In March of 2006, I got to be a participant in the first ever major
open Scrabble tournament, held in Dallas, Texas. 109 players
showed up from all around the country to play in one big division.
(Usually a tournament of that size would be broken up in four
or five divisions, based on rating.) I started off on fire, winning
seven of my first eight games against some of the top players in
the country. At the end of the first day, I was actually in second
place, behind the brilliant Brian Cappelletto. Unfortunately, a
couple of missed bingos and some other flubs together with
some great drawing on his part lead to a lopsided loss for me.
(He wound up going 14-0 in that tournament, probably one of the
greatest performances ever seen in a major Scrabble tourney.)
My 9-5 record in the Dallas Open was very satisfying, for I played
a very strong field and held my own again. In my game against
one of Texas' top experts, Darrell Day, I played two unlikely
bingos: PEEBEENS and USQUEBAE. (There is nothing like
the thrill of finding obscure bonus plays, something analogous
to a beautiful slam dunk for the highlight reels.)
The Biltmore, a five-star hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, was home of
the 2006 U.S. Open. I started off the tournament with a first-day
record of 1-7, which totally sucked because it was also my birthday.
It was probably the single worse day in my Scrabble career. I only
recovered somewhat, finishing with a record of 13-15, losing 66
rating points in the process. I struggle with the luck part of the game.
And I still have a long way to go in dealing gracefully with drawing
badly for a number of games in a row and losing to opponents with
inferior word knowledges. The last two National Championships
have shown me that I still have much growth to do, especially
when it comes to endgame strategy. That part of my game has
evolved tremendously from my early years, but I realize that I tend
to get lazy or lose focus, something especially easy to do in the midst
of a slump.
I returned to the Dallas Open this year and started hot again, finding
myself once again in second place in a very strong field at about the
halfway point of the tourney. Then I stumbled a bit, finishing with a
13-9 record, in the top quarter of 128 players. What made that trip
especially nice was having my son Julius with me to observe what a
major tournament is like. He has become a good little player himself,
sometimes wowing me with surprising displays of word knowledge.
(One time I watched in amazement as he played PREDIAL, front-
hooking BED to make ABED and OX to make LOX.) He now plays
occasionally in a club setting and says that he wants to play in a
Now well into my twelfth year of tournament play, I look back at
many fond experiences and feel profoundly grateful for all the
wonderful and interesting friends I have made. There are many
goals I have yet to attain. First and foremost, I want to represent the
United States at a World Championship. I have consistently been
studying the world English lexicon (often called SOWPODS) through
the years and feel that I may be a couple of years from actually doing
it. I want to break into the top 100 rated players of North America.
I am presently 161st and have been as high as 128th, so this is quite
reachable, too. I would like to be the top rated player in Oregon, no
mean feat in a state that boasts one of the strongest expert fields on
the continent, including recent national champion Dave Wiegand.
(In Arkansas, I was the top rated player for many years; in fact, I have
been the only expert there in the last decade.) I have recently
begun to fulfill one of my dreams, to be part of an official Scrabble club.
After being so isolated from other tournament players in Arkansas, it
thrills me to actually get to play other humans frequently in my
newly formed club here in Ashland. Two other regular members
actually have tournament experience and have gotten good enough to
beat me frequently, which means that not only do I have people to
play with but players to sharpen my skills with. I feel that there is
great potential for growth for our club, which meets Sundays at 1:00
at the Chai Hut. Ashland is a town full of strong minds, an essential
ingredient for keeping a club alive.
Thank you for letting me share some of my experiences with you.
Come by and see us sometime at the Heartsong Chai Hut on
Sunday afternoons, if not to play just to look in and say hello.