July 23, 2005

My drive to Canadia was a frustrating ordeal, 435 miles of delays so innumerable that, after a whopping 8 hours and 8 minutes, I still could not manage to reach the Starbucks in the mall in Victor, NY, before it closed at 10:00 PM. More significant, Scrabble-wise, was my inability to sleep. I tried at a service area in NY some 30 miles shy of Buffalo and the Canadian border, but just as I was drifting off I was awoken by a call from a 17-year-old I'd been chatting with online who, after all the time I've had to spend on the phone with her, better be fucking worth it, meaning she better not keep me waiting too long when we finally meet.

An advisory about a closed portion of the freeway to the Niagara Fallas crossing prompted me to detour through Buffalo and cross at Fort Erie instead. I misread my map and ended up downtown in the middle of the nightlife and cruising cars, and though the eye-candy was plentiful I was exweested and just wanted to get into Canada and find a place to sleep. After some wrong turns before the bridge and some wrong turns at the bridge, I finally made it across and got by without an inspection (Scrabble arouses less suspicion than Starbucks, apparently). I considered pulling over right away to sleep, but a black sports car past me at 90+, and the excitement of trying to keep up with him kept me away until he lost me.

I went ahead and pulled over in St. Catharine's and parked near a Starbucks there so I could take another photo in the morning. Took me longer than it usually does when in Canada to find a place, and sleep did not come easy.

The sun yanked me awake before my alarm went off, I took my photos, and I sped off towards Stoney Creek, which might be its own city or a "suburb" of Hamilton, or some other type of municipalityt--I'm not sure about these Canadian towns. Either way, there was a Starbucks, and an ornery barista who was suspicious of my photography.

I'd made the obligatory stop at Tim Horton's for a biscuit, but I knew that wouldn't be enough, so I was very glad to see, a few doors down from another Starbucks, an oddly-named bagel shop, Bukamaranga or something.

I can't imagine that was my first time in a bagel shop in Canada, so I was surprised to find that they did things a little different. The bagels were all out in front of the counter, and in order to have a sandwich made I had to just grab a bagel and put it atop the counter. I couldn't imagine that would pass health regulations 401 west fucked, sat morning, just wrong, passed up exit

The tournament venue was different, the community center of the Earl Bales Park. The park had at least one interesting feature, a Holocaust memorial.

Before the start of the first round, I heard someone refer to my first opponent, bottom seed David Leonard, as an "up-and-comer". When he followed my pathetic GEoiDAL with UNTRIED to regain the lead he had taken with an early 56-point EX, I started to get worried. I came back with LOUNGERS, but he scored well with 33 for AHOY and then 35 for MISER/BIONICS to keep the pressure on. I held BIONICS, it gave me a spot, and 29-points, for TIVY (IJQ), so letting it go was an easy decision. Then, with two eses unseen, David created an S hook on the triple with HERB, and I had good reason to worry. I couldn't block and score, so I just channeled Chingy and took my best play, THIR, and hoped he didn't have the bingo. He played off an A, and I relaxed because my JET was able to block the line, leaving only a word ending in ON as the likeliest bingo. I could have sorta blocked for three points, but with a 55-point lead, I played off my Q for 24 to push past bingo range. The ON was unlikely, and if David bingoed off the V I'd score big with WOTS on that spot. Not only did he not have the bingo, but I even got a gift, a phony three, FOD*, to allow me to score, go out first, and extend my spread to 102. I counseled the kid against playing phony threes against 1800 players, even fake 1800 players like me.

Whoa! A three I didn't know--KEP!

One thing about the tournament worked to my disadvantage--there was a qualifying tournament for the worlds going on at the same time. For good reason, director David Boys was choosing to spend most of his time pairing that tournament, and that meant the regular even was relegated to round-robin instead of Swiss pairings, which I thought would have helped my rating more by keeping me away from the bottom of the field.

It's hard to see how my game against #11 Jim Carlton was anything but unwinnable. I predict simulation will bear that out. It started off okay, and I was feeling pretty good after an early gamble succeeded. I played a phony three, SAR*, so I could score 33 for JUS, but more importantly, leave myself ENRS, which yielded INCITERS. I almost phonied again, INTICERS to hit the double-double, but I chickened out. Then Jim went nuts with the draw--RARITIES, then DITZ for 34, MIX for 28, APEEK for 32, WINDY for 36, and he finally took the lead. The way he was drawing, I was sure he had one or two blanks, so I sacrificed points to block a S line with UH. This caused Jim to struggle for four turns, but he picked up the second blank, and when he set up FANO with all eses and Ns gone, the only way I could have blocked was with HAO, but I was missing the A. So Jim hit, as he had to eventually, BOVInEs, but with 10 tiles in the bag I was counting on his drawing and getting stuck with the Q that I had thrown back. Combined with my 30-point counterplay to his bingo, I could have won it. But no, my sour luck ran true, and I got Q stuck. QI can't come soon enough for me!!!

