About Goddamn Time!


September 9, 2005

I left work later than I had hoped, but still with plenty of time to reach a new Starbucks in Simsbury by 11:00 and move on towards Dover, NH. The first few hours of my drive went smoothly, and I tried to take that as a good omen. Silly? Perhaps, but I needed all the hope I could get. Not having to negotiate heavy traffic left me lots of time to study, sim, and think about the mistakes I'd been making. I finally finished simming all my Parsippany games and started calculating average equity loss, and even without finishing it was clear I was playing much more poorly than in earlier tournaments.

I stopped at the Luis Restaurant in Elizabeth. I usually get beans, rice, and plantains, no meat, and pay only $5. But I was in the mood for meat for some reason, and I took a glace at the offers. Ooh! Pig's feet. That was only my third time encountering pig's feet outside my grandmother's kitchen. I knew it would be tough to eat while driving, but I decided to give it a go. Well, common sense should tell you that juggling a container of rice and a container of pig's feet atop a binder on your lap on the New Jersey Turnpike can't be easy, and common sense would be right. It didn't take even five minutes for my rice to end up on the parking break, seat, and floor. Thankfully they served me plenty, and what I was able to scoop back into the aluminum dish was plenty. The pig's feet, however, were another manner. The first time they slid off to my right, between my seat and the door, I was able to press the container against the side of the door and scoop nearly the entire amount back up. The second time, however, everything got dumped onto the floor of my car and I found myself scooping up individual feet and getting my hands thoroughly messy in the process.

Things got a little wacky (okay, wackier) when I finished eating and saw a traffic advisory sign. The stated frequency was AM 1610, but I couldn't pick up anything but static. I knew I should have gotten off the Turnpike as soon as I saw the flashing lights, but I kept driving, passing up an exit, and then traffic slowed to a crawl. I was finally able to tune the station, but just as the message was about to recycle a truck passed next to me and reception went to shit. No idea if it had anything to do with the truck, but I tried to maneuver the car in between the two trucks in the adjacent lane. Dumbfuck in the minivan (always dumbfucks just for owning a minivan) behind me, impatient even though nobody wasn't going nowhere, tried to pass me straddling the shoulder, forcing me to defend my lane. I turned on my hazard lights and started weaving back and forth trying to get reception, moving into the adjacent lane between the trucks slightly, trying to convince the truck and the minivan to give me some fucking space!!! Finally I was able to listen to the message, something about an overturned truck up ahead. Dammit. I took the next exit and worked my way along US 1-9 towards the GW Bridge, but I moved so slowly I became convinced I would have been better to stay on the Turnpike. On the other hand, I prefer to move steadily and stop at traffic lights than to crawl along on the freeway, where I can't really relax for more than a second like I can at a red light.

I stopped at the Danbury Starbucks to check my e-mail and was reminded of the tournament, my first real Division 1 experience, and how I'd done so much better then, with lesser word knowledge.

Heading east on I-84, the infallibility of my driving ability was called into question as, for the third time in about a month I allowed the car to become intimate with a stationary object. I'd managed to swipe the railing on the left, tap a car's bumper, and now, the most serious of all, really ram the railing on my right to the point where I almost lost control of the car (not really) with some dumbfuck in a truck riding too close to me on my left. Thankfully, he managed to avoid my possible oversteering. By coincidence a rest area was right up ahead, and I was able to inspect the car. Ugly, but it didn't seem like I'd screwed up my wheel or tire, and the car was eminently drivable.

My driving problems, plus my problems with board vision gave me pause. I had to wonder if there was something going on with my mind that was affecting my spatial awareness, which I'd always considered to be better than average. If that was the case, life was going to be much less enjoyable for me. At a minimum I'd have to be less cocky.

September 10

I got up right away when my alarm went off at 6:29, and I was at the Starbucks in a few minutes, but it was a really cool one, built in an old tavern dating back to the American Revolution, so I shot dozens of frames, and by the time I got out of there it was 6:48 and I was worried I wouldn't make it in time. Then I made a couple of wrong turns getting out to I-91, by which time it was 7:02, which left me 2 1/2 hours to drive 160 miles. Eminently doable.

On I-290 into Worcester I picked up a few minutes following a silver convertible that blazed past me at 100+. When we hit the city the posted speed dropped to 50, and I had one of those rare golden moments in which I was going more than twice the legal limit. I lost him in the city because the highway was curvy and my Civic just couldn't handle as well, nor did I want to push it given that I heard a scraping noise on the right whenever the car dipped, an aftereffect of my previous night's misadventure.

