Reno Scrabble Tournament Report

19 Games

January 18-21 in Reno, Nevada


(Personal tournament stats at the bottom of the tournament report.)

After an eight-game, one-day tournament (which Scrabblers call an
early bird tourney) characterized by three very close games won by
strategical skill alone, a loss after which I was ahead by over 150 points,
and a total blowout (a triple-triple, PARERGON, and three other bingos)
at the hands of Rich Baker, a resident of Eureka, California, I felt
sufficiently warmed up for the 19-game main even at John Ascuaga’s
Nugget in Reno, California.

The tourney started out in very frustrating fashion. Despite my playing
significantly superior Scrabble, my opponent drew her second blank
along with C and was able to play CARPALS, front hooking OPEN
(forming COPEN), the only bingo lane available at the end of the game,
thereby sealing the victory, 407-344.

My second game was against a signficantly lower rated player and I
got to play some power game, using a mere 10 minutes of the 25 on
my clock, winning two challenges and cruising to a 494-314 win.

In Game 3, I finally got to draw some blanks of my own, bingoing with

Not much to say about the next game: a close back and forth battle
to the end. Unfortunately my opponent was able to play off his V at
the end of the game (with the help of a blank), winning 334-327.

The fifth game was against a new player, a young woman who is a
graduate student at George Washington University in Washington,
D.C. Despite playing four bingos, including an uncharacteristic
intentional phony (SOMBERED), I still only won by 75, 485-410.

I started out Game 6 with a bingo, GRAINED, but my opponent
immediately answered with his own, GLARIEST. Two plays later,
he bingos again, which I answered with my own, SOIGNEE. I made
a critical mistake in the game. With a closed board, I played NEVI
opening up the 14 lane, not paying close enough attention to what
tiles were yet unplayed. He plays ZITIS, Z on the triple letter score
into a double word score for 68 points. He wins 452–396.

Game 7 was against Mike Baron, author of THE SCRABBLE
WORDBOOK, one of the most popular study guides available.
Again, it was a back-and-forth struggle; again I wound up on the
losing end, looking at an awkward wrack of AINPW and no way
to keep Baron from playing out his last three tiles. A 359-373 loss.

The last game of Day 1 would be a treat whether I won or not. I played
against top-rated Dave Wiegand, the greatest player in Oregon and
probably one of the best handful of players in the world. I struck first
with the first bingo LAZINESS (missing SALINIZE for a few more points),
answered by Dave’s DUOTONES. Although I trailed the entire rest
of the game, it was very close and came down to the last couple of
moves. I held the blank at the end of the game, but couldn’t do much
with it. Dave wins 404-373. I end the day with a dismal 3-5 record,
but my bigger wins and close losses leave me with a positive spread
of over +200.Day 2 started on a good note. Playing a charming lady from
Georgia, I drew both blanks, winning 355-327. In the most
interesting play of that game, I extended TIGER to TIGERLIKE,
placing the K on a double word score that scored from two

My next opponent was Sam Kantimathi, creator of the Sam
Timer, the clock most use in tournament play. Using his new
“Bite Me” board shaped like an apple–he also makes boards
and tiles for competitive players–we found ourselves in a
strategic battle, only seeing one bingo the entire game. I won
383-319, struggling back to an even 5-5 record.

In Game 11, I faced one of the toughest ladies in the game,
Laurie Cohen of Arizona. Playing three bingos to my two,
including a nice find of OCTANGLE, she cruised to a 485-411
win. The only chance I had of winning was to hold on to
ABILTO and a blank with a 20% chance of drawing an E on
two consecutive moves to play through a V, creating the
word BLOVIATE. No such luck.

Game 12 was a repeat of the game before in that I was
out-bingoed three to two again. This time, however, there
was 0% chance of coming back as my opponent won by
105 despite my late play of TENSILE for 64 points.

The thirteenth game of the tournament was definitely one of
the more interesting for me in 12 years of competitive play.
My third play of the game was ERADIATE at H2 (starting
at the space just below the triple word score at the top middle)
through a disconnected R and T. It was an audacious move
in light of the word can be front-hooked with an R to form the
word RERADIATE. It immediately becomes evident that my
opponent does not know the hook, for he plays FORGE in
another spot on the board on his next move. I got a blank
fairly early in the game, but watched in utter frustration as he
drew and played off all the remaining four R’s out of the bag.
Add to that frustration some extremely awkward racks of letters,
I found myself down by 61 points with no tiles left in the bag.
Then I made my move: using the blank as an R, I played
VILER vertically into the top middle triple word score, forming
RERADIATE from the other direction, scoring 60 points. My
opponent challenges and loses his turn. I play off my remaining
two letters and win in dramatic fashion 359-336.

The next game, like so many of my others games in this
tourney, came down to the endgame again. With an awkward
rack of AELORRS on a very tight board and my opponent holding
the other S, I had to block his move and try to reduce spread in
a loss. To my surprise, having mistracked my remaining tiles,
he leaves me a spott to play of my remaining ORR, going one
second overtime in the process (thereby receiving a 10 point
penalty). I win 350-337, moving to 6-6.

In game 15, I played a woman from Seattle who always draws
luckily against me. She continued that streak, playing three
bonus plays en route to a 495-351 route. Under .500 again.

When I saw my opponent in Game 16, I had to laugh to myself
in the absurdity of it all. It was a little elderly lady, reminiscent of
a proper old elementary teacher from the good old days. This is
who I have to play because I’m 7-8. And what do you know: on her
first two plays of the game she draws both blanks, scoring 66 and
65 points respectively for her bingos of ONENESS and SUICIDE.
At this point I wanted to defenestrate myself. Instead, I focused
and came tearing back, winning 459-380, holding on the the last
shred of dignity in an even 8-8 record at the end of the second day
of play with three games remaining on Monday.

I won Game 17 on Monday morning. Not much exciting to say
about it. Two blanks, two bingos. 388-335.

I got to play my old friend Stu Goldman in the penultimate game.
Stu is still as sharp as ever, beating me handly 442-291.

For some reason, I almost always draw well in the last game of
the tournament when I am already out of the running. Playing Jill
Turney for the second time this tourney, I establish a commanding
176 point lead early in the game. The rest was a scorefest,
resulting in a 504-318 win. And so I punctuate another tournament.

Win-Loss Record: 10-9
Average Score: 392.5
Bingos per game: 1.58

AFTERWORD: A most amazing thing happened in this tournament.
Portland resident Dave Wiegand made Scrabble history by playing
an incredible 12 bingos in two games!


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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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