Interesting that my blog still gets a few hits per day despite the lack of updates. I am trying to post something useful/ meaningful but there hasn’t been much content.
Here’s a short recap of my games at the JG Mini last weekend.
I arrived at the venue with Cheah/ Victor, and learnt along the way that there would be a group of Australians playing with us this tournament. I was quite receptive to the idea because I had missed out on all international tournaments this year and any chance to play foreign players is good for me. The tournament started rather late as Tony/ Yen Nee were splitting the divisions. At the end of it I was rather dismayed at getting a relatively tough field with 5 Causeway Premier players in it – and being the third seed meant I had to win quite a few games to maintain my rating (which is always my goal nowadays).
Game 1 vs Marlon
I start off by exchanging one from AAEGINT, which seems suboptimal from Speedy Player’s point of view but certainly not mine. Follow it up with GENTIAN and a lucky pick of AACELTU gives me CA(N)ULATE next turn, giving me a 91 point lead. I go on with SMARTER 3 turns later while he replies with SInOPIE – but that comes after a phony attempt. I eventually seal the game with GITANOS 94 hooking onto (PIZE)S and his COoNTIE for 73 can’t do much.
Game 2 vs Li Wei
He starts off with PROB for 16 – a miniscule score considering how he claimed he had drawn well. My first rack is AALNRTV, which leaves me displeased with opening possible hooks when I play LAV. This game is clearly his – he scores with THURL (36+5), NoCENTS (71+5) and EULOGIAE (70) while I struggle with poor racks (and poor choices, including a bad miss of AGNORRT). I manage to get SAMPLER back for 77 later on in the game but it’s too late. I eventually end off with a phony, SOND* – I was contemplating SOND* or TOND* but I failed to consider STOND which was clearly the best. No challenge though so everything’s fine and dandy.
Game 3 vs Guan Hui
My encounters with Guan Hui are rather exciting as we usually find ourselves neck-to-neck, perhaps until someone pulls ahead mid-game. This was exactly what happened this time – we had 3 bingos each, all of them back-to-back. There were also a lot of times where our scores were 1-2 points within each other. GH had ENRAGES (75) on the third turn which was countered with LEIDGERS (74). He went on to play LATERIZE for 88 to which I replied with TRAPPED (86). The board was extremely open at that point – with 4 triple lanes open (and a possible nine timer line). I picked up ?IORSTT and attempted a phony niner with the open T, but to no avail as it was challenged off. I was very unhappy with myself when he played DOURINE for 83 to one triple, forcing me to play catchup!
Down went TROpIST for 82, and by then the scores were 315-351 in his favour. He took one of the triple lines with VA(T)U for 33, leaving another one open for me to capitalise with WAME (66). I managed to secure a lucky EX (52) the next turn to lead by a slim 19 points. He scores 39 with COWAN putting him 20 ahead, and my rack of ?EMNRTV is screaming for a fish, as I do not see many scoring opportunities for that rack. I attempt one with MAN for 18 but pick up H and Y – not terrible picks though as I would still be able to score over 40. He scored well with DIFS for 40, and I replied with HEY for 48. I won the endgame while he failed to consider my high-scoring outplay of VRoT (29). Quite a high loss for him, I must say – I was extremely lucky to pull over a hundred points from WAME and EX.
Game 4 vs Alastair Richards
I knew from past experience that Alastair was a fast player, so I tried not to let that rattle me for this game. I pulled ahead early with CRESTON (78), a phony fINITIVE* (70) and ONLY (43+5 for the hook MACRO(N)), while he gets some consolation with SOREDIAl (66). The game from then on is quite relaxed for me as I stay ahead by one or two bingo scores. He manages to pull some back with BOX for 51 but I play defensive and win. The win would have been more satisfying if I didn’t miss DEEEGRRT mid-game, though – wasn’t at all sure of it.