Once I got to Massachusetts, the police presence was noticeably heavier, and I had to keep my speed down. I wasn't worried though; I'd already made up the time I lost. And once I got to I-95 speeds picked up to the point that I reached the Elks Lodge around 9:20, with ambitions of finding a grocery store. I asked a group out in the parking lot, but they hadn't seen anything. Jason Katz-Brown, bless his heart, offered me a muffin, but I was in the mood for some fruit. Thankfully, when I walked into the playing room I saw goodies and was able to relax instead of rushing off.

I noticed that the first round pairings were up, and I inquired if they would be pairing every round. Yes. Excellent! But only if I did well. But Kath reported a problem with the pairing software. After all this time, I couldn't figure out why pairing software was so problematic. As a computer programmer since a child, it seemed like a relatively simple task to me, completely deterministic.

Before we started, Ed Liebfriend made a poignant announcement. He said that we were in New Hampshire, that it wasn't Philly or New York, and that outbursts, raising of voices, etc. would not be tolerated. Afterwards, he came over and reassured me that his comments were directed primarily at another player, not me.

If nothing else, at least I had been able to shake off the negative vibe from the NSC and Parsippany, at least during the first game. My opening rack was AAAAEUW, and after I exchanged Richard Buck played SPITZ for 52. I shrugged it off and played my QAID (IHSV) for 29. Richard played HAFIZ for 40. I still shrugged it off, thought about it a bit, looked at the board (not that there was much to look at), and played my SHIV for 29. Richard's ALAN for 20 gave me a little breather, a chance to think about the taking the momentum. Sure, it bugged me that he hadn't played his N out in the open for my EEEIGRS, but again I put that past me and focused on trying to figure out the best play, and this was a doozy, whether to gamble on having the 3rd S, with the last plus both blanks unseen. I decided on VEGIE (ERS). My gamble paid off. Richard blocked and scored 36 with EX/XU, but I didn't care--got my bingo and managed to maintain a lead, which I later extended with the second blank.

After the game, I asked a few experts about whether to keep an E on the opening exchange--Jason K-B, Joey Mallick, and Rod MacNeil all said they would, even though Joel Sherman counseled against it at a workshop in Stamford.

AARRGHH!!! I almost beat Kenji! He screwed up an challenged DEALAtES, and I managed to stay even 'til the end despite his SOMEDEAL and MEDICARE. Finally, my chance was when I pulled ahead by 34 with QuEY, but I needed him to have both Is and the P or W from the pool of AEIIOUPRSTW. Well, he did have both Is, but also the tiles he needed for the only possible (double-I) bingo. Crap, it sucks to lose to a SATIRE bingo after having played a good game against a 1900+ who challenged a high-prob word!!! Kenji seems to think he has lost all respect as a top player among the Scrabble elite, but I would have regarding a win against him as a serious notch in my belt.

Heh, that's cute. I was listening to a track from Mary Chapin Carpenter's first album, "A Road Is Just a Road", and she mentions Bangor, ME, which is where I was headed after the tournament.

After pulling four blanks in the first two games I was worried that the balance would shift. And it did. But despite drawing QXS against Isaias Sarmiento, I managed to get down three naturals, DOWAGER being the only "fancy" one. Isasias also bingoed three times, and in flashier style with ASTASIA and SARDoNIC, but I got the better of him by 34.

During lunch I finally met the infamous Aaron Bader. Looked nothing like I had imagined (chubby with a 'fro and glasses). And he looked older than twelve, too.

A forgotten five, HONER, being outblanked, and really clunky tiles all combined to a 192-point loss to Amit Chakrabarti. Oh, and let's not forget board vision. Simulation revealed an obvious 50-point play that would have taken the spot where Amit scored 54 with HONER, and it would have been a completely different game.

Next up was the infamous Aaron Bader (though he would deny the label). Couldn't remember having met him in Danbury, didn't have anything against him in particular, but nevertheless I really wanted to win that game. AEECRNS to start helped, though I almost blew it with ENCASER*. Aaron responded with MISTY, and I played MANIC, knowing it would not sim well, simply to start keeping the board tight, because I undertand Aaron to have vastly superior word knowledge. Even as I played, I hoped he wouldn't bingo right away, because then I'd really regret giving up the points. My leave is IPS yielded EEIOPST, but no hook. Except for MANIC, which I had played specifically because I figured it would not take an S. I think that might fit the definition of irony. I thought about it, and, figuring if Aaron got desperate he might try it himself, I gave it a go. Well, whaddayaknow, MANICS is good! An extra turn and ZOEAE for 48 blunted the effect of Aaron's 50-point JO, and I kept my 100-point lead. Aaron did get his bingo down, but I stayed far enough that he decided to gamble, and when he slotted TAD next to the TWS to give me the 60-point QUAsH, the game was over.