Sal Desiato outbingoed me three to one, but he also exchanged three times, so that each time he bingoed I still retained a comfortable lead. Once again I considered phonying but chickened out. First, from BEDDISH*, and later, from various combinations of AEEIDFS and AIUJLSS (JULASISH*)

I didn't have much time for lunch, but Streets & Trips showed several restaurants just up the block at Bathurst and Sheppard. The program didn't show everything though, and it left out the most important of all, my happy place. Rather, the Happy Place Family Restuarant, where, on a whim, I decided to try fish and chips for the first time since my first trip to London. Don't ask me why a Greek restaurant serves fish and chips, though.

The fish and chips filled me up before I was even half done, and hungry as I had felt earlier I decided not to push it--I didn't want a full stomach to make me drowsy. Wouldn't have mattered, because I was crashing really hard during my game against Lynda Wise. I could hardly think. It was a good thing I got great tiles, three gimme bingos, and two won challenges.

After the game, I considered forfeiting my next one or two games in the hopes of doing better in a later round and not letting my physical condition affect my rating. But my next opponent was 1822, and one of the players I needed to factor into my rating. His game was still in progress, so I went to the corner, cloned my eyes, and leaned back... right into a spiderweb! Ugh!

With my brain still dead, I once again caught some great tiles, this time against Shaun (not Shanu) Goatcher, and also a break in the form of a risky rack-clearing phony, AURAEI*. Other than that phony, the game was unremarkable except for my playing a nine, FESTErING. Not that nines are that special, but I seem to have difficulty seeing words through two connected letters. I can't imagine when I'll ever play a nine through disconnected letters.

In sharp contrast to my game against Jim, where I had a legitimate beef about the tiles, my loss to Max Panitch was wholly on my shoulders. I even drew both blanks for the third game in a row, but, after opening with NEAtENS, I fucked up with, of all things, a phony three!!! A couple of turns later I challenged CURR. No matter what he drew afterwards, I had to place the blame squarely on two lost turns, though I suspect my state of extreme fatigue might have affected my play. I remember thinking, as my hand moved towards the clock, that SOG* was a phony, but my hand just kept moving, almost as if my mind was powerless to stop it. So sleep does count for something, eh?

RaWHIDED--wow, whoda thunk it?

Both Ray Francis and I had to suffer through an excrutiatingly tight board. Whoever hit that last bingo line first was going to win it, and I'm glad it was me.

I was beyond exhausted, but sleep was a practical impossibility until the sun went down, so I had to kill time. I went in search of a Spanish restaurant on Bloor Street I'd been to a few times, but I never saw it, and I didn't feel like finding an Internet cafe (no T-Mobile in Canada yet) to look up an address. Instead I popped into this place called Garvey's Jerk for some oxtails and beans and rice. The extent of my fatigue was borne out by the fact that I would have left my change, my food, and my soda if the cashier had not kept calling me back.

I took a wrong turn and passed a place called Plush Massage. Its sign was purple, my favorite color, and also the color of the Roman emperors. But instead of the royal treatment, what I got was a morass of rules. Still, I left showered and more willing to invite a dancer to get up close and personal at my usual Toronto club, the House of Lancaster.

First though, I took some more wrong turns, which led to some serious wackiness involving a crazy hooker, a crazy old man, a crazy looking animal that looked like no dog I've ever seen, all culminating in the answer to the question that every young man asks himself at some point in his life--what happens if you get a grain of rice in your eye?

Things were more subdued at the club, though one dancer in particular was spectacular. The only item of note about my visit is that, rather than shuffling around to avoid buying a drink, I decided that a drink might help me sleep. I assumed, given its alcohol content, my body weight of 155, and the full meal in my stomach, that one drink wouldn't put me anywhere near the legal limit, which is probably higher in more liberal Canada anyway. I ordered Mike's Hard Lemonade, but all they had was the cranberry stuff. I didn't like it so much--the taste of the alcohol came was stronger than in the lemonade. Anyway, I got out of there quick and raced towards Kitchener. Worked like a charm, but too soon--I started to feel drowsy around Milton. But the effect wore off quickly. Even though I saved the coffee from the new Kitchener store for the next morning, I still had trouble sleeping.

