The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Monday, January 28, 2008

UK Open 2008 - Part 4

Sorry for the delay, but I have been back to studying. I had caught up on my cardbox after Coventry last week and then foolishly added a lot more than I meant to a few days ago...

Also I have had my first gardening foray of the year this afternoon - clearing the autumn debris and weeding the rockery - spurred on by all the bulbs breaking through.

Game 25: Anne Ramsay
I am not sure how the pairing made us play in consecutive games. Anyway, neither of us shone at the start, (L)UV from me followed two moves later with LUV. Anne bonused on move 6 with ENTRIES and I responded with INSANER. I was very pleased to see DoGFISH from my pickup after almost dumping F(A)H for 34. Anne blocked MARCHI(N)G with JOT on the next go, but I got GERA(N)IOL the move after. BRISTLY on my penultimate move gave me a good spread.
W: 518-379

Game 26: Brian Sugar
I started well with ZORIL followed by JOURNA(L)S. I then tried JODELER, but it is only valid with LL. Brian bonused with TONITES but this gave me a high scoring dump of ELIDED. AVARIcE two moves later and I was feeling comfortable with a 100 point lead. Brian came back at me with BA(K)ERIES, QUART and PALED but I held on to win. Afterwards Brian was bemoaning the fact there had been no floating I for PRATIQUE when Darryl asked why he hadn't played PARQUET for 102 :)
W: 423-416

Game 27: Mikki Nicholson
We both changed tiles on move one and then bonused, Mikki with HERIOTS and MA(R)TINET from me. Mikki bonused again two moves later with PONTAGE and I was struggling to score. When I eventually bonused again on move 7 with NEURIsM I was still behind. The same pattern, Mikki moving further ahead and my bonus of ARIStAS was not enough.
L: 379-454

Game 28: Stewart Holden
This game started normally but a series of moves in the middle should be an example of how not to play scrabble. I tried HONE(Y)ERS for 176. Off it came. Stewart plonked down TEAGUES. Off it came. I had misremembered a conversation earlier in the tourney and plonked down SENHORE with great confidence. Off it came. Stewart blocked with (A)GUE as RESHONE leapt into my brain. Except he hadn't blocked as I noticed the moment I hit the clock with HONE(Y). The game then went back to a sort of normality. Stewart missed the neat (HONEY)POT for 45 keeping back the blank rather than ANTIPOt, although I think it would be a close call.
W: 442-376

Game 29: Harshan L
I bonused first on move 3 with EVITATES. (E)XIT (56) from Harshan. I had picked an L, but had no vowels. I opted for CLY. PACY (47) from Harshan to catch me back up. Still no vowels, I dumped the Q for 44, and FREON from Harshan for 48. BR(E)W from me. Harshan then tried BEiGISH on the triple. I had picked an E, and could see BESIGHs so blocked with LEST. Harshan dumped the H and I changed tiles, picking the other blank. JIBE from Harshan and I balanced with (E)ON. THANEdO(M) the next go and VOTRESS from Harshan to retake a ten point lead. It was now a race to the line. I had enough ammunition with a W and S to outscore Harshan in the endgame.
W: 432-415

Game 30: Jared Robinson
I opened with HUTIA and bonused on move 2 with (A)RTESIAN - my only RETAINS rack of the tourney. A face-value ANILI(N)ES on move 5. Jared bonused back on move 6 with FEATUrE(D) but was still behind and I hit straight back with INVITER. A late GREISEN from Jared reduced the spread, but I had never felt under pressure in this game.
W: 456-379

Game 31: Nigel Richards
No photo. I was never in the game after Nigel back-to-backed on moves 2 and 3. Even when I had something Nigel invariably managed to block me.
L: 316-477

Game 32: Paul Allan
This game can be so cruel. I was praying for Paul to give me an N on his opening play, and down went NUMB. I promptly played TOILWOR(N) only to get hit immediately by the 9-x TARTLE(T)s. To rub salt into the wounds my pickup was crap so I then changed 6 tiles, and Paul burnt an S with LANDS. YAY from me, H(O)IKS from Paul. FLEG from me, JO from Paul and I am 119 behind after I balance with CU(M). P(F)UI from Paul and I bonus with (I)CEStONE. I pick GWINIAD from the bag, and suddenly I have hope - I am catching him back up. I peg him back over the next few moves - just to see IONISER plonked down at the end.
L: 403-495

