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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 18

[ 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 18

Early on in this round, a loud yelp was heard in the expert division. It carried all the way across the room. Have I mentioned how quiet this tournament is with the computer adjudications? Anyway, notepad in hand, I tore down the room to discover that it was Marlon Hill (Baltimore, MD). He is playing Jeff Widergren (Los Gatos, CA) at table 34. I look at the board and glean that Jeff did play two bingos in a row: CLIMATES from the C on the triple lane for 89 and STACKING from the S in the last bingo on another triple lane for 104. Long after the game is over, Jeff comes over and says, "Do you think it fair that someone yelps over you playing two bingos in a row only to immediately slap his own down?" It turns out that despite his audible dismay, Marlon immediately played RELATIVE. He went on to defeat Jeff, 409-401.

Not that he's complaining or anything, but Howie Greenspan (Norwalk, CT) tells me that he's seen 9 of the 36 blanks that have been played during the tournament so far. He's 7-11 and not exactly delighted with the tile distribution.

Sheryl Peterman (Oquawka, IL) hands me a piece of paper. It says, "A play of 'Bill Bucker' proprotions: Against Mary Becker (Madison, WI), I led by 8 points. We both had one tile left. I had an R, she had a G. All I had to do is play a two-letter word with the R and I win. Instead, I get 'cutsey' and place the R beteeen two words to make IRAD*. She challenges it off and puts her G down to make HOG for 7 points, plus my two points, to win by ONE!! The blood drained from my face and I fled from the room in disbelief!" Poor Peter! Good on ya Mary!

Nathan Benedict (Tucson, AZ) and Randy Hersom (Morganton, NC) play to a high-scoring tie this round: 444-444. I see Nathan's AUTOTYPE for 73, and UNBONNET for 68. Randy opened with ENFETTER for 94 and then played OINOMEL for 66 and HAIRLIKE for 63.

In division 5 at table 40,Pamela Hunter (Ottawa ON) defeated Toni Nicholson (Asheville, NC), 459-388, this round. Pam got down three bingos in four turns: SNARLER for 70, STiMIED for 77 (which drew a challenge), and TALKIER for 72. Toni played mAILING for 62. In an earlier game yesterday, (round 15), Pam defeated Maureen Morris (Calgary AB), 519-290, earning Pam the high game in her division that round. In that game, Pam played GUNNERS for 75, TUSTLED/LAICS (hooking the S onto LAIC, which drew a challenge) for 84, AERIEST for 71, and OMAGERS for 65! Wow!

I'm nervous, Jeremy Frank (New York, NY) and Robert Kahn (Plantation, FL) call me over It looks like a complicated story. Robert lost to Jeremy, 444-433. The clock factors into this story. Robert had 12 minutes on his and Jeremy had less than 2 on his. In the endgame, because of clock pressure, Jeremy played quickly and drew from the bag. After Robert went through the scoring steps, he looked down and noticed he had 8 tiles. Had he been more mindful (and perhaps less rushed), he might have noticed the overdraw situation before Jeremy drew, giving Jeremy a crack at whatever tile would be taken off his rack. In any event, following overdraw rules, Jeremy turned over three of Robert's tiles: FOI, and opts to put the F back into the bag. Robert now holds ADOING? and is now certain, by virtue of diligent tracking and a certainty about the remaining tile, that Jeremy has AELRSTT (RATTLES, STARLET, STARTLE), which can play off an existing I hook toward the bottom of the board. Robert, who can bingo himself, realizes that any bingo he plays will permit Jeremy to get his bingos that end or begin with S down. And if he plays nothing down there, Jeremy will then use the exisiting I hook to get his bingo down. Not a pretty spot for Robert to be in. He opts to play EGAD, thinking it an interjection that takes no S. Well, it didn't work out any way he wanted and after spending 10 minutes thinking through it as carefully as he thought humanly possible, Robert ended up losing the game, and his mind for a few minutes. Other plays on their board: Robert's GLISTEN for 68, and Jeremy's JUNIPERS for 69, GRUMOSE for 85, and IRRIGATE for 89.

So, today our celebrity reporter has been Bill Geist of the CBS Sunday Morning news program. Not only has he been here, he's been here and stayed. I've been struck by the amount of time they've invested in observing the players. Anyway, I'm told that Wendell Smith, division 5 leader, had to literally wrestle Billie Garver (Leachville, AR) away from Bill in the lobby this round. The two of them were charming each other with a heartwarming display of mutual appreciation. Much as Billie may have wanted to stay there forever, Wendell needed to get her in the playing room to keep the games on schedule.

At table 40 in division 5, Ida Ann Shapiro (Rego Park, NY) has a great game, defeating Diane Weinerman (Bloomington, MN), 424-318. I see Ida's SHARERS and the play JETONS.

In division 1, Lester Schonbrun (Oakland, CA) is playing Chuck Armstrong (Saline, MI). On their board I see INTRUDE, CLODPATE, SURFINg, and BEPAINT.

On a nearby board, I see Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) facing off against Ron Hoekstra (Kentwood, MI). Chris has played DENARII on the board.

David Gibson (Spartanburg, SC) defeats Charnwit Sukhumrattanaporn (Thailand), 483-336. Charnwit played LUCARNES for 76, but David got down ICTERUS for 70 and PRIMINEs for 86. Charnwit held QS in the endgame and got stuck eating the Q. Yummy.

A couple of young bucks are finishing up at table 6 in division 1. Joey Mallick (Cape Elizabeth, ME) defeats Kenji Matsumoto (Aiea, HI), 439-428, despite being stuck with the Q and giving Kenji 20 points. I see Kenji's ALThORN for 68 and Joey's CAPRIOLE through the P for 74, STUNTING for 59, and BESTROwS for 72. It was after the later play that Joey suffered bingo revenge and got the Q. At one point in the game, Keni played YENTAS, but hooked it making STUNTINGS*, which Joey challenged off the board. Kenji was muttering about the game long after it was over.

At table 2 in division 1, Pakorn Nemitrmansuk (Thailand) is low on time in a game against Adam Logan (United Kingdom). Nigel Richards (Malaysia) stands beside me as I write into my notebook and upon reading the "low on time" observation said, "Pakorn tends to use all his clock often." Is this an ever so polite way of saying he's slow? I'm kidding, of course! Pakorn is ahead in this game now, 353-336. He pauses the clock to confirm the score and then turns it back on. Adam is holding ELIDESE and Pakorn has GOOTTPT. The latter has his head in his hands as the clock winds down. Fifty seconds on his clock. Meanwhile, Adam is scanning the board, over and over, and shaking his head sllightly, looking, looking, looking for something, anything to win the game. He puts down ELIDES/ADDER for 21. Pakorn plays a 13-point play and more slowly than I would like, reaches over to touch his clock, almost non-chalantly. And, don't you know it? The very gentleness of the gesture costs him a precious second and he goes over by ONE SINGLE SECOND and ends up losing 10 points off his score. I guess to downhill ski racers, a second is a lot, but it in SCRABBLE® it seems like a high price to pay 10 points for one silly little second. Adam goes out and wins, 376-361. It was something else to witness!

This round's Division 1 Board 2 game between Pakorn Nemitrmansuk (Thailand) and Adam Logan (United Kingdom) appears in our playable games section.

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