A month after the 2004 National Scrabble Championship, I played
in Houston. The tournament was a dismal one for me, for I finished
with a 4-8 record. One of those four wins, however, was one that
I’ll likely never forget. A few plays into my game with Iffy Onyeonwu,
I played an eight letter bingo, OUTARGUE. Then, I played another.
And another. And another and another. Five 8-letter bingos in a
row! It was the first time it had ever happened in tournament play.
(Five had been played consecutively before, but never had they
all been over seven letters in length.) After I played my fifth one,
KAINITES, my opponent calmly looked up from the board and with
his beautiful Nigerian accent said to me: “Very nice.” Amazingly,
he had three of his own. Eight bonus plays in a game also tied
the record. (www.cross-tables.com/download/totalscrabble.pdf
see page 32)
The rest of 2004 and 2005, nothing really extraordinary happened,
mostly smaller tournaments in my home state of Arkansas (one
of which I placed first but still lost 19 rating points because of the
weakness of ratings in the division), Oklahoma, and Texas.
Reno, Nevada, was the home
of the 2005 National Scrabble Championship. It was unique in that
the day before play started, there would also be an Anagrams
Championship. This aspect of the game has always been one
of my strengths. It is just natural; you really can’t teach someone
to anagram. In fact, I am so good at it, that unlike most expert
Scrabble players, I don’t even move the tiles around on my rack;
I do it in my head. In preparation for the Anagrams Championship,
I actually began compiling a list of 10- to 15-letter words that were
most probable based on high-probability 9-letter stems. That
study combined with my natural ability paid off: I made it to final
table of six with some of the most brilliant minds in Scrabble.
I wowed fellow players and audiences, stealing EROTIZE with
EXTERIORIZATION and ATMOSPHERE with MAGNETOSPHERIC.
(The latter won me the prize for Best Play.) Unfortunately,
play in the Scrabble tournament did not go that well. I finished with a 12-15
record in division 2. At one point in the tournament, I went 14
consecutive games without breaking 400 points. (My average is
over 400). Footnote: Portland’s very own Dave Wiegand
dominated the last round of the Anagrams Championship and
also wound up coming from a 0-2 deficit to win a best of five
series and the championship in the Scrabble tournament.
Fortunately, a tournament in Dallas a couple of months later helped
me out of the trough I fell into at the U.S. Open. I finished 2005
with a rating above 1700 again, placing third in a tough Texas field.
(It now ranks third among U.S. states and Canadian provinces with
an average rating of 1826.7 among the top 10 players in the state.)
But the next tournament in Dallas would be even more exciting.