Game 33: Adrian Tamas
Adrian bonused on his first move with ENOR(M)ITY but I could respond in kind with gALOOTS. I held my breath, trying to not give anything away with my pickup. After what seemed like an eternity Adrian played UNDUG. TRAPEZE for 131. I maintained my lead over the next few moves and then Adrian chipped away at it with steady scoring whilst I was forced to change. HI(V)E got me back to 71 ahead, but Adrian took the opening with GRADINE. Luckily I could bonus straight back, but spent a long time trying to find something onto the triple. I couldn't think of anything and had run my clock right down, so just plonked down TOUSiER, a really crap move but good enough to win.
W: 465-432

Game 34: Harshan L
Again no photo. We were neck and neck throughout this game until Harshan slotted a bonus in on a tight board. I gave Harshan something to worry about at the end when I set up a second place to play out with ZYTHER, which I was pretty sure was not okay but nothing else scored enough. Down it went for 80, and then back up again :)
L: 332-489

End of day 4 and 6-4, after losing 3 of the last 4. I felt very brain dead, and just stayed up for one drink before retiring for the night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

UK Open 2008 - Part 3

Day 3

Game 17: Mikki Nicholson
Mikki bonused on move 2 with E(C)OTONES whilst I was struggling with unbalanced racks. I gave up on move 4 and changed, whilst Mikki had a 120 point lead after G(L)ITZ. With the change my luck changed. JEFES (56), (D)ReAMiNG (89), KAISERI(N) (85), HI(K)E (45) and WAXI(E)R (48) in successive moves. Mikki wasn't doing badly either with (J)AUP (39), OBIA (29), (M)AUVEINE (78) and Q(I) (41). H(E)RM from Mikki. I was concerned about a follow up play with the second F and took quite a while on this move. Eventually, with bonus friendly tiles, I decided on a balancing L(I)D. I picked FO. RA(F)T from Mikki to take a 23 point lead, leaving one in the bag. My rack was FGINORS, but the 7 didn't fit and I could see no playable 8. With the last S I played FIR(I)NG, with 7 out of the 8 unseen tiles giving me a playout.
W: 460-448

Game 18: Brian Sugar
With AIMPRRT as my starting rack I wanted an E from Brian but he opened with AYU. Brian phonied with LOBBIER and I got the bonus on move 2 with the easy STOITER and immediately followed it up with AbO(I)TeAU. A neatly slotted REGIS(T)ER from Brian. WI(R)ED followed by QADI from me for a 100+ lead. No vowels on my next rack, so a dump of G(U)LCH followed up with PLONKER, picking the J and Z from the bag. Opted for JILTE(R) first followed by Z(O) for a 220 point lead. Brian bonused with INDITES, pick the last tile from the bag - V. My SAUNTED was blocked, but after blocking the only place for the V I scored only a couple of points less playing out one at a time.
W: 604-366

Game 19: Stewart Holden
I opened with CORDED, and Stewart slotted GUINEAs across the top of it. This gave me (s)APONINE in response, but Stewart scored almost as much with J(E)FES. I took both the triples from it in the next two moves, with Stewart balancing and then bonusing with VERT(I)CAL. (C)HLORIdS two move later from him for a 130 point lead. I got some of it back with SLEETIN(G) after Stewart decided on the flashy play of GANGR(ENE) which opened the board up. I was close to another bonus but it didn't quite come...
L: 435-462

Game 20: Paul Allan
Paul bonused first on move 3 with EPInAOI, and I came straight back with CANDORs. THI(O)UREA and RETAXES from Paul on moves 5 and 6, and SHOO(T)ING on move 7 from me to regain a small lead. Paul pulled 32 ahead with JIVE. The only hope I could see was STEVE(N) and pray for a playout from my pickup. Paul blocked TAW(T)IE with PURLS.
L: 397-417