I almost blew my game against Carl Durdan when I mispelled a common word and had ATHSMAs* challenged off. I had hooked it to ROUE on the triple, and when the play came off I was sure Carl had an N and was going to play the spot. He did have the N, but not a bingo, and so he let me have the spot (because I had another line for it), for even more points (100 vs 87) when I spelled it correctly. Man, that could have been bad, but I caught a big break.

My third game (lifetime) against Amit, and I asked him to let me have the blank bingo first. Well, he did throw me a bone, by challenging ACARI, but my tiles were so awful I couldn't make use of it. From AEIOUUN I played URAEI and drew EEOOUNX. OE for 19 yielded EIIOUNX. NIXE for 36 yielded AIOOUHN, and I was getting really fucking sick of vowels. I was also getting worried, because in the meantime Amit had bingoed with VARLETS, and as quickly as the vowels were going it was going to be really hard to bingo. The point turned out to be moot because the board tightened up. Amit commented that "this wasn't the game I was hoping for." I replied "tell me about it--you should see my racks." Nevertheless, I managed to creep up slowly towards his score, from 72-down after his bingo. I took a big risk that I might not have done earlier in my Scrabble career--I opened the board up, fulling expecting Amit to bingo. He didn't bingo immediately, but a couple of turns later he got down TSaRISM. I thought was sunking, but then I suddenly saw how my AIGRTY? played off one his letters to win the game.

Later simulation would reveal that I played a really sloppy game. OUTGNAWS was the only bingo I missed, but nearly all of my plays were suboptimal, and their cumulative effective almost cost me the game. Though I ended up 5-2, and feeling that I was playing much better, I still needed much improvement if I was going to get my rating back.

Stil, I really needed that win. In fact, I couldn't remember when I'd needed a win more, even during my quest for 1600. Back then, I was sure that I was 1600+ material and just needed a break. But after the NSC and Parsippany, I was really starting to doubt myself, doubt that I could play 1800+ players, and going 5-2 when playing four 1800+ players (Kenji at 1900+), was a much-needed boost to my confidence.

In a scene from the early days of my Scrabble life, Jason Katz-Brown was running around desperate to find out what 4-3 would do to his rating given the field he played. Ah, kids.

The Pocket SamTimer, on the other hand, I could have done with out. I don't need two timers, and now I have to figure out how to sell one of them off. Though kind of hard to figure out, the small one has the advantage of size. The big one, on the other hand, has the advantage of being able to serve as a weapon in a pinch.

Pickins' were slimmer than I expected in downtown Portland, and I ended up at some Mexican restaurant and bar called Margaritas (wonder how they got that name). Eye candy was plentiful, but the beretta, or bandito, or whatever it was I orderered, was definitely not worth the price, and the Pepsi was almost pure water.

I finally got online to learn the results of Friday night's Agassi match. My boy, just two years older than me at 35, had pulled off another amazing victory. I almost regretted that I'd be visiting a bunch of new Starbucks on Sunday because I'd miss the finals. Though it was kind of a foregone conclusion that Roger Federer was going to wipe the floor with Agassi, I still had hope. Either way, Agassi is an inspiration to all us older folks. I only hope I can still play Scrabble as well when I hit old age, 35.

Average Equity Loss Per Turn

Includes total equity loss only if all turns were simulated.

1 - 3.9
2 - 2.3 (28.1)
3 - 3.0 (32.7)
4 - 8.7
5 - 14.8
6 - 12.5 (174.6)
7 - 10.1 (140.9)

Avg: 7.9


PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
BAG12ADL?1.2 (GAB - why)SOMEDEAL64
DEALAtES665.8lost challenge0

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
RIF37EIIW18.4 (stupid lack of board vision!!!)HONER54
lost challenge0EIIOURW???wEEDIER74
NODDY16???31.8 (didn't block bingo)InSTALS80

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
POETISE784.1lost turn0
DEEPS35V?24.5 (PrEVISED and a bunch of risky options)GOOD27

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
ID3IOHNPQ18.5 (need to set up QOPH)EXIT37
QOPH28EIN2 (FAIR - iz Maven on crack???)NIT14

PlayScoreLeaveEquity LossOpponent
ACARI16EI5lost challenge0
LEZ24JRTY?4.6 (JEEZ - dangerous, gives up TWS with J)LEK19

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