Icebergs, Hills with Eyes, and Pesky Prattfalls

Saturday, March 18, 2007

The parking space I had chosen was conveniently located next to Bordentown Bagels. I was eager to see if they are really "The New Standard for Bagels", but when I learned they microwave their eggs I decided to fill my tummy elsewhere. Across route 206, in the parking lot of a shopping plaza, sat a black and white suburban, and the officer sitting inside was probably making his daily list of who he was going to abuse that day.

As I drove away I suddenly realized I was very hungry. Thankfully, the green St. Patrick's Day cookie Ira had brought to Ginger's after the tournament came in handy. I cannot imagine how Ira could possibly fail to win director of the year.

From Bordentown to Chalfont, then into the city to hang out at my usual Starbucks, Callowhill. First though, breakfast. In the year or more since I had been to that Whole Foods the breakfast bar had been converted to self-serve. Not realizing this, I stood there looking stupid for about 5 minutes until an employee said something. Another difference was in the bathroom, the presence of one of those ultra high-speed warm air dryers, the Xcelerator model. Out of the blue, I discovered a use for the device that the manufacturer probably never intended and certainly would not advertise. Once again I proved, in my own mind at least, that I am unending well of creativity.

Across the street at the Starbucks a pair of frat-looking young men sat on the comfy chairs. One of them mentioned he had seen Star Wars: Episode III the night before (what took him so long). The two discussed Star Wars for a bit, and they got many of the facts wrong. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to set them straight.

Arrived at the PIC early enough to notice a cameraman. He was from some ports network on Comcast and had seen the tournament advertised and decided to get some footage. I tried to think of a way that I could promote my documentary to him, to sell starbucking as a sport.

Started off with a hefty win against the none-too-pleased-at-my-superior-draw Richard Popper. Besides good tiles, I was lucky that I never had to play a phony, because after a club game in which I played four or five phonies, Richard swore I was in for it. I considered trying to use that to my advantage by playing A(X)ONAL for 28 instead of XI for 36, but I decided the chance of drawing a challenge wasn't worth those eight points.

Typhoid Marlon had indeed shown up, and sick with a cold, and I hoped this would give me an edge. But he came out with the first bingo, bOISERI(E), and then two turns later ESTATED. I managed to score well enough to stay even with the aid of ANERGIA, but then Marlon played the second blank, BUmPIER. Marlon did not write down the blank, and I thought it was an R, so I challenged, but Marlon let it slide without having to call over the director. Since the blank was not written, I'm pretty sure I would have been allowed to rescind the challenge anyway. Regardless, Marlon did me no more favors, effectly ending the game by pulling FINDERS out of the bag just as I opened a spot with AA (leaving AAENS). Of course I wondered if I should have just exchanged AAA, but I needed an additional bingo line anyway. I couldn't possibly have expected Marlon to draw a bingo out of the bag like that.

For the first time ever, Verna Berg scored a second consecutive win against me in a vicious outdrawing made worse by an evil, evil setup. KAMI, which doesn't take an S, but does take a K. Under almost any other circumstance I would have let STOCkED/(KAMI)k go and taken my 57-point JU(T)S. But in this case I would still have been down 97 points with just 18 tiles in the bag, almost no bingo lanes, a crappy leave IRTY, and a possible hefty play for Verna along the other TWS opened by STOCkED. Looked like a sure loss to me, so I challenged. Or maybe I'm just trying to rationalize a bad decision.

It was three games and lunch this time, which meant I had an hour of anxiety before my first meeting with the infamous Dan Pratt. It would be a must-win game, and could save me from a ratings loss (into the dreaded 1600s), but I would need to draw better than my last two games.

I did draw better against Dictionary Dan, surviving my opening ADFGQVZ to go on and bingo-bango, EPISODE and SPR(A)YINg, to keep pace with Dan's LEANERS and iNHAUL(E)D*. But a few turns later, I faced a decision similar the one against Verna. Dan played AGIOTA(G)E, and while his play only put me down 31 with plenty of good tiles in the bag, I was looking at IIINORT and no place to score. Had I been able to score even 20, I think I would have let it go, but I saw myself slipping down a full bingo, so I challenged. The game wasn't over, by any means, but Dan went on to score well, and I was never able to get a playable bingo.

