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
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. http://www.cross-tables.com/club700.php
A few years later, I played Betty in a tournament again, winning this time.