Game 27: Harshan. Not a great starting rack but AHURU got over the problem. Harshan gave me the extra 5. My pickup did not help and we both exchanged tiles on move 2. I bonused with NETTLED, which I was surprised to get another 5 for. Obviously a more effective change than Harshan who just dumped BRR. RANGY(36) from me but a neat slot of C(LA)RINETS from Harshan to be still 30 in arrears. I extended the lead with ZI(G) (33). O(I)NK (37). We exchanged bonuses on move 8, me with vE(S)TIGES and UNSAWED from Harshan but I was still a bonus score ahead. A high scoring FOX (74) from Harshan was not enough to overhaul me.
Game 28: Philips. A slow start from us both, jockeying for position. I bonused with TR(E)ADLES on move 5. I pressed home my advantage with JUMP (45) and KO(P)H (51) aided by a phony UNWILDER from Philips. VO(R)TiCES on move 10 immediately followed by PALIsA(D)E more than countered STEENED from Philips for a 3-figure victory.
Game 29: Phil Robertshaw. No details. Phil will be pleased to know he is taking over the official title of my bogey player - Nigel doesn't count :)
Game 30: Martin Harrison. Martin used to have the above title but I have now hit that on the head. A vowel heavy opening rack and I exchanged 5 tiles. FAINT from Martin and WARTIER on my rack did not play but the N came to my rescue. Another toughie of TERR(A)INS on move 4. ANTlERS on move 5 from Martin but I was still ahead. It was nip and tuck for the next few moves, good scoring by Martin - CLY(P)ED (42), QUINT (56) - overhauling me. OX making OXER/LOME for 46 got me back in front and Martin exchanged tiles. I took the opportunity for a low scoring dump of L(E)ND to balance. HEATINg two moves later from me and game over.
Game 31: Ray Tate. I was not taking this game in vain - Ray has beaten me too many times in the past. I opened with mANIHOT and Ray slotted ZEBU above it for 39. I dumped the Q for not many. BOP from Ray blocking DEF(EN)dERS as a 4-x but SERIfED for 76. CATIONS from Ray on move 5 to get back in contention. He was hanging on in and I was sitting with SI(D)ENOTE which opened a 9-x when he made an opening at the top which allowed me the safer NOISET(T)E. I couldn't decide which was the best placement and was hit with HAUTE which almost cancelled out my bonus. Approaching the end game with a 40 point lead and a parallel play of IRON took out all the floater bar a U for an 8. Ray played C(U)D, holding the last S, but I could see there was no bonus available from the unseen tiles.
Game 32: Theresa C. Theresa opened with a hat-trick - ORIGANE, AWARDEE and PO(R)TALED. I responded with LI(N)GULaR, WUXI(A) and JIGOT to be 60 adrift. ZEA pulled another 20 back. (G)IB from Theresa gave me a spot for the previously unplayable ECHELON and I had taken the lead. (D)IVOT from Theresa gave me an easy 40 for MAVIS. QATS (41) from Theresa. FEDORA (35) from me and I was surprised to pick the last two Ss as I was expecting Theresa to have one from her previous play of QATS, given the open U that had been available. DEBT from Theresa leaving 6 in the bag. I opted for ASHERY despite it emptying the bag - I needed to block down the side of QATS and score. If there was an 8 from the J then c'est la vie. PENgUIN was homeless. A very satisfying win...
Game 33: Cecil Muscat. Cecil is a mutterer and my opening play of ANnULAR set him off from move 1. SE(R)ENATE from him on move 2. TOaZE(D) (75) from me on move 6. Cecil exchanged tiles and I dumped V(I)RL. KI(V)AS for 50 from Cecil and RET(A)RGET (60) from me. I maintained the 100+ lead to the end of the game.