Game 5 vs Guo Cong
I was leading the field at lunchtime, but only with a small spread advantage. I notice that I tend to eat too much for lunch, causing me to play badly after – so I stuck to a Fillet-O-Fish this time, with the hope that the fish could strengthen my brain power somewhat. My next opponent was Guo Cong, who I had a good record against (but who could be extremely dangerous as well – talk about his LBH victory this year). Indeed, he started off with REDUX and my rack of AAHILOT seemed unready to take on his challenge. I played OHIA (25) and drew had an unplayable AAEGLMT the next rack – I saw the word but was immediately unsure of it. Never mind, as I was able to get (H)ELOTAGE down next round (78+5) and a lucky ATOmISE (88+5 for the hook (S)HIRING), while he scored 79 with JARL. By then I was ahead by a bingo score so I kept the heat on with decent scoring until he pulled some back with ELATION (69).
I make an embarrassing miss of ADEELRUV as I play too quickly, wanting to block off the triple lane. My luck, however, doesn’t punish me for it and awards me with ?DEERRU to which I play vERDURE (77). I eventually win this as he struggles with consonant-heavy racks and goes overtime by a minute.
Game 6 against Victor Chua
At this point with 4 wins out of 5, I’m one game ahead of the field, which means I need to keep winning (that’s actually the case for anyone at any point of the tournament but I like to make myself feel important). I start this round as I only have 1 start out of all the games so far – ADDEMTT which forces me to play MATTED. I don’t like these kinds of starts as I don’t know what I’ll pull out from the bag. However, it’s a nice draw this time and I get down AGUISED for 65 missing its anagram. I score later with DAWAH (36+5) and CARGOES (94) while he gets some points with TEARIER (72) and DIVINER (67). A series of good plays see me establish a ~150 point lead as I go on scoring with TYRAMiNE (89+5) and FEZ (59). I give him 5 points for BLUDE which I’ve never heard of before – but my lead is far too large for him to catch up.
Win 572-382 (this is the actual score, but it is reflected on Toucanet as 572-376 as both players signed to that score. Is it possible for both players to change the score after they have signed and before the scores have been inputted into AUPAIR?)
Game 7 against Tony Sim
At this point I’m 2 wins ahead of everyone except for Cheah, who remains threatening in his position. My last 3 pairings are against Tony, Marcus and Cheah – all pretty tough opponents. My game against Tony is not very fascinating as I start off with DEXTRIN (96) and he is generally unable to catch up with my scores (according to him, his first rack is HMRRVVZ). I miss C(L)UPEIDS at one point (never heard of it) but I’m still able to score with CUSPID (51), and when he finally manages to get INnATE(L)Y for 80 I counter with ENGOR(G)Es (86). I make another bingo miss this game, of DEEEIRTW, which apparently Tony challenged against Jakkrit (or someone else) at Causeway! I saw the word but, as usual, was unsure of it and decided against trying it. No matter – I win this game and collect some spread.
Game 8 against Marcus Goh
Marcus is rated 1980+ at this point and I am aware of his preparation for this tournament – however he seems to be relatively unlucky as he didn’t have many wins. He starts this round (he had 3 starts in total too) and gets GRaNULA* on the second turn which I neglect to challenge (if only I’d seen ANGULAR in that rack). That turns out to be the mistake of the game – I’m unable to catch up as he goes on later in the game with HOTTIEs (75+5) and ESPANOL (80). My 3 bingos of TEARING (73), SCAURING (86+5) and DENARII (69) bring me to a 400+ score but this game is his from my mistake. I manage to pull off a good endgame, blocking his out play of (U)LTRA while dumping my J and Z in two turns.
