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NSC 2008 Commentary: Round 28
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The room is full of excitement, tension, and players are focussing so hard that smoke is coming out of ears. I feel lucky to be able to walk quietly beside players who are battling for their spot in the final standings.
Stick a fork into Nathan Benedict (Tucson, AZ), he is done. I can see him rolling up the virtual shutters on game 28, on the event itself. He has given it his all. I've watched him bent forward, focussing, concentrating, wresting wins out of losses, recalling words from long ago studied word lists. His last game is a disappinting loss, 311-450, to Joey Mallick (Cape Elizabeth, ME) (who, as it goes, is much happier with the game result, I must add!!) From what I can see, the game was pretty close, and then in the very end, Joey's last four plays were game alteringly high scoring. First he got down QUAIS for 42, then a bingo-bango-bongo: PERUSING for 83, AIGREtS for 74, and MINERALS to the S for 62. That couldn't help but change the course of the game's outcome!
At table 1 in division 4, our event's only winning female is Piengkamol Intarasuwan (Oakland Park, FL) with a 414-311 win against Brian Wagner (Ashland City, TN). Brian has been known as "Big Doggy" for the fifteen or so years I've known him. And I never knew why. He explained that his intitials are BDW and a four-year-old postulated what BD stood for. Of her random choices, the guess of "Big Doggy" changed the course of his life. So, Big Doggy it is! In his game with Piengkamol, I see her pLUNGES and his cRESTER*. The statuesque Piengkamol is the only Thai conestant this year to finish in the money! And she is the only Thai female playing, to boot!
Alan Stern (Shadow Hills, CA) tells me that he was down, 328-351, against Joe Bihlmeyer (Durham, CT) this round. Holding AEFMNOR (while Joe had EESTZ?), Alan found RAGMEN/AW/MU/EL/DON for 40 points, which drew a challenge! Alan ended up winning their game, 414-351.
Stephen Sneed (Fort Worth, TX) played his third game against Phil Wertheimer (Short Hills, NJ) this round. The first two were Phil's wins, but this last one, the one that counted, was Stephen's win, 377-348. This win gave the 14-year-old champ the first place berth in division 4. Wowsa!
We were running on schedule this afternoon, despite the round-by-round pairings. Even so, a few players (including Fred Oswald (Lansing, MI)) had to leave early to catch their flights home and chose to forfeit their last game.
Birthday boy Ted Gest (Washington, DC) managed to go 6-1 today. What a gift to give to himself! :)
So, we know that Bradley Robbins (Windham, NH) won division 6 (by round 26), that Kendrick Lo (Toronto ON) won division 5, that Stephen Sneed (Fort Worth, TX) won division 4, that Piengkamol Intarasuwan (Oakland Park, FL) won division 3, now what about the other two?
I wasn't able to report on their last match, but the division 2 winner came down to a fifth game between Conrad Bassett-Bouchard (Moraga, CA) and John Stardom (Ottawa ON). John won two of them, the round 21 and round 26 game. Conrad, won three of them: round 14, round 27, and most importantly, round 28, 492-425. What a battle they waged! Congrats to Conrad for taking the division title!
The game most watched in the room was the one at table 1. Brian Cappelletto (Chicago, IL) and Nigel Richards (Malaysia) faced each other for the fifth and final time at Board 1. Nigel had a one-game lead, but Brian was ahead on spread, so the Championship and its $25,000 prize would go to the winner of the last game; the loser was guaranteed the runner-up's prize of $10,000. In the most exciting game of the year, Brian opened up an early lead by bingo-ing SERRYING (97) and SARCInA (70), but Nigel immediately replied with InNERVE (98) hooking SARCInA-E to take a one-point lead. A few turns later, Brian retook the lead with ZEP (50), then when Nigel bingo-ed again with PENATES (89), Brian was able to tie it up at 370-370 by replying BATHER (41) and four two-letter words, keeping an I. Tragically for Brian, he drew AAAEUU while Nigel drew the marginally better DGKLLTU. Brian was down to two minutes on his clock and Nigel had eight, but no amount of time could save Brian. Nigel played out in three moves with KINGLET (11) through -IN--E-, SHULN (16) from the SH that Brian had made with BATHER, and INNERVED (11), collecting four points for the IU that Brian had left after dumping AVA (18) and EAU (13). After they spent several minutes recounting the $15,000 difference, they agreed to a final score of 412-401, shook hands and Nigel was declared the 2008 National SCRABBLE Champion. (Thanks to John Chew for writing that up as I was across the room getting other stories as this unfolded.)
In the end, Brian and Nigel played a total of five games. Brian won the first one in round 15, but Nigel took the next four, one in round 20 and the three last ones: 26, 27, 28. I've never seen anyone defeat Brian that many games in a row.
Showing what a true champion he really is, Brian was smiling broadly, proud of his second place finish, and genuinely happy for Nigel. We've wondered when it would happen, when we'd have our first non-North American SCRABBLE Champ. How fitting that the first is Nigel Richards, a true international champ. Most impressive, however, is Nigel is a world dictionary SCRABBLE player. In order to win our NSC, he had to separate the words he has learned so as not to play words that are acceptable only in International SCRABBLE play. Hailing from New Zealand, Nigel has lived in worked in Maylasia for 10 years now. So, two countries have been made enormously happy by his win!
Amidst the congratulations and handshakes, I asked Nigel of his taking the Championship, "What took you so long?" He smiled and said, "You didn't make it easy with silly dictionary issue..." Congrats to our new National SCRABBLE Champion, Nigel Richards.