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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 7

[ Congratulations to the new National Champion, Trey Wright, who defeated David Gibson in three straight games, 365-328, 355-344 and 429-328. Please tune in to ESPN to watch the final games at 1 P.M. ET on Sunday, October 3rd, 2004. We welcome your e-mailed corrections to our web site. ]

Go to: Before the Tournament, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 6, Round 7, Round 8, Round 9, Round 10, Round 11, Round 12, Round 13, Round 14, Round 15, Round 16, Round 17, Round 18, Round 19, Round 20, Round 21, Round 22, Round 23, Round 24, Round 25, Round 26, Round 27, Round 28, Round 29, Round 30, Final Round 1, Final Round 2, Final Round 3.

Round 7

Division 7 leader, John Robertson, saved up some stories and stolled over to regale us. The first "director" call of the day in his division was for a player who only drew 6 tiles and wanted to know what to do. He said, "uh, draw one more." Then at a nearby table, another player missed playing through the center square (the one with the star, the double word square) and he explained how they were to proceed since the play had been accepted as it was misplaced. Lastly, another set of players called him over since they both had only 1 tile left on their respective racks and they wanted to know what to do. Well, it appears that both of them just forgot to continue refilling their racks as the game wound down and there were about 18 tile left in the bag that neither of them had noticed! So, John got them to pick them and finish the game with the full set.

In division 3 at table 37, John Gove (Sun City Center, FL) defeated Anita Rackham (Mansonville QC), 448-274. Usually a ray of sunshine, Anita was veritably grumbling about the game. I think the thing that rankled her most was she accepted a phoney opening play from John: ZAMEN* for too many points. Later on, he got down GENERAL, hooking on to make NOVAE and then COIGNES and AERSOl (that is a blank letter L).

Chip Brown (Bothell, WA) defeated Huguette Settle (Edmonton AB), 394-366. It was his 7th win of the day and he was pretty happy. He played OUTLINE to open and pARRIES. Huguette got down TENsING. She says the turning point of the game (in that, there was no turning back on him winning) was when he played ZOOS for 46.

Miriam Green (Las Vegas, NV) defeated Claudia Koczka (Williamsville, NY), 439-315, in a division 3 contest. I see Claudia's RANDIES and Miriam's ORDAINER, RELIEVo, SONNeTS, and the non-bingo, but lovely LUTHIER through the T to the triple.

At table 20 in division 7, Patricia Barrows (East Orange, NJ) defeated Doris Roll (Arlington, TN), 413-221. Doris told me she is soon to be 88 and still playing strong. I asked if she minded me mentioning her age and she said that when you get to be her age, things like ages just don't matter. I agreed to leave Patricia's age and my age, for that matter, out of it!

Division 4's Nancee Mancel (Albuquerque, NM) walks by and tells me of a triple-triple she had today in her game against Zarrine Banerji (Columbia, MO). The word was BUSHLAND through the H for 176 points. She won that game and says her record is 4-2-1. I'm noting a lot of ties at this NSC.

Mark DiBattista (Astoria, NY) finds me wandering around division 7 at the far end of the room. He brings me back to his 5-bingo victory against Zev Kaufman (Toronto ON). As I get to the table, Zev says, "I told him to go get you, you know." I think this is his way of showing he is a good guy and thinks Mark deserves his kudos even if it means that Zev has to be on the losing end. I approve for sure! The bespeckled, shy Mark stands back, not really telling me what unfolded, so I grab his scoresheet and begin to figure it out for myself. His first play and first bingo was PAULDRON for 94, then he got down OUTDUEL for 60 on his second play. As they say in the bible, on his third play, he rested. Then the 4th play was LEVATORS for 94. He later played COlEADS to the triple for 95. Proving he is no slouch, Zev took all his one-point tiles and creted ALIENEE for 68. The thing this write-up can't show is how beautiful this board was. Going from top to bottom, a mere five spaces apart, were two double-double bingos in perfect parallel symmetry, and both worth 94 points. Zev never stood a chance! As exciting as what was played, it was what wasn't played that most intriguted Mark. It turns out that Zev's "lousy" near end-game play of BEGOT blocked Mark from playing eNTOMBING through the separated O and N for 89.

I spot Christina O'Sullivan (Seattle, WA) on the sidelines quietly pouring over her notes from previous games. I asked her how her day had been going and she said it was great. In a very tough top division, she was 3-4. Earlier in the day, the Christina (formerly of British Columbia) squared off against another top female Canadian expert, Robin Pollock Daniel (Toronto ON). Christina explains that in their game Robin had tile trouble and Christina was able to use the board's openings. She got down FINDABlE (the blank is an L) through the B for 78 and later LAnGUAGE through the second G for 80. She defeated Robin, 495-272.

In division 1 at table 9, Chuck Armstrong (Saline, MI) (winner of division 2 at the 2002 NSC in San Diego) defeated Scott Appel (Trenton, NJ), 442-339. I overhear Scott say that he drew the WQ thre times. I see Scott's ELONGATE for 68 and Chuck's cARRION for 68 and AMADOUS for 76. I slip into Chuck's seat to take notes and he doesn't bat an eyelash, just completes his paperwork while standing beside the board. I didn't notice he was doing this until I'd already taken his seat, but he was gracious about it and even contributed to the color by admitting he'd made a mistake. He playe BASALST* instead of BASALTS (which was what he intended). There isn't any "taking back the plays" in SCRABBLE®, so Scott challenged the play and it got called up. Scott says, "I'm glad I did! If I hadn't, I may have lost by 300 points!"