Game 21: Adrian Tamas
This was a good game, nip and tuck all the way. We exchanged bonuses on move 3, LATHIER from me and (I)ODINATE from Adrian. STARRIE(R) on move 7 from Adrian, I balanced with OOT and got DEVIATe(S) on the next move to retake the lead. SILANES from Adrian on move 10. I had the second blank, but was also hampered with FJNORV. I gambled on getting a bonus with 3 As and 2 Es unseen, dumping J(I)N. It was not to be...
L: 409-433

Game 22: Craig Beevers
No photo. Another close game, two bonuses apiece.
L: 417-438

Game 23: Azu Ogbogu
This game flowed for me. I started with a bonus 4-x, PIC(R)ATES. Azu dumped an A, and followed it with SLAINTE. I then got back-to-back sUITA(B)LY and (R)UMINATE. Azu was scoring well with the high-scorers. ERRINGS two moves later from me, but Azu fought back with QUINTeT(S) to reduce the spread.
W: 493-432

Game 24: Anne Ramsay
Anne bonused first on move 5 with EVIRA(T)ES, blocking my ACCIDEN(T). DE(Z)INC for 40 instead to retake the lead. We were exchanging the lead over the next few moves and then Anne bonused with TURBI(N)E. I was close, balanced with D(U)N and got TESTA(T)ES down the next go for a very small lead. Anne dumped ON. With very bonus prone tiles unseen I opted for Qu(E)YN. Anne's last rack was RETAINS. I waited... Anne tried RE(S)TAINS. I could see RE(S)IANTS... I then saw I had a playout, LIA(B)LE..
W: 416-335

So, end of day 3 and 5-3.
It was a relief to have the evening off. I think quite a few of us were feeling brain-dead.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

UK Open 2008 - Part 2

Day 2

Game 7: Theresa Camilleri
Theresa opened with ROYNInG. I did not have a P, and my best play blocked it. I was hit with KALI and GAWPS before I bonused back with ENdITIN(G), but was still the best part of a bonus behind. Holding ADEEEST I was full of hope when Theresa put down SAVOUR across to the triple, but she then picked it back up. I could hardly believe it when she then played SAV(I)OURS! I played off (H)EED and was rewarded with (D)AUNTERS to get back within touch but could not quite make it to the line.
L: 389-400

Game 8: Jared Robinson
I bonused on move 2 with dAVIDIA, Jared responding on move 4 with TARAIrE. It was pretty close until I bonused again with ERASION, but a 3-E pickup forced me into a dump of G(L)EE. Jared caught me back up with LEX(57), but I could score well off the triple with VERT, keeping back QUI. QUI(E)T the next move, and holding my breath. Jared dumped the Z, and down went ACT(I)ONED. My pickup of ENGAGES did not play, and despite an 85 point lead I could still lose this game with AEJMNRST unseen. If the J was in the bag I was done for. Relief when Jared dumped it, and I blocked SMARTEN with SAGENE. (O)NSTREAM was not enough...
W: 455-436

Game 9: Martin Harrison
Martin bonused first with the sub-optimal VItAMER. I was then severely punished for the sub-optimal UNTEAMS, missing the easy MANTE(A)US, leaving the 4-x for Martin's pickup of pREB(A)KED. A late consolation bonus of ORATION, but I never got back into this game.
L: 373-445

Game 10: Allan Simmons
I started with a phony misremembered 6. Allan challenged and changed. I changed. Allan changed again. I bonused with LINIEST. Allan bonused with QUOIT(E)RS. I picked crap and dumped OO(R)IE. Allan picked well, and bonused with CoL(u)MnAR. NAN(C)E from me, (R)AJAH from Allan and I am 100 behind. MI(M)ED frm me and Allan plays PIX(E)D. I challenge it off. TO(N)K from me. Allan manoeuvres with WIP(E). I dump AYU. Allan burns an S with FIBS. I have both Vs, and decide it is not worth blocking the X set up for no score and atrocious rack leave. - dumping (Y)EVEN followed by HELV(E)D, and still 100 behind. I can hardly believe it when I pick the 4th S. I score well with TOP(A)Z and now hold FORAGES. Allan blocks the SH hook, but it is still playable and I am back in touch. I hold BNORTUW, with AAEGIILU unseen. Allan surprisingly plays off AULA. We are both low on the clock. I play off WON to tie the score, leaving an outplay. Allan goes to play GIE under TRENDY, and then spots it sets up BRUT. Then he goes for (D)IG before he realises it hooked NI. By the time he picks up the tiles and dumps down (D)EI his clock hits 00:00. I play out with BUR(N)T. Just goes to show what pressure can do...
W: 380-369