If I had gone to sleep right there in the parking lot of the Sunrise Centre I might have fallen asleep right away, but, as luck would have it, there was a security guard walking around. I found this to be unusual for Canada. Anyway, I wandered around a couple of neighborhoods and ended up in the nearby municipality of Manheim, next to a house still under construction. In the hour or two that I was there trying to sleep, I walked behind the house a couple of times, and I noticed something cool--a nearby pond from which emanated the nighttime sounds of at least three or four different creatures. Note that when I say "cool", I mean, "cool from a distance cool", not "cool enough to approach and risk getting bit cool".

I finally gave up and did what I shoulda done to begin with, drove to the service area on the 401. It was a much chillier night than I had expected for summer, and I had not brought my long pajamas. Thankfully I keep plenty of blankets in my car, using them for padding during the warmer months. Despite the dehydrating effect of the colder air that kept me drinking and passing water through the night, I did manage to sleep.

I had parked at the end of the car section of the lot, next to the truck section. In the middle of the night I awoke to find a semi parked right up next to my car (separated by a railing). Through my rear windshield the truck looked like it was right on top of me, and in my half-asleep paranoid state the first thing I thought was that the driver was blocking me in for some nefarious purpose.

July 24

Got up early enough to visit a new store in Markham and photograph and couple of older stores. I was cutting it so close that I had to skip a good breakfast and just grab a scone and yogurt from Starbucks, so of course I was a little irked when I arrived back the community center, minutes after 9:30, to discover it would be a while yet before we got started. One of the travel sites,, has as part of its car rental feature something called RealPrice, or TruePrice, or somesuch. It purports to present the user with the actual price of the car rental, after all taxes and fees have been assessed. that's what we need for Scrabble--TrueTime.

First game on Sunday was a do-or-die, against 6-1 Ron Hoekstra, a chance to come even with him. But our start was delayed by, of all things, a practice game that he and Lou Cornelis had decided to start right around 9:30. What were they thinking? David Leonard was over in one corner glancing anxiously at Lou, while I was looking at an oblivious Ron in disbelief. Finally Ron went to the bathroom, and David clued Lou onto the fact that everybody else had already started.

I started fast-playing Ron from the word go, and my opening play of COZY certainly helped. After his initial exchange, Ron burned a full third of his time, 7:29, on his first play, BIZE. Guess he made the right play, because he then bingoed with LENdABLE. But I hung in there and scored 40 with WEAK to retake the lead, and then 40 again with PEW to extend it. I was feeling pretty confident as Ron's clock ticked down. After three turns he was at 14:56. After 6, at 10:35. After 9, 6:29, and then he started to pick up the pace, playing LANIARD both to try and pull the blank and also shorten the game. Thankfully, I held the blank, and with the second bingo line I was able to set up with the clever GIB, I finally got a bingo down. Still, I might have lost it for my carelessness. With Ron's clock down to seconds, I let him get away with OLIA* for 27 so I could throw DUI down, figuring he couldn't possibly go out in time. But he did, with TELIC, and scored enough to come within 4. He started a recount, and I called the director over, because Ron had misstated both his final scores by 5 points each--that's a big discrepancy! Wiht Ron's clock at 0:01, David said that if he could have found a way to penalize Ron he would have, but there was nothing in the rules to support that. Turned out the recount was irrelevant, because I myself had undercounted my bingo, by a whopping 18, so my win was never in doubt. Whew!

Disastrous tiles after my bingo led to a two-point loss to Ember Nelson. Needless to say, later simulation would find a litany of plays during which I could have scored better. Much frustrating.

The tiles came through again in my critical game against Lou Cornelis, though after the game he acknowledged that, had he played VOILA instead of VIOLA, I wouldn't have been able to score and turn over 5 tiles with my S, and the rest of the game could have been different. One kinda funny thing about the game was that, at the end, holding IUBGRW?, I debated over BRAW because of the possibility of drawing multiple Is. And sure enough, I drew the remaining three! Of course if the score had been close it wouldn't have been so funny.

As a result of my win, I was only one game from Lou, and with slightly more spread. Meanwhile, Ron had lost to Max, by two, putting him at 7-3 also, and making it anybody's tournament.

Once again I didn't have much time for lunch, a little over thirty minutes, and I had a couple of things to take care of. First, a final new Starbucks, only a few minutes away. But I also wanted to eat plenty, so I wouldn't have to stop on the way to the Victor store that closed at 6:00 PM. It was 180 miles from the tournament venu, for which I'd have three hours, but I'd have a border crossing to deal with. With my lunch time dwindling, I spotted Steve's Restaurant, and they were serving breakfast all day! I hadn't had a good bacon, eggs, and toast breakfast in a while, so it was worth the wait. Not to worry, because back at the community center, the delay I was counting on held true.

