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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 8

[ 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 8

Division 3's Christopher Schneider (Seattle, WA), tells me of a game he lost this round. His opponent, Betty Alexandra Toole (Sausalito, CA), was behind, but she bingoed out with PADRONES from the P for 80 on the triple lane. This put his behind by 35 points. After the 36 from his rack was tacked onto her score, she had an even greater lead, 385-314. Note to self: get rid of all those pesky high-consonant tiles before your opponent goes out!

He is quiet and slipped away before I could talk to him, but Asif Rahman (Cincinnati, OH) is still undefeated with an 8-0 after day 1. Other School SCRABBLE® students are John Ezekowitz (Boston, MA) who is 7-1, Nick Amphlett (Cambridge, MA) who is 6-2, and Andre Ornish (La Mesa, CA) who is 5-3.

Fashion in the room today has included shiny new event T-shirts and plenty of SCRABBLE®-themed clothing. About a cool dozen division 1 players wore baseball caps that said "DEADWOOD." This was their joking response to pre-event banter where the high numbers of contestants in that division was attributed to all the "dead wood" playing up from division 2 into division 1. Players were assigned to divisions based on their June 2004 rating, but everyone had the option to play up a division (which to some is seen as a way to increase one's rating by playing higher-rated players) if they chose. The funny thing is, some of division 1's more elite players (such as Jim Geary (Glendale, AZ) and Brian Cappelletto (Chicago, IL)) also wore these caps!

Diane Firstman (Brooklyn, NY) decided the world needed a Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY) T-shirt, so she took a photo from the 2002 NSC web coverage and affixed it to the front of a shirt that says "What Would Joel Do?" The shirt's photo credit is just a tad over-large, but it is a fun shirt!

Gregg Foster (Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA) defeated John Babina (Norwalk, CT) in their last game this afternoon. I'm told that John tried an endgame phoney that Gregg called off: WEGO*. Gregg says it was a hard-fought, close game until the end, 377-314 closing scores.

Division 3's Helena Gauthier (Merrimack, NH) tells me that she was down by 147 points and came back with an endgame bingo of UNCRATES for 80. She still lost, but the 430-400 score made her feel much better. Her opponent, Mike Stafford (Columbus, OH), was less happy with her resurgence, but thankful for the win.

Both Michelle Davis (Fort Worth, TX) and Toni Douglas (Atlanta, GA) were stuck with tiles on their rack at the end of the game. Michelle had the J and Toni had the Q. Michelle, who got down BAITERS for 73, defeated Toni, who played UNIqUESt for 71, 344-305.

Diane Firstman (Brooklyn, NY) tells me she started today 0-2, but had a 5-1 the rest of the day, ending with a 5-3 record. One of her losses was to Robin Pollock Daniel (Toronto ON) and Diane had a 452, which we both agree is a pretty respectable losing score. Diane admits that "drawing the bag does help.

Two Thais Tie! Division 1's Amnuay Ploysangngam (Thailand) and Komol Panyasophonlert (Thailand) tie this round, 341-341. Amnuay was bent over the game, tiles strewn about, doing an endgame analysis with Komol and several other Thai players. I tried to listen in, but the discussion was in Thai. Oh well. One of the kibbitzers, Charnwit Sukhumrattanaporn (Thailand), tells me that there is Thai language SCRABBLE®, but that it is quite hard to play, and not nearly as fun as playing in English. The Thai alphabet has 44 letters and Thai SCRABBLE® has 114 tiles. Checking out the tied board, I see Komol's OUTLETS and DOATInG and Amnuay's SOZIN/NOON on the triple for 49. Amnuay tells me that tournaments in Thailand routinely have thousands of players. The numbers are so high because about 95 percent of the players are school children 12 years old and younger. In a country of about 65 million people, this is a great turnout. Much of the excitement for English language SCRABBLE® in Thailand can be attributed to Amuay and his enthusiastic support of the game we love. Next June, he celebrates the 20th anniversary of his Bangkok-based King's Cup tournament.

Jason Katz-Brown (Richmond, CA) ends today 7-1 in division 1. What makes this result so amazing is he is one of the bottom-seeded players in that division. When I congratulate him he says that he just lost this round 8 game to the division's lowest-seeded player. What goes up, must come down! C'est la vie! Jason, who studies in Japan, has attended tournaments in the United States during school vacations. This past April, he attended the Boston Area Tournament and amazed us all with his stong level of play. Jason's favorite play at the NSC so far is QUInINA for 101 played in a game against Joey Mallick (Cape Elizabeth, ME).

As we sit here and work on our data from today, the soft sounds of numbers being recited by division leaders and computer operators can be heard in the background. John Chew says, "Ah, I can listen to a women reading off numbers for hours at a stretch." John, well into his PhD program in math at the University of Toronto is indeed a numbers man.

Tonight, Eric Chaikin (West Hollywood, CA) showed his film Word Wars on floor 2 in Galerie 1. About 200 people gathered into the darkened room to enjoy the film. Eric conducted a 20-minute Q&A session after the show. He thanked his co-producer, Julian, and Laela, the film's photographer, as well as the top players he featured. He asked for a show of hands from folks who saw themselves on the screen in some of the group shots. Several hands went up. The first question was what the film was rated (in a G, PG, R sense of rating). He said the film was unrated, which it why he liked to refer to it as "rated 1900," an expert film. The film should be available for sale around the holidays and will be shown in local art house theaters until then. The documentary will also be seen on the Discovery Channel later this year. Ever precocious Andre Ornish (La Mesa, CA) asked if there would be bonus footage in the DVD that is released and everyone in the audience laughed. Eric quipped back, "Yeah, we'll show footage of you getting so obsessed with SCRABBLE® that you don't get a job!" Joe Edley (Coram, NY) spoke about playing the role of the "heavy" in the film and he admitted to not minding it at all. He said he really liked the film and thought it important for people to see it and that it was "great fun."

Another player featured in the film, Marlon Hill (Baltimore, MD), said he'll be happy when we players appear on ESPN all the time. He's looking for exposure!

Eric said that in all he edited down 200 hours of footage and that he loved working on the project.

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