While the Tigers Are Away, the Panther Will Prey (or Pimpin' Ain't Easy)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The week had been filled with anxiety about the weak field, but despite this I slept fairly well Saturday night. I even had a really cool dream in which my mind and/or body kept shifting to Chicago of the late 50s. When I was abruptly awoken by some jerk-ass car alarm, I tried to go back to sleep as quickly as possible and see if I could reeneter that old cityscape. It didn't work, but I haven't given up hope, because I remember my dreams, and that means that sometimes they reoccur. I may yet return to Chicago in what surely was a grand and glorious era.

Left for Philly with plenty of time, which was a good thing. First, I missed the exit from US-202 to I-76 east, for the third time. I have to say that it is a really poor interchange design that requires a driver to pay attention and look at the road.

Then in the city, crazy traffic around Fairmount park due to some event. Had to take a roundabout route to Whole Foods, and by the time I got breakfast and coffee I decided to head straight to the PIC in case I ran into more traffic.

Walked into to the big boys room at 11:30 to find Matt, Verna, and a disappointed-looking Scott Kitchen. To my surprise, and a pleasant surprise at that, Matt had heeded my entreaties and cut the top group down to eight players. This increased my possible ratings gain and minimized my possible ratings loss, though I still needed to win 6 games to break even, and that would be no mean feat.

Close to start time, another pleasant surprise, the arrival of Connie Creed. I perked up, but for purely non-licentious reasons, mind you--I was most interested in her ratings points. Her 1616 rating would further drop my expected wins, and I was grateful that she had allowed Matt to coax her into attending. Good for you, Conelica!

I'll say it before and I'll say it again--any of those 1400-players can zing you, and it looked like Diana Grosman was heading that way. After an early lead with FR(E)TTING, I had to exchange away ADOUUU (E) and watch her take the lead with M(I)LITARy. Then she played an S for 39, QI for 64, and JURA for 31 to block a good bingo. Thankfully, I had given up points to play CU(T)E for 12 and create an opening where I was able to play TUNIcAE. The game was still close, though, so I was very thankful that those five-vowel eights came in handy again, indirectly. Had I not known the bingo, AGINOOO would have been an otherwise crappy rack. But still I was not able to relax, because Diana came back with SANDERS. Then I hit the 53-point (L)EX and she came right back with RI(S)KY for 51. Down 18, it was only an extremely favorable end rack ACDEHSY to Diana's ILNVW that gave me plenty of chances to win. Had to intentionally give up equity, though, because I was unsure of HOS for a 53-point play that would have also let me go out-in-two. Same thing next turn, when I could have gone out with EDHS/(PAREO)S, but I was unwilling to risk it. I didn't think spread was going to be a factor, and I cared not a whit about the prize money, so why risk a game if I'm not 100% sure.

A series of mistakes, including an unforgivable bone-chilling one, almost cost me the game against Flo Spanfelner. I had fought my way back to the lead after her 90-point FLOSSES and then almost assured my victory with ENTOILs, but the key was to prevent a bingo. Despite knowing that Flo likes to challenge phoneys, I tried UNWRIT* to take a triple spot, and after losing that turn I wasn't willing to challenge her STAKER*. It set up an S hook for a bingo, and I need to either score or block it. I did manage to block, but then with just a few tiles in the bag Flo opened up a spot with NA at B2. I foolishly blocked with NARY at A1, which still left a line for a bingo off the N, when I could just as easily have played NARY across at 1A for slightly fewer points but zero chance at a bingo. If rating were calculated using Quackle, it would have mattered not that Flo didn't happen to be able to fit the bingo.

I expected Quackle to give my play of RILED a lower valuation, but I was taking a page from early Cappelletto and setting up a hook that I didn't expect my opponent to know, or see. I wasn't 100% sure of the front hook, mind you, but if I got desperate and needed the points I was certainly willing to try it. As it turned out, Verna made it even easier for me by challenging SULL(Y)ING, so by the time I had AAIORT? with several spots, I felt I could risk hooking RILED for because either way I wasn't going to bingo next turn and wouldn't be that far down. After Verna's second lost challenge, the rest was cake.