A perfect moment in heaven just occured for Avi Moss (Missouri City, TX). He defeated his former club director and the reigning National SCRABBLE® Champion, Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY), 451-304. Usually a bit reticent and quiet, Avi was all smiles. He got down all the game's good plays: UNBODIED, PEERIES, HAIRLINE, and lARIATS. From what I could see, Joel kept score that game.

Standing on the sidelines was Gerald Carter (Thailand), one of the 11 players from Thailand in the championship this year. Not telling me against whom or in what round, he said, "I was desperate. I had to try it. I played EASYISH*. It was my only chance to catch up. It was for 104 points. I thought there was a chance my opponent would find it plausible." The only fly in the ointment for ol' Gerry was the hook. Even if his opponent bought EASYISH*, the hook Gerry made--EFECT*-- just wasn't going to fly. The play, naturally, was challenged, and Gerry put his tail between his legs and retreated. I like hearing that even the most elite can make less than ideal plays, too! It gives us all hope.

Two top Thais finally squared off in division 1 and Komol Panyasophonlert (Thailand) defeated his countryman and the reigning WSC champion, Panupol Sujjayakorn (Thailand), 482-408. Both players are 19 years old with terrific skill at SCRABBLE® in English. Aforementioned Thai contingent player, Gerald Carter (Thailand) says that Komol is currently the highest-rated player in Thailand and if he was a betting man, he'd bet on Komol taking the whole enchilada. That whole interchange was a lot more circumspect than I've protrayed it. Peppery language sounds so much more scintillating, doesn't it?

Division 1's Debbie Stegman (Kew Gardens, NY) passes by and says she's had a fun tournament. Game 6 was particularly interesting because she and her opponent played five bingos in the first 8 plays. Debbie began with a bingo-bango-bongo (three bingos in a row): AGOnIZED to the D for 104l, RADIATED for 66, and AEDILES for 77. Her opponent, Dan Barry (Redondo Beach, CA), got down REPROVAL for 78 and ANTECEDE for 72. Debbie won that contest.

At table 74 in division 1, Randall Thomas (Calgary AB) defeated Ron Hoekstra (Kentwood, MI), 344-331. I see Randall's SERIALs and he admits he tried kLEZMERS* through the second E. Sensing the phoney, Ron challenged and the offending play was removed. These two Canadians are a fun pair upon which to feast one's eyes. Ron is one of the tallest men in the room (if not the tallest) and he manages to fold himself into a small profile hovering over his rack as he plays. Randall, his blonde hair tossled every which way, has an intensely alert look to his eyes and the funkiest SCRABBLE® rack in the room, bar none. He's taken an oversized, long, varnished wooden rack and has either hammered or screwed alternating blue and yellow wooden disk shaped pieces to the sides. The best part, though, are the four black, plastic, thick tread black wheels he's positioned on the rack, making it look a bit like a car. It wasn't enough to put the wheels on, they actually work and can move the rack from one side of the table to another. All the better for configuring plays, I guess!

Sheila has noted a number of plays that I'm just seeing now In round 5, at table 1 in division 5, she saw TWINGED played for 80 played by "Paul." In division 3 at table 1, she saw PROSeRS for 38 get challenged in a game between "Mike" & "Tom" and Su Edwards (Cambridge ON) played DEVOTEE for 74 points. Also in division 3, "Wendy" drew a total of 10 tiles! Her opponent was allowed to turn over 5 and decide which ones went back into the bag (standard x+2 overdraw ruling). In division 3, "Karen" played EARLIEST for 77. Steven Ornish (La Mesa, CA) played CANINGS/STINKERS for 101 points against Mary Capria (Pompano Beach, FL) in division 7.

In game 6, in division 6, "Robin" played BOUNCERS for 63. In division 4, Travis Green (Mooresville, IN) played WIDENERs for 68 and the next turn BUNTErs for 85. Division 2's Mitchell Brook (Philadelphia, PA) played LAUDAtED. The most important fact noted by Sheila is that division 5's Rea Spidel (Memphis, TN) had her first ever 600 game today! Yeah Rea!

As I'm typing in these notes, Daniel Wachtell (New York, NY) walks by and says, "No, I'm not going to mention it." This, of course, drives me crazy and I hound him to tell me. He says he had a bad round 6 game against Joel Wapnick (Montréal QC). He had Joel beat, but instead of just playing conservatively and winning, he opted to fish for the possibility of AEcIDIA. But, instead he played a phoney, which gave Joel the chance to go out and win the game. Live and learn is what I say. And if Dan is going to play with the big boys, he'll have to get used to these sudden and surprising twists of fate!

This round's Division 1 Board 2 game between Mark Milan (Laguna Niguel, CA) and Jeff Widergren (Los Gatos, CA) appears in our playable games section.

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