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2004 National SCRABBLE® Championship Commentary: Final Round 3

[ 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.

Finals 3

David goes first and his rack is LIVIDDN. I hear that LIVID seems obvious. He plays it in an unusual spot, why not double the D? Everyone is asking this. He gets 20 instead of 22.

Trey's rack is AAFILST. I hear FAVA and he plays FA, which we are considering to be a fish.

Nice arial shot of board in playing room on the big screen.

The NSA has moved in a popcorn machine and the smell of popcorn is so good in here!

David holds: DEENSYE.

Chris wonders aloud what Trey could possibly be thinking being two games ahead.

Score is 20-11, David's lead.

We are hearing from Chris that Trey has communicated to David by the FA play that he has bingo-prone letters from the very first rack. A psychological ploy.

David plays DEY for 21.

Trey has bingos now and the room erupts with possible plays.

He holds LAKIEST and everyone is thinking that will be the play.

Trey is concentrating on the screen, his face is about 6 feet high. Focused, intense. His rack is now arranged as LAKIEST and the crowd claps, hoping he sees it. He chooses to play it vertically and Chris Cree likes that play. He is not exposing too many letters for David to play through. He gets 81 points.

Score is now 92-41, in Trey's favor.

David has EEEHNSX. HEXANE is what is suggested through the A. Joe Edley is saying "Wow" loudly.

Marlon jokingly declared the game over, since in the last round he declared David to be the winner although it was Trey!

David plays NIXES through the I, creating FAX for 37. It was okay say the Maven simmers.

Trey holds ANORTU?. He will undoubtedly bingo. Jim says I should say probably instead!

He has double-double possiblities: ARGONAUT or AERONAUT.

Joel Sherman does a plug to the audience for the ESPN show scheduled to be in October.

Trey holds his pen in his teeth. He is in the catbird seat.

We also see a bingo through the L if he doesn't see his double-double options. We see a tricky 9 or two: OUTLANDER and UNDERCOAT. Wow! But they aren't good strategic plays.

Trey is scribbling on his scoresheet, trying to find a word. We think he is very nervous. And David looks nervous, too.

Joel Sherman says no to UNDERCOAT. It doesn't score and leaves an S hook. He missed his double-doubles and plays cALUTRON through the L for 66, taking a 70-point lead and a huge opportunity for David.

David plays HOE for 29 points, leaving all the lines open.

Trey holds BAGGIOR. We are thinking maybe GRINGO or BAGNIO. He plays BOING instead for 24 points.

182-107, Trey's lead.

So, David holds EEEEIOS and he is in extreme trouble. Joel says he needs a bingo that ends in a P. The crowd is very quiet.

David plays EERIE through the R for 10 points.

Trey holds AGMRRSU. Maven likes RUGA/AG/KA, or MURRA under HOE, forming HOER.

Trey plays MURR, blocking the board a bit better than MURRA.

David bingos SPONGED for 77 and the score is 194-211, Trey's lead, but we now have a game.

The room was very excited about this play.

Trey now holds AAGISWY. He plays AWA and scores about as much as he can and the crowd likes it.

250-194, Trey's lead.

David has a blank. CMAWUJ?. We are happy here!

Up on the screen, David puts his hands on the sides of his waist and thinks hard. We can almost see the steam coming out of his ears. Jim says that if he can think his way through this rack (as in clean it up), he'll stand a good chance of winning this game.

With the other blank gone...... who knows?

David plays JAM for 36, pulling to within 20. Even though his leave is bad, he can expect to bingo after clearing one more round of junk.

The crowd OOOOhs. Trey has drawn the Q. His rack is GIDYQST. He played GIDDY through the D for 30.

David responds quickly with YUCH to the triple for 36, pulling within 14.

Trey has ABILQST. We like QAT for 34. He plays that, getting rid of the ugly Q.

David holds CLNNOW?. We see an almost bingo: CLOWNING, but it doesn't fit. David will have to spend more time getting rid of junk so he can bingo.

I hear the crowd clap. David plays Maven's choice of WAN for 21.

Score: 287-314, Trey's lead.

Trey holds: BLISUVZ and he plays LEZ for 32.

Score: 356-287, Trey's lead.

They stop the game. LEZ has been ruled unacceptable and a new word will have to be played.

The room erupts in complaints and the doomsayers who didn't want the finals to be played to a slightly different dictionary complain loudly. What do we do when a word we want to play cannot be played on TV (this is the discussion in the room). Trey's play is on the unacceptable word list and it wasn't caught before the play continued.

Trey has drawn two replacement tiles and we wait to figure out what to do.

We postulate that Trey is rethinking another play (we think, but there is no volume coming from the playing room view, just a shot of John D. Williams standing at the head of the table and the players looking at him as he explains the situation). Robin Pollock Daniel in the gallery room explains to the crowd why this word cannot be played.

The game has been stopped because we are trying to figure out what to do.

Chris says that David will do whatever makes Trey comfortable because he is the most gentlemanly player in the world.

We are told that the ESPN director is not minding LEZ and maybe it could stay.

That may create an unfair situation as far as what will be allowed further into the game and in the remaining games, if any. Unbelievably, the Advisory Committee is now holding a meeting on this issue--an emergency meeting. The game has been halted temporarily.

