Adventures of a Tournament Scrabbler, Pt 2

After my first tournament, I started moving up in rating fairly quickly.   I started going to
tournaments in Texas, a hotbed of Scrabble (even hotter now and boasting some of the
brightest minds on the tourney scene).   By the time I had visited the annual tournament
in Jonesboro for the second time in 1997, I had moved up to a rating of 1132.   I decided
to go ahead and play up into the top division.   I finished in first place in the top division
and gained 182 more rating points.  Billie, in classic fashion at the prize ceremony
described me as “a real comer.”   She was a real source of encouragement to me during
my early years in tourney play.

After the Mid-Cities, Texas tournament that year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I had
five tournaments under my belt, with a career record of 37-16, a 70% winning percentage.
That fall, I decided to travel to a new state and meet some new Scrabble players.  I flew
to Atlanta.

The morning before the first day of play, I went to have breakfast at the Waffle House
next to the hotel.  Whom do I sit beside but Bob Lipton, the player whose interview
on National Public Radio sparked my interest in competitive play a couple of years
earlier!  It was so exciting to meet a world class player.   To this day, he remains a
huge inspiration to me and has become a good friend.  I often read in my international
Scrabble word list his inscription in the front cover:  “To a future world champion.”

I started off on fire.  Playing up into division 2, after seven games, I was 7-0 with a nice
size composite spread.  Then, as happens so frequently in the game, the tables turned
(more like: spun violently).  I was playing Betty Cornelison of Portland, Oregon.  She
draws the bag against me:  both blanks, all four esses, and ALL of the power tiles:
J, K, Q, X, Z.  And she drew them at just the right time and could play them in just
the right places to maximize her score.  She wound up winning 708-206.  It was the
first time a woman had ever scored over 700 in a tournament game and at the time
was a record for margin of victory in a tournament game.  After I was down by 300, I
just sort of smiled and watched it happen.  What else could I do?   And what was
more amazing, the game involved no double-doubles or triple-triples (plays across
two double word scores or triple word scores, quadrupling or nonupling the value
of the play).  It was a turning point.  I started losing games and finished with a 9-6
record, out of the money after starting with a huge lead.  In my immaturity, on the
flight home, I told myself that my career was over.  (This was an overreaction,
considering that I had played well enough against higher-rated players to gain 69
more rating points.)

Two months later, I played at a tournament in Austin, Texas, finishing 7-4 and
moving up in rating again to 1457.  So much for quitting Scrabble.

Notes:  There have only been 39 documented 700 point games, only nine in tournaments.
The record is 770, by Mark Landsberg of California.

A few years later, I played Betty in a tournament again, winning this time.

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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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