Being a Texan, my first instinct, as always, was to speed away in my car for lunch, and I had to conciously remind myself to make the environmentally-conscious decision to walk. Over at the Fresh Grocer, another atypical decision, to forgo any meat and sate my hunger with just beans, rice, and corn.

I'd taken a wrong turn to reach Fresh Grocer, plus I had neglected to ask when play would resume, so halfway through lunch I began to worry that I was going to be late. So I packed it up and rushed off, first stopping at the bathroom. But the stall was occupied, and mighty stinky to boot. I decided not to wait around, which meant supressing the growing pressure in my bowels. As loathe as I am to use the PIC bathrooms for anything other than fluidic relief, I did not want to be distracted for four games by my bowelicular discomfort. So I took an empty magazine shelf and slid it up against the door of the back bathroom, and then I took a page from Kevin McCarthy's playbook and sat on the nearest toilet and shoved my foot up against the door to prevent an unwanted invasion of my private moment.

With a few more minutes before resuming, I went out to the car for some deodorant, and as I returned, with my a bottle of Tradewinds in my right-hand, Joe Geibler shouted out and throw me the baseball he had been tossing around with his son. I shouted back, "I can't catch!" because I truly am the world's worst fielder. My lack of fielding ability is surpassed only by my inability to shoot a basketball, but by some miracle I managed to put my left hand right where the ball was going to be. Wow! I decided to take that as a good omen for the rest of the afternoon.

The danger of weak fields was validated yet again as my third opponent, of four, stumbled across favorale draws. After a good start with ARANEID and then OOZE for 56, Engeldave came back with TRAININ(G) followed by AI(R)DATES two turns later to almost catch up. My titles fizzled, and by the time I found another bingo, NOTIONs, the bag was low and Dave had just exchange six. I knew I'd probably draw the Q, and I actually had a good play for it, but Dave's exchange yielded a bingo, SHELVEd, that happend to block the QU(I)CK that would have won. My heart sank, and I my mind went gloomy, but I persisted in using my remaining 4 minutes to look at the whole boards and decide whether there was any possibility that ED doesn't take an S hook (I knew it did). Finally, I stopped fixating on my Q and realized that I had (d)UKING for 45 (hard to see because of the blank D), and that won me the game!!!

Similarly to my game against Verna, I started off with an advantage against Joe Petree by virtue of lost challenges, LUAUN* and ENVEIL*. The latter he knew was phony, and after the game I expressed my surprise, in a bit of a scolding manner perhaps, that he would have knowingly tried such a high-probability phony (EEINLSV) against a near-1800 player. Sure, John Luebkemann and Joel Sherman had challenged off plenty of my phonies, but in each case I thought the word might be good. Despite a 154-point lead midgame, though, I took nothing for granted. EU(L)OgiES followed by HORDE for 49 plus ZEST for 79 brought Joe to within bingo range, with several open lines. Thankfully, I found another, MATRI(C)ES, to ensure my win.

With five wins out of the way, I needed one more to guarantee that I wouldn't lose ratings points, and since with each round I theoretically faced a stronger opponent, I took nothing for granted. After KAGU I drew a blank, and I felt a little better that I wouldn't get completely outdrawn. That blank came in handy quickly, because Joe Neff came out with EBOnITE. But, as he commented, my double-dbouel HORs(E)MAN for 98 was superior. Still Joe kept pace with my scoring, and I knew he could burst through at any moment, especially with a B sitting out there in a 3x3 column. I wanted to block it, but with several one-vowel racks, my best plays were elsewhere. Finally I blocked with (B)RUNT, leaving just two bingo lines. I managed to block what seemed the likeliest one, and in the end Joe wasn't able to get another bingo down.

Poor Connie Creed was having a pretty bad tournament, and it did not seem like her heart was too much into it. Still, there was no question that if she got the tiles she would use them. So I made the better play, RESILIN instead of INLIERS even though I was only 99.9% sure, and then, after Connie blocked the S for my EINORTV, I decided to be bold and risk playing through the R. It was good!!! After 40 for ZOUK and then bR(O)ODING for a 171-point lead, a win was prertty much assured.

