My racks continue to frustrate me, requiring an exchange, and when I finally draw into aDORNER I pull AAEEEET, requiring another exchange. Scott just scored 39 for JEER and 36 for JOULE, and I'm down a bingo again, so I play AMETHYLS* with no hesitation, praying that he would let it go--he does. After the game, he gave the fact that I played it so quickly as a reason for having led it go, validating my belief that phonies played quickly are more likely to stay on the board. The phony caught me up, but Scott quickly regained the momenting with ZED, and I was in a dilemma. If I blocked the bingo line with a low scoring play, I would fall further behind and probably lose. So I took my best scoring play, RAFTER for 39, even though it opened up many lines for him to bingo through, and he did. Later, I see that I could have blocked with VERA/REV/RE for 22, but its doubtful I could have fended off Scott's blank and S. Later still, Maven showed me the obvious block that I missed from the diagram above, and that I missed ANEURISM, and that I could have played REEARN for 21 instead of exchanging when I held AEEEERN. Fact is, I was playing frustrated because my draws weren't easy, were requiring more thought, and this was affecting my play. Nervousness was probably a factor. I needed to relax. I needed to score some valium before Danbury!
Maven analysis also revealed that I gave up a lot of equity against Dominic. My initial impressions that I should have exchanged were wrong. I could in fact have scored more and improved my rack, but I missed obvious plays. That lack of board vision thing was really beginning to plague me.
Jim Kille had taken some time off from tournament, nothing in the three months since Stamford, and since I was no longer playing at the Philadelphia club I hadn't played him forever it seemed. I was looking forward to showing off some of my newfound word knowledge, but the board turned so ugly so quickly that I knew I wasn't going to be slinging any of the eights I'd been studying. Ugly and uninteresting or not, I picked up a much-needed win.
My game against Verna Berg was more interesting, and after she leapfrogged me with MENTIONs it looked like she was finally going to get me. When she killed the next-to-last bingo line and I found myself with BGGNOU?, I took a lot of time deciding whether to try and outscore in the end game or give up some points to balance my rack and try for the one line left, through an S. Well, GO/JO scored only 12, and the BUNG leave wasn't great, but there were Is in the bag, and the open S was slotted just right to give me a shot a a -SING eight. I think Verna, with a 30-point lead and a blank unseen, should have blocked it, but she played elsewhere for 17, and, kablingety-blam, I got down BRUiSING. Then an inspired find, TIDBIT for 33, sealed the game.
After the game, she asked me about that daddy web site that Jim Hughes had put together, and whether I might be her daddy. I knew I had beaten her four times, but I couldn't remember if she had ever beaten me. She seemed to remember a game during an early bird in Parisppany that she won, but I drew a blank. Later it occurred to me that I could easily determine how many times we had played by using my handy-dandy results database. Nope, if my records are correct, I am in fact 4-0 against Verna. Whose yer daddy!!!
If I went 3-4, I didn't think I'd lose too many points, and I was eager to work out the math, but what I really needed to do was win that seventh game and pick up a few!
I faced Jim Kille again in the final round, and I encouraged him to play more open so I could demonstrate the word knowledge I'd picked up in the past few months. While not wide open, the board did have some bingo lines, but clunky racks plagued me for the better part of the game, and I fell steadily behind. I made an early mistake by reverting to my defensive ways and giving up 10 points, OFT instead of OXID, in order to avoid giving up the hook. Well, I couldn't draw the vowels I needed to make use of my X, and I dwelled on having played OFT, and I ended up losing my focus and a turn when I hooked a U for LYNX and Jim challenged off my UL*.
Then Jim got down SYNDETIc, and that C really screwed things up for me, and it was hard to see how I'd come back. But then Jim hooked SYNDETIC with an A as he had planned, but gave me a 36-point VOWEL in the process, and then he proceeded to give me another gift that both me and Marlon sitting hext to me had to chuckle over, REY*. I took the spot for 17, and while I was still down 35, the game didn't look so hopeless. I still needed to open the board though. Jim successfully blocked all my openings, but in doing so I outscored him to the point that I no longer needed to bingo, and with the second blank, and his forgetting about the Q, I pulled it out.
While not ecstatic, I was far from displeased at my 4-3. As Matt said, I had "held [my] own". In fact, Dominic, above 1800, and Scott Appel, about 100 points above me, were also at 4-3. Only Bobbie Butterfield at 6-1 had done better, so I really had nothing to feel bad about. And I was sure I'd pick up at least 10 ratings points, adding to my cushion for the inevitable fall that was to come.
I took off once again with Terry Kang and Stefan Rau, and also Cecilia Le, and, later, Mr. 7-0 himself, Jeff Jacobson (aka Puff Daddy) to the Philly Cafe for dinner. Taking pity on me for the troubles I was going through with Jodi that left me mateless for Valentine's Day (possibly the most cruelest holiday ever), Cecilia allowed me to pretend she was my date for the evening. But when my hand mysteriously ended up on her thigh, she had to draw the line. She was, of course, already taken, but as learned via the gossip that was bandied about the table, Scrabble players seem to have no scruples about crossing relationship lines.
As a side note, quite possibly the only people that were hating Valentine's Day more than me and Jodi were the frat pledges seen running around Walnut Street, naked except for shorts and cupid wings. The very reason you couldn't have paid me anything to join a fraternity in college. See Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons for more on fraternities.
Curses! I knew it was going to happen! I forgot the Whole Foods orange juice I had left cooling under my car, next to my tire. I didn't leave it more visible because in the past I had a bottle of Tradewinds tea stolen that way.