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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 28

[ 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 28

Laura Klein reminded us before this afternoon's games that this was the last time that we would meet together as a group since the main event games would wrap up today. Laura quickly thanked all the workers involved in this event and the players gave them several rounds of applause. Christine Economos (New York, NY) suggested a group activity to Laura, that she lead us all in a group scream before we started playing, so the room did, indeed, scream. Many people covered their ears and screamed and a few covered their ears to wait it out. It was an impressively loud cacophony!

John D. Williams, Jr., took the microphone and said he was given the option to speak to us before or after the scream and he opted for the latter. His good news was to let us know that the new boards had finally arrived, but that we wouldn't be using them for these last three rounds. Rather, the plan is to give one of these prototype boards to the winner of the last game (the loser can take the ones they've been using for the event). This way, both players walk away with a board. The ones that receive the new board, will be sent a follow-up survey from the NSA asking them what they think of it and requesting feedback on the design. Since the board isn't quite ready for production, this lets about 420 people act as product testers.

He reminded us of upcoming media appearances: late September CBS Sunday Morning Show, Thursday (tomorrow), 10pm EST on News Night with Aaron Brown on CNN, and a scheduled Monday morning appearance on the Today show for the division 1 winner. And, he told us the ESPN show based on footage shot today and tomorrow, is scheduled to be first show on ESPN, Sunday, October 10th, at 1pm.

Carol Ravichandran (Northville, MI), the 2003 Director of the Year, and Barbara Van Alen (Chandler, AZ) and division 3 leader Larry Rand, the 2004 Directors of the Year, were asked to stand and given a warm round of applause for representing what is the backbone of this organization, the club and tournament directors who keep this organization going.

And, last but not least, the microphone was handed to Ginger White (Shirley, NY), who started the round as she always does at her own tournaments, by enthusiastically saying, "Bingos to All!"

Beverly Beane, the assistant in division 5, comes over to tell me that a player from their division, Elaine Kunzel (Fountain Hills, AZ), was stuck in an elevator between round 27 and 28! After 35 mins, she was helped out with no problems, and it was lucky that she had a bye this round, so she wasn't late for a game!

Due to their overwhelming greatness. Two players have already won their divisions by the beginning of this round! Drum roll please! Division 7's Jon Rumzis (Chandler, AZ) has a four-game lead on Jason Oppenheim (Seminole, FL), so he'll be Gibsonized in all his games this afternoon! In the same boat of success is division 4's Eugene Murray (Indianapolis, IN), who has a four-game lead on Travis Green (Mooresville, IN). He will be Gibsonized all three games this afternoon. I hope they wait until the tournament is over to break out the champagne!

Pairing for this afternoon will be a bit more complicated for some of the players who are doing well. Up till now, the pairing for each session has been predetermined either based on seeding (as in most of day 1) or by standings (as in days 2, 3, and this morning) and posted so that players could go into the next round in the session of games when their opponent was available (all first games of each session were begun at the same time to keep us somewhat on the same schedule!). For this afternoon's session, people ranked in 41st place to last place in their divisions will proceed with the same pre-arranged pairing system. However, players in places 1st to 40th place as of last round's results, will be paired by hand after each round. This means that the top 20 tables in each division will turn in their contestant scorecards as well as their result slips after 28, 29, and 30. The cards will be sorted according to standings and players assigned tables based on performance. It is important to do pairings this way to make sure that people who are vying for the money prizes get a chance to play each other (instead of potentially passing each other by playing a "weaker" field of players). In effect, this means that players stand the chance of playing the same player or players over and over a few times. Should a player be Gibsonized (mathematically guaranteed a berth in the finals, as in division 1, or a top spot because there aren't enough games left for others in the division to "catch up"), they will be assigned a pairing with a player who has no mathematical chance of coming in the money. This is done to ensure that a finalist doesn't have any effect on others who win top spots (this help avoid any appearance of collusion where a winner could conceivably "throw" games to friends to help them move up the prize ladder).

Craig Rowland (Mississauga ON) told me that he had his first chance to play a non-sowpods game with his great friend Travis Chaney (Van Buren, AR), probably most memorable for his patchwork hair! Dictionary confusion did enter into their game as at one point, SEN was on the board and Craig held TOASTER/ROTATES. At the time, he was confused if SEN was in our dictionary, and then was certain that SENE surely wasn't and it was the hook he needed to get his bingo down. Little did he know, but Travis was also asking himself the same questions on the other side of the board. In the end, among Craig's better plays were NETTLIER for 71, UNIRONED for 77, and some form of the anagram mentioned above played elsewhere on the board. Travis got down CRAVENS for 75 and was stuck with QUU on his rack, giving his opponent 24 points which helped increase Craig's spread in the 475-361 win.

Scott Pianowski (Berkley, MI) tells me of an ever-changing high-game scenario. At the same table in division 2, Ann Sanfedele (New York, NY) had a 524 game, which she thought might make high-game for the round. The Scott, at the next board, had a 598 game, which they both thought surely would be the high game. Wouldn't you know it? At the next board, Mary A. Lyons (Coatesville, PA) ended up with a 623 game! On Scott's board were these bingos: SEROTINE for 77, MARTINIS for 83, JASMINE for 130, and DUNITEs for 84. His opponent, Jeff Fiszbein (South Lyon, MI), was "a classy guy and a gentleman," said Scott.

