Adventures of a Tournament Scrabbler, Pt. 5

2003 was probably the most frustrating year of my tournament

career.  I was playing a tougher crowd consistently in the

expert divisions and suffered with some negative thoughts

about my play.  The game can be greatly affected by

psychological factors.  It is almost as if the lower you get,

the worse you draw.  A vicious cycle.  I finished the year

with a dismal 29-49 record, bottoming out during the

Eureka Springs, Arkansas tournament, breaking even with

an 8-8 record in a weak top division.  Unfortunately, as I

was standing out in the hallway cussing to myself, calling

my fellow opponents “morons,” a reporter doing a story

for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette happen to be there

to document the moment.  To his credit, the story was

wonderful, realistic of the occasional intense frustration of

the game, but it doubtlessly did not endear me to my fellow

Arkansan tournament players.

My first couple of tournaments of 2004 were uneventful; I

finished 7-8 and 5-6 respectively, though actually gaining

a few rating points because I was playing higher rated

players.  The second tourney in Lampasas, Texas ended

in interesting fashion.  With a record of 4-6, I won my last

game with a score of 623 points, a personal high score for

me to this day.


That summer of 2004 was probably the highlight of my

tournament career.  The National Scrabble Championship

was in a wonderful venue, New Orleans.   Because of the

success of Stefan Fatsis’ book WORD FREAK and the film

WORD WARS, ESPN covered the tournament.  I was on top

of my game.  Outrated by most of my opponents, I went

17-13, finishing a respectable 46th out of 173 players in

Division 1.    A bonus for the last game was that the player

who won the game got to keep the board.  I basically had

it wrapped up after four moves.  I played bingos four times

in a row to start (two of which were challenged by my

opponent) and finished with an easy win and a new board.

Besides finishing highly, even higher than my roommate,

reigning national champion Joel Sherman,  I even made

brief appearances on the ESPN broadcast and on Bill Geist’s

segment on CBS SUNDAY MORNING.   Moreover, I made

many new friends and got to experience the beauty of an

amazing place before a natural disaster would wreak

unprecedented havoc the next year.

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I moved here in May after 32 years on the Arkansas/ Oklahoma border. I love this town and already feel quite at home here. There is an amazing vibration here, to which I am happily contributing. I am a tournament Scrabble player, so I was quite pleased to find a couple of other tourneygoers here, forming the core of an official Scrabble club that meets Sundays at the Heartsong Chai Hut.

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