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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 11

[ 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 11

The clash of the former National School SCRABBLE® champions has taken place. Teammates Nick Amphlett (Cambridge, MA) and John Ezekowitz (Boston, MA) faced off this round and it was Nick's turn to win, 393-343, in their division 5 face-off. John said, about 17 times, that Nick had 11 (as in ALL OF THEM!) power tiles. Nick got down SORDInE for 78 and John played THERIN for 71. The boys were enjoying the banter about the game, but since it was played so quickly (student players are used to having to play in less time due to shorter club session times), their enjoyment was wearing a bit thin on their neighbors who were just beginning their games. Last I saw, they were heading out of the playing room to make some noise outside.

John Robertson, division 7 leader, keeps coming up to us with the very real, but so improbable to competitive players rulings he's having to make in the division 7. He was called to a game where neither player could go out, thus the game was called as over. One player had UUV on the rack, which is an understandable series of letters to get stuck with, but the other player had a blank on the rack! None of us within earshot has ever heard of a situation where a blank could not be played! So, John ruled that one player would take 6 points off the end score and the other would take none as the blank is worth no points.

In division 6 at table 1, Mel Skolnik (New York, NY) defeated Vera Bigall (Toronto ON), 394-327. Mel got down the game's two bingos: STAGERS and TOUgHIE.

In division 4, Joev Dubach (Watertown, MA) tells me he got away with a phoney this past round. He is quick to point out that it was unintentional. He played CUTIE and created the phoney hook of TE*. His opponent didn't catch it, so the play stayed and led in part to Joev's defeat of Bob Johnson (Louisville, KY).

I'm keeping my eye out on four woman playing in division 4, Lois Greene (Dayton, OH) vs. Elyse Fox (Chapel Hill, NC) and Marie Gier (Gainesville, FL) vs. Denise Mahnken (Long Beach, NY). A few minutes later I'm talking to a man named David Mahnken (Long Beach, NY) and suddenly I'm in a case of deja vu. And I'm quite correct. This division 6 player is walking around division 4, trying to shake the cobwebs out of his head. He thought checking out his wife's game would help him realign the stars. His past three games have been absolute blowouts with him at the bad end of the luck. I tell hiim that this too shall pass and he's off to play another game.

I run into Gina Fassio (Methuen, MA) in the foyer. She is glowing over her 10-1 record. She has no stories, just an overabundance of joy.

Ben Loiterstein Greenwood (Lexington, MA) approaches to tell me about a game he just played with Steve Hartsman (Brown Deer, WI) in division 3. It was the very end of the game and Ben knew Steve's rack to be ADEGLOS with the only open bingo spot a V in the fourth position. Ben figures there is nothing Steve can play so he begins to relax. Steve tries DASVOGLE* as an outbingo and Ben challenges it off. After the game, someone points out that AASVOGEL is an acceptable play. Ben had a momentary pang of panic because the last tile he pulled out of the bag was the second blank. Had that blank been on Steve's rack, as it well could have been, Steve could have won the game. This is one of those almost crashed stories that makes you content with reality just as it is. Ben ended up winning the game, 432-309.

Once again, our group is garnering media attention. Today the Times-Picayune and CNN are here. We're told that Thursday at 10pm EST on the Aaron Brown show, the NSC will be featured. A crew of camera folks are combing across the room looking for good plays and short interviews. Another show, Real People 2004, is here filming Winter Zxqkj (Houston, TX), for an upcoming show. Winter is a bit of a celebrity and is, like Madonna, known by only his first name. He's well-known for making it his life mission to visit every Starbucks coffee store in the world and sip at least one cup of caffeinated coffee. He's been to a few thousand shops with more on the horizon! Winter's SCRABBLE® interest is another hook into his uniqueness!

Speaking of media, last night we were in more than 71 media markets around the country. John D. Williams, Jr., begins to rattle them off: "Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Diego, Milwaukee, Denver, Pittsburgh...." I actually have to ask him to stop in the interest of carpal tunnel concerns for my wrist!

Look for the ultimate winner of this event to show up on Monday's Today Show in New York City!

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