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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Round 29

[ 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 29

David Gibson (Spartanburg, SC) has appropriately enough been Gibson-ized this round: because he has clinched a place in the finals, he will no longer face other players in contention for the rest of the day. David has a history of this eponymous treatment, but this time there's a little twist. We're using special Gibson-ization rules this year that take into account cumulative spread as well as wins and losses. So while on the face of it, David Gibson's two-game lead over third-place Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) wouldn't be enough to assure him a berth in the finals, his more than 1600 points of spread advantage easily beats the 800-point limit set out in the rules for his Gibson-ization. Chris' only hope now is to beat second-place Trey Wright (Los Angeles, CA) two games in a row by a total of at least 247 points, so that he can meet David in the finals.

The player just out of contention to win any prize money in division 1 is Charnwit Sukhumrattanaporn (Thailand), so he is assigned the All*Star champ as his opponent this game. As often happens when one doesn't have to win anymore to stay alive in a competition, David lost his game this round to Charnwit, 351-527. When I leaned over the annotator's sheet to get a sense of the game flow, Kristen Chew said, "David got stomped!" Charnwit played DAIMYOS for 84, TRAINMAN for 70, TRAILER for 73, and MELANINS for 72. Toss in a 53-point X play, 48-point Q play, and JO got 36. David got down two bingos of his own: ORGANDIE 72 and AERObIA for 62.

At table 2, a crowd has begun to gather. For the fourth time today, [error: no such id: chris] and Trey Wright (Los Angeles, CA) are facing off. Chris really needs to win this game and the next one; the effort and concentration show on his face. Though the velvet rope and stanchions are there to keep onlookers away, the interested masses crowd and lean forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the "action." I'm sure it is distracting in all sorts of ways, but top players do have such focus. They wouldn't be where they were if they weren't capable of shutting off the constant hum of the world to pursue their excellence. Both successful in their respective careers (Chris as a big name businessman and Trey as a classical pianist). Chris opened the game with UNWARMEd for 89 from the U in URD, Trey's 8-point opening play. On Chris' next rack, he kept IST and traded AIIF. Turn three he played VOMITO. Turn 4, he tried HENCH* and Trey called it off. Play 6, Chris got down SHINNED and his 8th play was FORAGED for 72. Turn 10 was Chris' second trade of the game. From TIIIAVE he kept TA. His rack didn't get much better, but he did get down a 30-point YEA. Trey played LORINERS for 62 early on and had his KEAN* challenged off in play 5. It probably sums the game up to note that Trey gave Chris 4 points for the two Is on his rack at the end. Chris will need to defeat Trey again to make the finals. Can't wait for the next round! Bill Geist, of CBS Sunday Morning, wanders by and discusses strategy with the Texan while they both pick up tiles from the board. There is something unusual about a reporter helping a player!

In division 4 at board 1, Travis Green (Mooresville, IN) opened with ASTRIDE. He subsequently tried QUVIUT*, which was challenged off by his opponent, John Stardom (Ottawa ON). On his next turn, he tried QUVUIT*, which was also challenged off. I think he was giving up on that word when I walked away! I later learned that John defeated Travis, 460-403.

Steven Alexander (Portland, OR) faced off against Mark Nyman (United Kingdom) this round. When I asked them who won, Mark said, "I won by 12, but lost by 8." I noticed that he'd gone over 1:01 on the clock. In their game I see Steven's BLEEDING and SELECTING and Mark's vIOLETS and CANTATE#. Steven points out that he accepted this last bingo because it made an opening for a good play on his part. Mark shows no sign of strain and says he lost many games due to dictionary confusion. He tells me a list of plays he had challenged off: SOLIDUMS#, VOLUSPAS#, OCTAPODY# (this one cost him a 300-point swing in one game), DISADORN#, and PLEROMAS#.

Division 4's Bennett Schlesinger (Providence, RI) tells me that he got 10 or 11 blanks out of the 58 available so far. He has 12.5 wins and his favorite play so far is AbIOSES/BRAZENS for 80 points.

The man with the best record in the touranment continues to be division 7's Jon Rumzis (Chandler, AZ). He is 28-1 going into this last game. Way to go Jon! Anna Rahman (Cincinnati, OH) and Jason Oppenheim (Seminole, FL) will face off for second place.

Going into the last game, division 6 has a real contest going. Ben Harrison (Cambridge, MA) 22-7 +1978 will play Mel Skolnik (New York, NY), 22-7 +625. The winner will take first place and the loser is guaranteed second.

Division 3's Kenneth Rubin (New York, NY) is 21-8 +945 and he will play the next game against Jerry Scheiten (Buffalo, NY) who has virtually the same record, 21-8 +939! The winner will take it all in their division. I'm sure Jerry feels he has the advantage due to his Superman T-shirt and necklace!

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