Almost blew my rematch with the Pufferfish by getting cute at the end and trying to bingo again to get a higher spread and a better KOTH position. I held the case es and blank and a 40-point lead, so I should not have been opening up the board. I never expected a bingo to the C, and so Eric's ANORETI(C) caught me totally by surprise. If I had not drawn the Z for Zo(O)S for 66, I would have lost.

I was back to my phonying ways against Mitch Brook, SCUTI* and (U)RBANA*, and I needed both those because he drew both blanks for cUR(A)TING and RETIlES, while I never managed to blank. Came down to the endgame and 38 points. Whew!!! When Mitch learned of my fiendery, he put me on a special list he keeps and vowed to challenge whatever I played next time. Well, we'll see about that. Of course, I would later lurn myself that Dan had similarly abused me with his own bingos, but I did not walk away with revenge in my heart. Dan lives in Baltimore, and that's punishment enough for a lifetime.

My umpteenth, or so it seemed, polka with Polsky, and just like in North Salem I was the architect of mine own peskation. The game turned into a disaster almost immediately. With a choice of plays to hook ZOIC in AIOONUV, I decided to see if I could draw the challenge with the risky AVION. Phil held, but he let it go, and he had the S to hit the TWS. Wouldn't have been so bad if the word he had chosen hadn't been MITIS, and if there hadn't been just the slightest doubt in my mind that AVION was any good. So I challenged, and with PO(O)FY for 34 Phil was suddenly up 52. No problem, still plenty of game to play, but I never considered that (F)REON might be a brand name, and suddenly I was down 76 points! Perhaps perfect play could have still won, but I wasn't playing anything close to perfect that game.

So there it was--I was forced to leave the East Coast with the uncertainty of whether I'd knocked myself down into the suckteens. I was sure I was stronger than that, but with film promotion being a priority, opportunities to prove that were going to be scarce.


* indicates discrepancy between valuation and win %.

40.5 THAE  
0 GRIM  
1.8 XI  
6.3 NASAL  
0 QA(T)  
8.1 DR(I)P  
10.1 L(E)V  
2 SAT(IN)  
0 (A)FT  
0.6 GURU  
1.5 AN(Y)HOW  
9.8 KEA KEA (different place)
0 QI  
0 FOC(A)L  
18.4 AA A(S)ANA
20.5 L(AG)  
0.3 (F)LANGE  
9.7 -ILUUWY WIRY (31 pts but LUU leave + opens TWS)
13 Q(I) WA(V)ER (44!!!)
9.1 (A)WARE  
12 TOYIN(G) (weak)
12.5 (Y)ARE JAU(P) (wow I was really sucking)
51.5 lose turn  
0* JURY  
2.5 (J)AR  
38 VI(O)LETS (b/c of TRI(FLING))
0 E(R)  
5.3 ZAG exchange???
4.9 -FOQV  
10.7 SPR(A)YINg miss LEANERS hook
23.7 GRA(P)H  
5.9 BY  
7.7 (Y)UM  
28.1 lose turn  
0 INTI  
0 FEW  
8.8 OV(A)  
4 X(E)BEC  
2.0 FANO (miss YOW hook 4 FAENA)
0.8 -AEEIIO (E)  
0 JAG  
0 NERVE(D)  
1.2 QUA  
1.7 RIM  
5.8 F(O)B  
0 (L)UV  
3.8* TUT  
5.4 Zo(O)S  
0 PUD  
0* (H)OVEL  
0 (PE)WIT  
0 SCUTI*  
0 DE(T)OX  
4.3 -IIIORU (R)  
0 (U)RBANA*  
0 QI  
2.3 (D)ONE  
7.6 LONER  
4.1* SAYE(R)  
6 ZOI(C)  
2 ANON NONA (unsure)
4.5 PFUI  
2.5 AVION  
38.3 lose turn  
32.6 lose turn ((F)REON)  
1.2 (C)ORN (F)ENURON (not best)
6.2 JI(N)  
0 GNAW  
2.9 VINED  
0* LA(V)A  

1 - W - 5.6 (72.9)
2 - L - 11.8 (141.6)
3 - L - 11.2 (168.5)
4 - L - 11.3 (147)
5 - W - 5.3 (84.2)
6 - W - 2.7 (38.3)
7 - L - 8.9

Avg: 8.1

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