I had a much needed bye in game 11, as Femi had not turned up. I went back up to my room to chill out.

We were now into Swiss pairing.

Game 12: Mark Nyman
This tourney had tempted Mark out of retirement. Mark started with RETAX, and I could slot BUTANOL across the top of it. I was a little unlucky that Mark scored only 2 points less with JERID across the top again. (L)OWNED from me and Mark changed. BRAV(E) to clear a clunky rack, and Mark bonused with CRoWNET. dROGHE(R)S in response from me to retake a small lead. We were level after 6 moves on 277 after VAMP and FAYS from Mark to my CAVIE and (C)ONK. Mark's dump of ETIOLI(N) gave me AHIND for 43, but Mark came back with GEEZ(43) and QUAT(46). With an unseen S and a poor rack I blocked with RIG. Mark could still score on the triple without making a scoring place for me, and that was enough for him to ensure the win.
L: 409-446

Game 13: Darryl Francis
Darryl bonused on move 2 with ANOINT(E)R, following up with ZOA (67). I hit back on move 3 with EVILEST. tINDERY from Darryl on move 5 and I respond with DANCERS. (t)RAVEL from Darryl gives me a place for MAFIOSO straight from the bag and a small lead. OKEH (45) and WAX (46) from Darryl, QI (46) and (AN)THER (30) from me. Darry balanced with (T)EA so I do likewise with G(R)ICE. Another balance of (V)ULN from Darryl, and I bonus with bUDDING. Darryl's last rack of ROSEBAY does not play.
W: 495-451

Game 14: Neil Rowley
A slow start for the both of us. I bonused first on move 5 with EQUINIa. Neil responded in kind with AVEN(G)ERS. REWIND (62) from me, and Neil bonused again with GRADATe. I took one triple with F(A)HLORE, and Neil the other with KUDOS. I wondered if he had a duplicate S but he admitted afterwards that he didn't know KUDO. PAESANO slotted in very neatly for me for a 100 point lead, which I extended further with JIZ (42) and LYASE (38).
W: 488-328

Game 15: Steve Perry
I started with HOTTY and Steve changed 6. I bonused on move 3 with NEUSTON. Steve changed 6 again on move 4, and I bonused again on move 5 with FORAGeD to have 150+ lead. Steve was obviously struggling and when he finally bonused on move 11 with FOLIAGE(D) I hit straight back with EnRAGED. Steve reduced the spread a little when I picked un unplayable Q.
W: 434-357

Game 16: Nigel Richards
Nigel was struggling at the start, and I was eking out a reasonable sized lead when he bonused with ESTRONE to take a small lead which he extended slightly while I was struggling. I bonused on move 7 with CREASER to regain the lead, but was then hit with S(U)BFIeLD and PLANTAG(E). NeEZING near the end from Nigel put the final nail in the coffin.
L: 355-495

So, 5-4 for the day plus a nominal win for the bye. I was feeling very tired and did not stay up with some of the diehards at the bar.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

UK Open 2008 - Part 1

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.

Day 1

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.
W: 444-361

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...
W: 536-353

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...
D: 424-424

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...
L: 410-445

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).
W: 542-417

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.
L: 372-489

End of day 1, 3.5-2.5. Not great, but it could have been worse...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Nature Watch at Todheugh

I awoke this morning to find a light dusting of snow.

As we set out for the morning dog walk the sun was shining and there was hardly a breath of wind - lovely weather for walking.

A rabbit ran across the road causing a little excitement just as we turned the corner by our cow shed. Down at the river I saw four ducks flapping along building up speed for take-off.