My game against Zek Kaufman was one of those in which I couldn't figure out what went wrong. It started out great, really easy for me, and then even though I missed a bingo, TISSUAL (7501-10000), my AILST yielded TENAILS to take the early lead. Zev came back with CrUSHER, but didn't even blink as I scored 54 with QUOITED. Zev caught a break, and JAUNT scored 56 through my Q, and that's when I started to worry. I had drawn the second blank, but I couldn't make anything happen for five turns, and on top of that I missed a huge play with my Y, hooking JAUNT. I finally hit with VORLAGe and tied the game, but the AAIOOST I drew predermined the outcome. Damn, I probably would have won if I'd seen JAUNTY.

Review, review, review, was the lesson to be learned from my final game, a rematch against Ron Hoekstra. When I slotted OBOL above the triple line, I had completely forgotten it takes an E. While there wasn't a doubt in my mind that my studying sevens and eights was a principal factor in my reaching the expert level, I was equally sure that I needed to fill in the gaps in my fives and shorter words. Besides having forgotten OBOLE, just in terms of tactics, I shouldn't have challenged, because it just didn't make sense that Ron, a real 1800 player, would burn a blank for 39 points if he wasn't sure of the word. But I also convinced myself that he must have been holding the second blank to burn one for 39, and that I would lose if OBOLE was good. This was just stupid--it was only the third play of the game, and his play only put him up 40--I had plenty of time to recover. As it turned out, even with my lost turn I more than recovered with 95 for KEStREL, but then Ron hit with RIGATONI, and I wasn't able to keep up.

I left immediately after my game to try and reach a Starbucks by 6:00, but I wasn't terribly disppointed with 7-5, and I did not feel like the tournament had been a waste. Like a young Bruce Wayne fighting petty criminals in an Asian prison, I needed as much practice against 1800 and high 1700s as I could get. Furthermore the experience reinforced some of the weaknesses in my game besides bingo knowledge. I needed to take a step back and review those shorter words, and I needed to figure out how to see the entire board, and how to stop missing hooks. There is no reason for me to have missed JAUNTY, especially given that I drew the Y immediately after JAUNT hit the board. Maybe I could get into the habit of, every time a word hit the board, to make a mental note of all front and back hooks right away. I don't know.

July 26

Meanwhile, in response to a CGP post about a possible way to improve my Scrabble game, some dickhead decided to start shit. He obviously gave me too much credit in thinking that anything I might write could ever influence teenagers. I mean, if my words were really that persuasive, I'd never had to pay for a blowjob again. On the bright side, this guy said he pitied me, and I could always use more pity.

July 27

Aforementioned dickhead apologized, making me question the wisdom of calling him a dickhead to begin with. It was kinda too bad, because I wouldn't feel right using him as a foil for my jokes after an apology.

July 31

During an NSC practice session, I got ELITEST* past a 1900 , but I only tried it because I was able to hook BIONIC. Before Toronto, I would not have guessed BIONIC takes an S. So screw the ratings points I lost--what's important was the practice.

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

1 - 4.5 (63.6)
2 - 10.8
3 - 7.2
4 - 4.7
5 - 6.8 (81.3)
6 - 7.8
7 - 7.1
8 - 4.4 (57)
9 - 7.4
10 - 6.1
11 - 12.4 (161.8)
12 - 7.3


PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
JET29UDLQ2.6 (must block!)AM4

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
UH7AEFTT16.5 (had to block?)ADAGE14
URALITE8T18.8 (desperation)VIG7
HI13EORTTW42 (URALITE front hook!!!)BOVIneS75

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
VIVE18 (20)AULT1.7ZIG26
WAG7EDDH? + E or I8.3GAES15
GED7EIDH?9.9 (GID, but yields no bingo)FAY50

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
MEANT16AEV11.6 (keeping board tight)LENdABLE63
QUAI30GGRS11.2 (QUAG, duh!)USED35
ERR5NRSV?.7 (VEIN is stupid, blocks bingo line)ROTO9

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
TO16EEIIN12.2 (TIP!!!)LOP15

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
HERBS29JN4 (JAB RAJ, no way!!!)ALAE22
-BCDGPRV01.8 (why keep R with blanks unseen, 35 tiles)COZEY20

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
ERN13OLR?20.5 (who knew Zev held 3 Es???)ERECTILE72
DOM23GLR?10.9 (worst play)FIE18

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
ROBE11ELPRT21.8 (OBOL E hook!!!)FAYeD39

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