Game 9 against Cheah Siu Hean
Cheah has caught up with me on wins though he is far behind on spread and therefore I must win or draw this game to win the tournament. My games with Cheah tend to go either way and usually are quite exciting with 2-3 bingos per player. This one was no exception. I start off with an inferior VOLKS out of AHKLOSV for 34 (Quackle suggests VOLK, and I agree), and his move of QI(S) for 12 gives me some confidence enough to fish off V and W with V(A)W for 9 out of ?AHNTVW. His opening of (V)ARAN gives me a four-timer (A)NTHoDIA next turn, but he cuts some slack with J(O)GGER to the triple for 48. I have a rack of GLLNOTY and the obvious move is GOLLY (29), and I’m lucky to draw ?AANNST which gets me TANNAgES (68) next turn. At this point the scores are 234-107.
Cheah immediately counters with UNDERLI(T) (61) to the T of TANNAgES and follows it up with MISDOER (75) next round. I’m pleased to find RI(M)U (21) to the M from my rack of IIORRTU but he makes the scores very tight with B(I)Z for 50. The scores are now 287-293 in his favour. I have AHIOPRT and Quackle’s Speedy Player recommends OPAH to the triple for 34 but I take the more defensive POH for 31 and get rewarded the next turn with (S)WEATIER for 63, putting me ahead by 60. (D)OXIE next turn for 49 sees me get a 78 point lead, and his TUNICAE for 78 isn’t enough to put me away. I win this game and the tournament with 7 wins out of nine and quite a colossal average. Somewhat reminiscent of my Millennium Cup domination on the first day last year.
In general, I didn’t play very badly this tournament, and my best game was probably the one against Cheah where I made few mistakes. I was very lucky to draw many bingos though, bringing my average close to 3 bingos a game. There were a few phonies and a few misses, but I attribute that to the lack of word study (my only preparation was a few anagrams at 12 AM on the day of the tournament itself, and I doubt I’ve done anything else this year after the Millennium Cup) rather than poor play. Obviously, the field isn’t as strong as the Causeway field but I’m glad to have survived in it.
I’ve achieved quite a few things in the year – got my GM title, won a tourney (this one) and had good averages. I finished out of the top half only once this year (at the Millennium Cup, which oddly enough I prepared for) but other than that I’m fairly pleased with my performance. I suppose I’ll continue to play regularly up till my enlistment in April. (May be at JGCC this weekend)
On to other Scrabble news – Singapore has survived relegation for Causeway (amazingly all of the Singaporean team members gained some rating save Kian Boon) but we have to field our top 5 next year or risk getting kicked out. I’m somewhat unsure about whether I would (or could) play for Singapore should I qualify (I’m actually quite confident that I’ll drop out of the top 5 by the end of the QP next year) but my current standpoint is that I would definitely not play in any international team should Singapore not have its own national team in the tournament. I would much rather elect to play in the Open division to fight for our national team, or just not play in the competition. Yes, I have some national pride.
News of Zafar’s disqualification has shocked some players in the Scrabble fraternity but it is probably not the biggest surprise this year. After all, Zafar’s playing does not commensurate to his achievements (e.g. his annotated games at the Gulf) and (to me) he could either be very lucky or cheating. Now that we’ve discovered that it’s the latter one out of the two, we should come to a quick and firm decision on how to deal with him – but at the moment I think a permanent ban is not necessary. Perhaps an international ban for some time would be good, giving Bahrain some time to discipline its National Champion before sending him overseas again.
As for the WYSC, I am pleased that the standard of playing has gone up somewhat, though not by very much. Darren Khoo’s playing has impressed me a little – it is not flawless but it is certainly the proper standard of a WYSC finalist (and higher than the standard of some Causeway games I’ve seen). Most of the other players still tend to make foolish mistakes, but this year makes me very optimistic for the future of this tournament. The players (Singaporeans, Malaysians, Australians, Thais especially) seem to have developed some kind of rapport among themselves (somewhat unlike my generation of youth Scrabblers, which preferred to mingle within the teams) which will last for the next few WYSCs – it will also bring up the standard of youth Scrabble as friendly competition causes further improvement. Perhaps there will be greater youth representation next year at the Causeway/ WSC.
Addendum: I probably won’t be changing the comment system back to pop-up – I like it when the commenter can see the original post.