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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 9

[ 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 9

Roiling thunder moved into the city early this morning and my natural alarm clock was a bolt of lightening followed by a rumble of thunder. The city looked gray and really, really wet. The kind of soaking wet that can remove the need, for some, to shower in the bathroom! Several hearty souls showed up for breakfast in clear plastic rain ponchos. Most of us, though, were happy to stay inside and stay dry.

Demonstrating that his affection for SCRABBLE® isn't his only love, Scott Pianowski (Berkley, MI) handed me an ID card for his dog and then told me that in her honor he played FiREDOG for 90 points yesterday.

After we milled in this morning, John D. Williams, Jr., took to the microphone and had us all take a moment to remember the life of Margaret Bauer Williams, who passed away recently. Margaret was one of the first and longest-lasting driving forces for competitive SCRABBLE® tournament opportunities. She ran the now famous Atlantic City tournaments for years and years. These events have been attended by thousands of people over the years and her warmth and accommodating nature will be missed by us all. John then asked us to call out and honor others in our "family" that we've lost since our last NSC. Several names were called out and we all took the time to remember our friends.

The games began soon thereafter and we were off, again!

I caught Jim Barker (San Jose, CA) and Mary Mathews (Antioch, TN) at the word judge table. She was challenged his MAYS/BEYS. I helped them navigate the "tab" key and the play was ruled acceptable. She said an audible, but soft "darn" and they made their way back to their game.

Betsey Wood (Concord, MA) lost a game to Brenda Smith (Yazoo City, MS) this round in division 5., 360-391. Betsey got down QUaSH for 36 and Brenda played ROTUNDAs for 66.

At table 1 in division 5, Asif Rahman (Cincinnati, OH) won again, defeating Brenda Lou Werner (Cedar Rapids, IA), 424-330. He got down NOTARIES through the R for 82 and sTABbing for 71.

At table 2, I see Bert Shankle (Astoria, NY) and William Snoddy (Asheville, NC) in a tense endgame recount. I see SECRETIN, RELINED, and what I think was AbrATES.

In division 1, at table 16, Jerry Lerman (Foster City, CA) defeated Ronald Howard (Irvine, CA), 411-396. Jerry had NO TIME left on his clock at the end (as in 00:00) and Ron had only 5 seconds remaining! I see Ron's EstRONE and ANGULATE and Jerry's BOOZIEST.

On a board mostly picked up already, Joel Horn (Reading, MA) pointed to the undisturbed corner to tell me that he played Baron in this game, harkening of course to our dear Mike Baron (Corrales, NM). He lost to Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) at this board, 430-449. Joel points out Chris' better plays: RECOINED for 74, ANDANTES for 65, and OVErTOPs for 74.

John Scalzo (Middle Village, NY) is walking on sunshine right about now. He just defeated Pakorn Nemitrmansuk (Thailand) at table 3 in division 1, 434-413. John played GRANDEST for 74, DIGITATE through the first T for 90, BEANERY for 77, and tRAITORS to the S down the triple for 74. Pakorn admits that he made his first mistake of the tournament so far (oh to be so lucky to make a first mistake in round 9!). Holding QUEERSH, Parkorn spent 5 minutes debating whether to play QUASH for more points and a worse "leave" or to play the safer QUEER for less points but a better leave. He opted for the latter and thinks it made all the difference in that game. Because he was behind, he felt forced to make one decision that in retrospect he wishes he could take back. John returns to the table and says humbly after I congratulate him, "Well, it helps to get 14 blanks so far!"

Brian Cappelletto (Chicago, IL) tells me he won a tense endgame by 30 points. Unlike the players at nearby tables, his game went long and people (and an certain internet reporter I know....) were talking a bit too much near their game......

Gerri Martin (Casselberry, FL) had a confusing game against Maxim Panitch (Toronto ON) this round. She had checked the tile distribution before beginning and was positive all the tiles were there and in the right numbers. Toward the very end of her game, she had tracked Max to have two Us on his rack, but they weren't there. They were found later to be under the fold of the tablecloth nearby. Gerri was upset and loudly accused things of not being on the up and up. She was declared the winner and then afterwards realized that the mislocation of the tiles was actually her fault as they had been nudged into the fold before the game even began. She approched Larry Rand, her division leader, and asked him to change the game result to a tie. As it turns out, as much as Larry might have wanted to do this, it is against the rules and her win had to stand as was.

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