Was met at the airport by Geoff and Tess and, after a detour to buy a new coffee percolator, was safely deposited on their sofa by the early afternoon.
The European Open commenced the following afternoon. It did not go well for me - a combination of poor picks and not playing at my best meant that I was never in contention. Tess, on the other hand, was flying high and had won the event with games to spare. After staying late to help Amy clear the equipment away we met up with Tess's family and she treated us all to a celebration meal.
The following day was the Brousson Invitational Scrabble Tournament. Amy, John Chew, Mohammad Sulaiman, Simon, Cecil, Vince, Kevin, Mikki, myself and Tess. We each put 10 euros in the kitty and played 6 swiss rounds followed by a king-of-the-hill. Prizes agreed beforehand - 50/30/20. Amy was on fire. having beaten Simon in their BEST match in the morning, winning 6-1, Tess second 5-2 just pipping me on spread. Mikki in fourth meant a complete thrashing of the weaker sex :)
We had a lazy next day, but a quick trip to the Medina glass factory and I spent my winnings on a very pretty small vase.
Thursday was a trip over to Gozo, Geoff and the dogs (Poppet, Lily and Smudge) replacing Mikki and Mohammad from the BIST line-up. A very pleasant day - a couple of drinks overlooking the sea, then lunch and then off to the beach in the afternoon. Ice-cream, another beer, a few concensus games and a quick paddle. It was warmer than last year but I still opted to not go for a swim...
The Malta International Scrabble Open started the following afternoon.
After having only a third of the available blanks in the EO the tile gods decided to laugh at me from on high. They gave me every single one on the Friday but with such utter dross that I was only 4-3 at the end of play. Hence my report will be somewhat lacking in detail as I was beginning to lose the will to carry on...
But carry on I did.
Lucky T-shirt donned on the Saturday and with more balanced racks but fewer blanks I rallied back to 11-6 at the end of day 2. Still 3.5 wins behind Evan but now well positioned to make third or even second place. The lucky (and not too smelly) T-shirt was going to be worn again the next day!
Tess first game up on the Sunday. It did not start well but I was feeling a lot more focused and soon my luck changed. A pivotal moment was when Tess laid SHRIGhT on the board for a good score, but had doubts and picked it back up. Then RIGHTeS(T) went down, opening a 9x. She changed her mind again and finally played bRIGHTS for a much lower score, leaving me the E I required for a high scoring DISTHEN(E) rather than a face-value H(A)NDIEST. I had enough ammunition to go on to win the game.
Next was Terry Kirk, who had beaten me on day 1 after I had played a phony and then got severely punished for my mistake. A bonus in the last quarter of the game should have seen him home and dry. My rack of DEEENNS and I made the correct decision of playing D(O)EN, leaving the N as the floater rather than D(O)NE and a good pick of COT. An eternity passed waiting to see if Terry would block the N but he opted to score. The bonus went down giving me a 17 point lead with three tiles in the bag. A long hold from Terry and then he challenged. I knew I must be safe with a playout from the last three tiles. Phew!
Evan next - an opportunity to close the gap, which was now down to 2.5. And I took it - the game is on centrestar - game 20.
I was beginning to believe I was in with a chance.
Last game before lunch, Yi En Gan. I had also lost to him earlier by 7 points when he had inadvertently created a 9x spot, and I had played for and picked the A I needed for ANTID(O)RA/(MAUN)D and he blocked it again in blocking a different opening :( This game went much more smoothly for me, countering his bonuses with my own higher scoring ones and picking up a couple of 5-point penalties to boot (BOOMINGS and ARCHAIZE).
I really didn't want a lunch break. Not only that but before we resumed there was a raffle that I thought was never going to end. Like a recurring nightmare every time I thought it was over another colour and number was boomed out over the microphone. However, eventually it did come to an end.
Carmel Dodd, who had been having a very good run, next. But this time the tile gods smiled on me and I ran out an easy victory.
I was now the only person who could catch Evan, 1.5 games behind with two to play. My fate was in my own and Evan's hands.
I spent far too long trying to decide what to play when I had both blanks, and eventually just plonked something on the board as I was down to about 6 minutes and Evan plays like a rocket. Luckily my racks balanced and I could play reasonably quickly for the remainder of the game and held on to win.
What a relief to see a bonus on my opening rack - I think only my second of the whole tourney. It certainly settled my nerves and probably did the opposite for Evan. It is interesting being annotated - I was far from convinced that MONEY(I)NG was good but was concerned that I could look rather foolish if it was and I didn't play it! It did help that I had a healthy lead. Apart from that I did play reasonably well...
So I ended the trip on a high. A celebratory meal at Avenue on the Sunday night with Tess, Geoff and John, and a thankyou meal at Mamma Mia on the following night.
The diet will be starting soon...