We were passed by a gritter as we made our way up the hill past Margaret's.

By the time we got to the bend in the road the wind had started to pick up. By the gate into the sheep field the clouds had moved in, blocking out the sun. By Edrom the first hail stone. I made the decision to turn round and head back home. The hail got heavier. The stones were quite large. I let out a loud ouch when one hit me on the cheek. Heads down all the way home...

The hail gave way to big fat chunky snow flakes. After half an hour this diminished to light flurries and then stopped.

I have noticed that nearly all the berries on the hawthorns have gone, unlike last year when they persisted into the spring. I am going to have to ensure that I keep the bird feeders topped up - there has been a steady flow of visitors, mainly tits, but also robins, blackbirds and a woodpecker. Mole hills are popping up all over the place - luckily not in our lawn yet.

On the garden front I have spotted quite a few vole holes in the rockery which is worrying but not much I can do about it. I love inspecting the banks to see what is coming through (snowdrops and early crocuses so far). At this time of year you can really see the structure of the beds with the bare shrubs. It is also frustrating as I can see what needs to be done but it is too cold at the moment. Maybe I am still a southern wuss...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

December Synopsis

Having taken most of December catching up on November I don't really want to take most of January catching up on December. So, here is a brief summary of the highlights...

Scrabble: Four Nations Scrabble Tourney
My first 'cap' for Scotland. This year was the Irish turn to host. I had a very enjoyable long weekend in Dublin. On the Saturday evening a few of us got a taxi into the city centre...

On the scrabble front England won easily, Ireland just scraping second place from Scotland by one point. Lewis Mackay (England) put in a great performance, winning all 12 games, to snatch the highest rated player trophy at the end of the year. Wayne came second in the tourney with 10 wins and I was third with 9 wins. I finished second in the ratings, yet again, as Brett and Wale above me had not played enough games in the year to qualify.

Well, I have achieved something in flower every day in the year. Despite the extremely heavy frosts we had around Christmas the mahonias and hellebores are still blooming.

We came back after one shopping trip to find white footprints in the hall that I had cleaned the day before. In the middle of the rug in the lounge was a bag of flour that Poncho had retrieved from the kitchen!
Jen decided to eat the display cabinet whilst we were out at the Berwick bridge club Christmas party...
The dogs have enjoyed a few runs in Margaret's field. Indeed, Poncho had a whale of a time on one occasion running through the long frosty grass trying to find hares. What is normally a half-hour walk became over an hours outing as he was enjoying himself too much. Paul had just caught him when a hare popped up, and he broke free again. Luckily the hare managed a quick escape through the gate.
On Christmas day we had just got them back on the lead when four deer came running through the field a few yards away from us. Luckily the dogs didn't see them.

Christmas/New Year
We had a quiet Christmas, just us and the dogs. Paul took the dogs out first thing and then we opened our stockings. Dog run. Roast pork followed by Christmas pud for lunch, eaten in the dining room. Short dog walk. Settled down to watch Casino Royale in the afternoon, and then we opened our prezzies.

Allan and Gilli invited us around for drinks on the 27th.

Pauls parents arrived on the afternoon of the 29th, and we had invited friends and neighbours around in the evening for drinks and nibbles.

I decided to make salmon pate as we had a large pack in the freezer. I knew Jean made mackerel pate using hummus, but could find no recipe on the internet. I decided to phone Jean and get the recipe. She wasn't sure if it would work for smoked salmon but I decided to give it a go.

200 grammes smoked salmon, blitzed in food processor
150 grammes hummus
150 grammes Philli cheese
lemon juice
Just all mixed together with a fork and then put in a bowl in the fridge.

Jean's recipe also included one ounce of melted butter to help bind it together, but I forgot about this despite weighing it out, and it seemed fine without it... It did get Jean's approval :)

Hogmanay was quiet, although we did all stay up with a bottle of champagne, watching Jools's Hootenany. Nobody came first footing.

Paul's parents left this morning so we are now back to normal, barring the large amount of cakes/biscuits/chocolates etc. that need to be eaten before the diet starts again...

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