Seven wins, and my longest winning streak since the '04 Nationals. I wasn't elated, mind you, because I knew that the weakness of the field meant I couldn't not claim I pimped with even elephant fist. I needed a player in the 1700s in the field to make that claim. Still, it appeared that going 1.5 or 1.4 wins above expectations should get me the 22 points I needed for 1800, which meant qualification for Division 1 in New Orleans was done.

When I finally received my prize, I was pleasantly surprised for the third time that day--140 smacker! Much more than I expected for an 8-person field. Perhaps Matt is learning about the economic incentive of good prizes. Now if he could attract more experts and hot chicks, the Scrabble trifecta would be complete!

The next day Steve Oliver, he who had left me to fend for myself in that low-rated minefield, responded to my CPG post by insisting that I must have had an least one easy game to run up a 532-point spread. Well, I beg to differ. The Verna game came closest to being "easy", but it was not an easy decision to hang RILED out there, and that was the play that broke the game wide open for me. Engeldave and Diana came within a turn of beating me. Flo held the second blank and could have won had she found a late bingo. Joe Petree scored 187 in three turns to come within 65 points on a board with lines still open, so had I not found one more bingo that game could have been lost. And finally, Joe Neff, who claims that we have played even though I'm sure that I've never seen him before, that in fact he did not exist prior to Sunday's event, never really threatened me, but was still just a bingo away from becoming threatening. No, I definitely wouldn't call that easy. I've less stress when playing a field of 1800s than when playing these mice with sharp teeth.


0 TZAR  
4.3 -ADOUUU (E)  
13.6 PA(R)EO E(T)APE
14.3 W(E)ED W(y)TED
7.8 (L)EX SEXY
7 CAY unsure of H(OS)
12 HA(E)D unsure of (PAREO)S,miss other spot
5.5 D(I)MMER  
4.1 (V)EXED  
7.5 VOI(L)A  
8.3 YON  
0.7 GULP  
7.8 FIZ  
0 UPON  
29 lose turn (UNWRIT*)  
1.4 WIN(K)  
1.8 DU(I)T  
0* NARY wrong position!!!
5 H(O)T  
3 GOA  
0 IF  
7.1 RILED gambling Verna don't know hook
5 H(IN)DER  
3.7 AIRbOAT  
0 VOUC(H)  
7.2 OBA  
5.3 ORRA  
6.7 ZITIS  
8.4 ENVY  
39.3 E(M) suspect Q & block 42-point play
13 D(U)P(S) (U)P(S)END
0 DEAN  
2.3 OOZE  
12 (AR)TSY  
3.6 PEW  
7.3 GRAV(ER)  
8.3 J(I)B JAB(I)R(U)
4.3 PEA  
10.8 (G)ORE  
17.3 (OP)TIMA much less than optimal
0 (d)UKING  
0 QI  
0 WIND  
4.7 COO(E)R OCTROI/(ANNUL)I,saw CROCI but didnt know (ANNUL)I
10.2 FOB  
5.9 MAWE(D)  
0 KAGU  
0 Q(U)I(n)T  
0* CIS  
2.2 SOP  
9 VI(A) VIN(A) (too dangerous!!!)
5.5 X(I)  
26 SOZIN  
37.6 CE(L) block line
6.8 PUG not best block
26 AWA  
2 (Y)ID  
2.2 -DFGHLLT  
4.8 PIED  
1.1 ZOUK  
0 A(Z)OTE  
0 PA(C)A  
2.9 AA  
0.6* TOOL  
11.7 IF  
0 B(E)AUTS  
0 GILL  

1 - 7.8 (101.8)
2 - 5.0 (75.4)
3 - 8.7 (122.4)
4 - 6.7 (79.8)
5 - 11.0 (131.5)
6 - 8.6 (120.6)
7 - 2.4 (30.7)

Avg: 7.1

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