The Advisory Board members from the gallery room head down to John D. Williams, Jr., and Stefan Fatis who were coming up from the playing room (the games were played on a different floor than the gallery room, keeping the noise from the players). Lisa Kessler (Toronto ON) leads the pack as they speed down the escalator in a hurry and the groups coming from different directions meet and gather spontaenously in the hallway away from players, media, and anyone else for that matter.

Jim took over for a minute while I went with the AB downstairs.

The ESPN cameras The decision has been made that LEZ will come off the board.

It was a unanimous Advisory Board decision that the play must come off the board and Trey gets another chance to play. The two tiles he picked were shown to David and went back into the bag.

We are told that Beth Lerman, one of the event's official annotators, had been writing down the exact clock readings after each play was made so that it was effortless to reset the timer to what it was before the brouhaha began so that Trey doesn't suffer time penalties as a result of this complication.

Trey plays GUV for 7 points, opening an S hook into a triple word line.

David has finally cleared up his rack and has CLNOOE?.

David may have missed a bingo. He played CLONK missing COLONISE.

Trey's turn: ABIILSZ. We are hearing BAILS on GUV. He plays BIZE, setting up his A, so now he has two of his tiles have set ups on the board.

David has EORRTT?. He plays TORC to the triple for 9 points.

Trey has FATLIPS.

I can't tell you how great it is having Debbie here doing sign languagae to Zach. She sits beside me silently and gets the letters onto the giant racks in seconds from about 15 feet away.

Maven suggests that Trey block the new bingo lines rather than the S-hook on GUV.

I hear Joel say that Trey's play FILO is a great block. He got 9 points.

Score is 341-319, Trey's lead.

David holds EEERRT?. Maven says no bingos

REE would set up a good bingo line, Marlon suggests.

Steve Pellinen tells me that FILO blocked three bingos: DETERRER, REVERTER, and FERRETER.

Marlon asks Joe what David's play should be. Marlon thinks there is only one play to make. Joe shrugs. Joel Sherman suggests RE, rather than REE, above the F in FILO, creating a front hook for a bingo.

David plays REE instead of RE and the room is sad, loudly.

Trey bingos with TEOPANS (hooking to make TREE) in the newly created spot.

TREY WRIGHT is the 2004 National SCRABBLE® Champion!!

He sweeps David Gibson, who has seemed unstoppable in big finals before this, in an exciting three-game set. This final will certainly be remembered for the huge controversy about the disallowed word, but should also be remembered for some really exciting SCRABBLE®.

Congrats to both Trey and David.

429-328 final for game 3.

Hugest thanks to Jim Kramer (Roseville, MN) for being the brains behind the operation, to Susan Love (Milwaukee, WI) and Debbie Stegman (Kew Gardens, NY) for signing, to Steve Pellinen (St. Louis Park, MN) and John O'Laughlin (Madison, WI) for running Maven and giving great play suggestions, to Jack Eichenbaum (Flushing, NY) for taking a few photos, and to Brian Cappelletto (Chicago, IL) for the straw!

As the audience stands and applauds, Trey's girlfriend, Jessina, and his sister, Courtney, are brought down to the playing room to congratulate the champion. After hugs, board appreciation, and a bit more ESPN filming, the players and their camera entourage head upstairs for the final awards ceremony. The gallery is filled to capacity and so many folks have pushed forward toward the stage, some with their digital cameras stuck up above their heads (I know because I am one of them!), that the players can barely make it to the other side of the room. Joe Edley hugs Trey first and then it is Marlon Hill's turn. John Williams helps Trey navigate the through the river of well wishers and David follows, getting his own hugs and handshakes. Both finalists look wiped and a a bit stunned.

Once on stage behind the podium, John D. Williams invites the event's runner up to join him. David bows, they embrace, and John says a few words about David's great performance at the All*Stars and again at this event. David says a few words sharing his overwhelming appereciation for John & Jane Williams and for the NSA as an organization. He thanked the players, giving special attention to his good friend, Chris Cree, and his favorite sparring partner, John Luebkemann. The audience cheered wildly.

John D. Williams then invites Trey up for the monster check presentation in front of the big board, still adorned with the winning game (the perfect background!) and they shake hands and pose with Mark Morris of Hasbro. John says a few words about what a spectacular run Trey had, how tremendous he is as a player, and then Trey took to the mike. He thanked his sister, Courntey, who had been here earlier in the week to wish him well, and who flew in this morning from Houston to surprise him. He was surprised. It was at this point that Trey got his most emotional. The audience, already primed from David's talk, burst into tears with him. There wasn't a dry eye in the house! John D. Williams clapped Trey on the back and encouraged him to go on. Trey thanked Chris Cree, as had David (I'm sensing a theme here), and "everyone in the room" for supporting him and believing in him. Trey had the presence to acknowledge the changes in SCRABBLE®'s visibility since he began playing and spoke for most of us when he said he was encouraged with the direction of competitive SCRABBLE®. The birth of a new SCRABBLE® ambassador is born.

More hugs, more thanks, and then John D. Williams told us he'd see us in two years. The piano playing National Champion couldn't get off the stage for several minutes as he answered questions, posed for photos, and signed autographs (one on a giant rubber duck!).

Another successful NSC! See you next time around!

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