In a division 1 game betwen Tom Singleton (Laguna Hills, CA) and Avi Moss (Missouri City, TX), one play stands out above the rest. In their battle, Tom got down AniMISTS and TIPPLInG to the G. Toward the end of the game, Tom held a 40-point lead. The board was tight and even with AAAEOBGNST unseen, Tom saw no bingo lines and all the kibbitzers around the board agreed that there were no bingo lines open. Well, Avi, disagreed. Holding AAEGNST, he wove AGNATES onto the board in a way that was admired by everyone near and far, creating six overlapping words: AG, UN, TA, JOTA, EN, and SI. The play came to 87 points, but was easily worth about 1,000 style points! Avi also got down FUNKILY* on their board and won, 384-351.

At nearby table 25, Libero Paolella (Toronto ON) fell to Peter Armstrong (Baltimore, MD). The better plays on their board were EsTRAGON through the R and SAvINGS.

From the "who is counting, anyway" department, Howie Greenspan (Norwalk, CT) tells me that his is not the hardest luck story of the tournament afterall. He thought that seeing 8 out of the first 30 available blanks was a record. That was until he ran into Zev Kaufman (Toronto ON) who had only 7 blanks in 15 games! Bad luck on top of bad luck.

Zev Kaufman (Toronto ON) tells me that he lost round 28 by 328 points, the largest losing margin he's ever had. He then went on to defeat his next opponent by his largest margin ever: 392 points.

At division 2's table 3, Win Inthara (Winter Park, FL) defetaed Kevin Fraley (Madera, CA), 412-396. They are away elsewhere and I see KATNTELe and MOANING on their board.

In division 3, at table 62, Lam Tang (Vancouver BC) defeated Carol Spencer Yamashita (Hilo, HI), 382-287. They joked that theirs was the most representative board of the tournament. WhenI ask why, they point out Lam's DRUNKEST from the D for 80 and Carol's OVERDoSE to the E for 72. I left before figuring out exactly what it represented!

There have been sad stories of woe in this event. Some players have moped or been a bit piqued by an unequal tile draw, but not division 1's ever-bubbly Howie Greenspan (Norwalk, CT). He bounded up to me to declare loudly for anyone and everyone to hear, "I just had my worst game ever! I lost with a score of 160 and I had a blank!" Most players would run away and hide forever, but not Howie. A few minutes later when I ran into a lower-division player who was bummed out about losing a game, I brought him over to Howie. Because no matter how lousy the young player did, he didn't have as rough a game as Howie and Howie cheered him right up!

Ida Ann Shapiro (Rego Park, NY) meets me at a challenge table located in the middle of the room's long center aisle. I'm still chuckling and shaking my head about Howie when she says she misplayed her game by not putting down a bingo when she could have, and ended up getting a tie with her opponent, Tobin Lathrop (Seattle, WA). This 298-298 result isn't exactly rare in SCRABBLE®, but a half win just doesn't feel as good as a whole win!

Division 2's David Pearl (Long Beach, CA) had another great game this round, defeating Bob Lundegaard (Minneapolis, MN), 426-384. They are out of the room and I spot three bingos on their board: REBOOTS, FATTIER, and PINNULAR.

At the next table, Win Inthara (Winter Park, FL) defeated Fern Lindzon (Toronto ON), 401-378. ACETINS was the last turn and an outbingo. Fern, caught with a Q that she had to play (or get stuck with), couldn't block the bingo.

Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) defeated Trey Wright (Los Angeles, CA) at table 2, 419-383, in their third game today (the second he's won). Trey played CLOAKING for 57 on turn 2 and AGIOTAGE on turn 3. On his next rack, holding AGIRUAI, Trey put AGRIA on the board, but then picked it up and traded 6 instead. He went on to get some high-scoring premium tile plays, OX for 52, JOEY for 30, and QUEAN for 30, but Chris played BLURRINg for 67 and RECLaIMS for 78, enough to give him the win.

At table 1, [error: no such id: davidg] has earned a berth in the best-of-five finals tomorrow by defeating Nathan Benedict (Tucson, AZ), 400-320. Nathan had a pretty miserable game with no bingos. None of his plays scored more than 37 points and he traded 6 on turn 7. With TINOQHI, he kept the H. David lost a challenge on the first play by challenging Nathan's PAWER. It is acceptable. David got down GREAVES for 74, HOTELman for 61, and OBvIATED for 72.

On a Roger Cullman (Toronto ON) vs. Nancy Hanley (Wilmington, DE) board in division 3, Roger made a 66-point play through a separated L and ZED got 68 points: CREOLIZED. Pretty, pretty!

Big game for Kenneth Rubin (New York, NY) this round in division 3. He defeated Steve Moniz (Manchester, NH), 388-259. Steve ended the game with RA?STT?. What wants to end a game with 2 unplayed blanks? ugh.

Jerry Scheiten (Buffalo, NY) squeaks out a win agasint Greg Heidler (Waialua, HI), 427-394.

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