great pickup (HIIOOTY) but I could play HOOT for 34, keeping back the Y for the ZESTY hook - DIV(V)Y for 52 next go. Another couple of balancing low-scoring moves (GUI(L)D and (T)OO from ADEIOOS) and a pickup of RR to beat Stewart to the bonus spot with ARRIDES. HEP from Stewart and I blocked with PU(R)IM, picking the blank from the bag. I was quite pleased with this win as I felt I had won against the run of the tiles. W: 422-395
Game 11: Stewart bonused on move 2 with MISSPA(C)E for 90, following it immediately with OUT(W)EARy. I pegged him back with PINAFO(R)E and MOTZ(A) (78) two moves later. AERA(T)ION on move 8 from Stewart, picking DAUnERS from the bag was too much for me to contend with. L: 416-446
Game 12: Stewart opened with cASEATE and I responded with ROI(S)TING. MIAUL from Stewart and I had picked 6 vowels and an N, so just dumped OO(R)IE. B(L)ETHER from Stewart which blocked C(A)FTANED from me but I was pretty sure of DEF(E)CANT so was a little put out when it was disallowed - my only phony of the match. XU for 50. I was always playing catchup from that point. I forewent several low scoring bonuses, needing more to win. In the end I was forced to just take the points as tiles and opportunities were running out. L: 420-452
So, match poised at 6-6.
EEEIOSZ, I opened with ZEE and then got SODDIER (72+5!) move 2. TRAM(L)INE move 3, followed by H(E)WN (42), CAJON (44) and BUMF (40) - decided the points were worth it despite holding the Q which I dumped the following move. (F)ORGO to remove the remote danger, followed by GUNKS for 43. HEM/HA from Stewart set up CITY for 60. Stewart wanted to concede at this point and was a little peeved when I said I wanted to play on as there was the possibility of a very high score with both blanks unseen. However, two moves later and Stewart had them both. He got away with the phony s(CAWED) but I didn't really care at that point. UPTRAIN(S) from me. W: 564-379
WUD from Stewart to start and I slotted NONEGOs (72+5) below it. NEUTRI(N)O in reply from Stewart followed two moves later with ADE(N)OIDS. (C)ONTRAST from me on move 6 to take a small lead, followed by FRAIsED two moves later, hooking HERLs which gained me another 5 and a bonus sized lead. OX followed with (B)ESTIARY from Stewart for him to retake the lead. With two in the bag I played WEIL/ZIMBI as there was an S and I unseen and could not afford for Stewart to play there. I needed to either be able to play out or for Stewart to not be able to score enough playing out in two. It was not to be. Stewart could have increased the spread with his playout but decided to make it sound more exciting than it was... L:468-470
The board got incredibly blocked very quickly. I had ENGAOLS that would not play and took a long time trying to work out what to do. Eventually I played GONE keeping back the A for the hook. Stewart bonused with SEARCED. I was now handed the poisoned chalice. SQUALID. I was tempted with just playing QUI(D)S for 75 but in the end played SQUAIL(E)D for 90. OVErTA(S)K from Stewart for 185. DORAD from me to hope for a high scoring J or Z play but HELMS from Stewart. Two moves later all hope went when he bonused again with the second blank... L:545-377
Many thanks to Laura who put us both up and put up with us both, and kept us fed and watered throughout.
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