Game 34: Wayne Kelly. Exchanged bonuses on move 3, TREAGUE from Wayne, SE(M)ILUnE from me. VI(n)Y from Wayne giving me a V for UNREA(V)ED (63+5) after an intervening ZA (65). DONNIES (70) from Wayne to take a 1 point lead. I balanced with P(I)VOT. H(O)YA (35) from Wayne. I then got greedy, misremembering PALK for 40, er 0. Luckily the bonus spot was still there next go for PLANKi(N)G. ORATORS from Wayne. FILE (30) above it from me to be 1 point behind. (N)OW (31) from Wayne and XI (38) from me. I draw two vowels from the bag and know Wayne is in trouble...
Dinner break and I am now 3 clear from Craig with 4 to play...
Game 35: Craig Beevers. If I win this game I am home and dry. Not a great opening rack but MEDII sorts out the triple I combo. ZE(D) from Craig. With ACIITU? I opt for the lower scoring but more defensive AUgITIC over (M)AIeUTIC. Craig dumps QA(T). Another vowel-heavy pickup and I dump GEE. Craig spent about 8 minutes on his next move before dumping R(I)N for 5. VOEMA from me, OX from Craig. I bonused with CARIOSE. Another long wait before DANDERS went down - this effectively blocking the bottom right quadrant from immediate bonus opportunities. I took out the CARIOSE floaters with PINE (38) and a bonus-sized lead. VOLU(ME) (22) from Craig. I was now consonant bound, but a neat play of F(I)N(E)RY (30) gave little away. HOER (31) from Craig. (D)OB from me, (V)LEI from Craig. I removed the danger from the triple with TOWT . This proved a good sacrifice as Craig played TINAJA underneath. I bonused with (R)INSABLE (83) to take a 116 point lead. With few vowels left Craig played FaGOT, leaving 1 the bag but with my single U PLUSH (45) took away any hope he had.
So I had won with three games to go. I should have been Gipsonised at this point but the draw had been done one round in advance...
Game 36: Nigel Richards. Nigel opened with DAVY and I responded with BUNNY keeping RT. I picked five more consonants. OO from Nigel and I changed tiles. I(D)EALISE from Nigel and with 6 consonants now I restricted the triple with MOWN. FAKE (40) from Nigel. I bonused with PLOATED on move 6 to get back within 8. And then I watched as he ran away from me. There was still a small hope and I made an opening. He took it with MANlIER. I could have been reckless at this point and opened the 9-x but the unseen tiles were RETAINSLTZ...
The end of a long but successful day. I treated myself to a couple of large glasses of red and an evening off from clearing my cardbox. Amy kept me company and we were the last to leave the bar in the early hours...
Game 37: Jason Carney. Another vowel heavy start seeing me dumping vowels on my first four moves. ASSENTs on move 5. ZIN(G)S (50) from Jason but letting me off the hook with DOO(Z)Y (54). G(O)X (38) from Jason to take a 1 point lead. DIHEDRA on move 8 to give me a decent sized lead. A late bonus of TONSURE(D) to increase the irrelevant spread.
Game 38: Phil Robertshaw. Phil was now safe in second place so the clever computer pairing program matched us. I couldn't let him beat me for a third time. My opening rack was not boding well, seven vowels so I changed 6 keeping an E. Phil opened with ALLOW and I dumped (L)ACUNAR. It improved and I bonused on move 3 with INHErES following it with ZETA (47). BARR(U)LEt from Phil to go 6 behind. I balanced with (V)I(B)E. Phil's play of FOGEY/(VIBE)Y showed me he didn't know LACUNARY but he later dumped the second Y elsewhere. As it was I did not need the secret weapon scoring with XEN(I)A (56), QOP(H) (36), PLOD/(XENIA)L (40+5), MUSTING (79), JOTUN (42). Phil got a consolation bonus of SCARIER at the end.
I kept track of blanks in all games except game 24 against Mikki. I will assume I had them both I certainly had more than my fair share but not ridiculously so.
Both blanks: W15/15; One blank W: 14/16; Zero blanks W: 2/7
Tourney rating: 213
Still eagerly awaiting the International ratings update :)
Many thanks to Len, John, Amy and Craig for another excellently run tourney. Paul has deemed the trophy tasteful enough to have a short stay on the mantelpiece before retiring to the trophy windowsill in the study...
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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