More on NST-ASCI – some chronology (Day 2)

Tourney (Day 2)

I did not manage to sleep well that night – waking up at 5 am and being unable to sleep after that. I decided to take a shower at 7+ am and Ian was awake/ half-awake by the time I came back. Breakfast would be served at 8 am and we’d have to check out of the hostel at around 9:30 – which gave us a lot of spare time to laze around. We eventually went down around 8 and had Mee Siam for breakfast. The university seemed to be serving spicy food every meal (I had some curry chicken for dinner the night before), which was not a good thing for my somewhat sore throat (and flu which had subsided a little through the night). By then, Darren and Ramaraj had come together to pick up something which Darren left behind in his room (having slept at their own places for the night) – and we gladly took Ramaraj’s mother’s car to the playing venue.

There was again much free time before the next game started, and I (along with some others) wished for there to be more games to reduce the waiting time (maybe next year). The pairings were eventually released when Ganesh arrived and we were expectedly drawn with Martin’s team. I hadn’t met Martin or Leroy in real life before this so this was a welcome encounter for me. Martin was rather warm and offered to shake my hand before the game – Leroy on the other hand was more taciturn though still of a friendly nature (perhaps because he needed no introduction to his opponent, his junior). The game was initially tense till I managed to pull away with 2 bingos (listed on his blog), and I was pretty confident of my lead until he stunned me with P(OI)NTaBLE – which I challenged immediately! The E was open to the triple and he’d drawn ADINSTT which gave him a nice nine-timer INSTATED which would have trashed my lead – however I was tracking my tiles and blocked it. I eventually managed to win the game, but Ian was not lucky – losing to Leroy on time (that also being the first time he’d overtimed!).

Having dropped 1 game (and being of a lower spread than Martin’s and Darren’s teams), we moved down to Table 2, meeting Kelly Chung’s team. Mrs. Chung had implored me the night before to “go easy on her team” should I meet it but of course, I never go easy on anyone :). My opponent was not Kelly, however – she was paired against Ian and I played her teammate, Alfi Abd. Razak. A rather quiet opponent – I was rather relaxed the whole game, even spending some time watching Ian’s game against Kelly. I played 1 phony in this game, not being absolutely sure of it but guessing that he wouldn’t challenge it – probably one of my biggest blunders in my first 6 games (it was left on the board in the end anyway). Both of us managed to win by a decent spread and we were back on Table 1, paired against the Thai team of Thacha and Chaiwat.

It was lunchtime, held close to the playing venue this time. I fail to remember the exact courses but it was again decent, though spicy. We had a few hours spare to laze around and I struck up a conversation with the Malaysian youths again – this time talking with Karl Chin, Ian and Brian about this and next year’s Causeway. I am still somewhat relieved that I didn’t go last year – I’d have failed (rather miserably) to prepare adequately! We returned to the venue a little later to see Darren quizzing Ganesh from the dictionary – and Ganesh, as expected, got most of the words including an obscure AAGILNORU.

Lunch was over, and it was back to games at about 3:30 pm (yes, this late) – I played Thacha in what I thought of as a missing Causeway game :). Ian was paired against Chaiwat – who I thought of as a fairly strong player because of his finishes in Causeway Open 2007 and WYSC 2007. This would be my third time playing Thacha, who had lost to me by close margins in the previous encounters (once in 2006 and another time in 2007, where he bewilderingly failed to challenge my purposeful phony ATTS* which won me the game) and would certainly be looking out for revenge this time. He didn’t manage to get it in this game, as I cruised to a 150-point lead in the middle of the game after a few poor plays by him – it was initially 2 bingos apiece. He eventually outbingoed* me 4-3 but still lost by a large margin. Ian, however, was again unlucky to lose to Chaiwat, who played a 100+ point TELEXI(N)G to seal the game. Fortunately for us, most of the other teams dropped games and we remained on Table 1 for a KOTH match against Martin’s team.

I was determined to beat Martin again and I urged Ian to keep his spirits together for the rest of the tournament. I was more lucky this time but I was assisted by some blunders made on his part, as I cruised to a large victory. I was rather pleased to see that Martin took both defeats well – exhibiting a level of coolness not seen in many players. Unfortunately for Ian, he dropped the game against Leroy, which made us second place, having to win our next two games against the Thai team (which had won both games) in order to clinch the title.

Before the next game I told Ian to keep calm while I myself went outside of the auditorium for a breather (which I did every game anyway) – we had to focus for this game or risk losing out on prize money. This game was not very good for me – I found myself having to catch up after 2 consecutive bingos by Thacha to start – and I ended up missing 2 difficult bingos with the blank. I eventually overdrew midway through the game and Thacha picked the blank out of my rack! This was ultimately distracting for me as I was both low on time and unhappy at my own blunder (in overdrawing) – I missed a third non-blank bingo which I certainly would have seen if I had more time. At the end, I am forced to play a phony bingo (that I’m 90% sure is invalid) to try to win the game – but it is challenged off and I drop the final game – Ian loses his game too and we end up 4th, with Thacha’s team winning, followed by Martin’s team, and then Darren’s team pipping us on spread.

Post-Tourney

Dinner is next (finally, not a spicy meal!) and I am not too shaken by our team’s underperformance as I am still rather satisfied with my own play except for the last game, and besides that I’ve never really cared much about finishing badly. Thacha and Chaiwat somewhat gleefully call me the “MVP” of the tournament which makes no difference as I don’t get any individual prize – and I am not the only one with 6 wins anyway, being matched by Thacha, Chaiwat and Ramaraj (that’s all if I’m not wrong). I converse more with the Thais and advise them to stick to 1 dictionary – but they tell me that they do both dictionaries because they can win money in local tourneys in order to go overseas to play SOWPODS! I am eager to play a game against Ganesh (whom I’ve never played before in real life) but he has to go off soon and will only take 5 minute games. I forgo this opportunity since I don’t like blitzing in real life – that might have been my last chance as he claims to have “retired” from Scrabble! (and supposedly will not play in WSC or Causeway, which leaves a possibility of a completely youth Malaysian WSC team) Never mind, as many others take him up on the blitz – including Darren, Sean (Chung) and Thacha. It was interesting for me, observing (and sometimes kibitzing in) the games.

The prize ceremony started soon enough (I hesitate to use the word “promptly”) and we got our monies, enough said – we left the venue by taking a ride in Martin’s car to the nearest train station, taking a train to somewhere close to Pudu and then walking to the bus station. The journey back was mainly filled with sleep and draining the power off my iPod battery :). Arriving at the Larkin station at 4 am, Ian’s dad brought us back to his place and I started analysing my games as I didn’t really feel tired after that short nap. I think I played quite well (but let’s not give more details, I don’t like to be too egotistical on my own blog)! I fell asleep after chatting a little on ISC… and I was eventually woken up at about 9:20 am by Ian’s mum. His family brought me out for some breakfast, before bringing me to the checkpoint, where it was routine business from then on – cross Malaysian immigration, take bus, cross Singaporean immigration, take bus again, and walk home to save on the transport fare :).

I am exceedingly grateful to Ian for his companionship (as well as familiarity with the transport procedures) throughout and his family for the hospitality before and after the tourney. Kudos to Ganesh and Roy for having TD-ed the tournament so closely to standard tourney rules (though I had a minor issue with the word checking). It’s also great to have made some new friends at the tournament. I might consider this tourney again next year should I have the time (and should it have the money =p) – I’d be gunning straight for the top, so watch out!

Some reports on the tourney from the NST: (can’t view it properly on Firefox somehow but it works in IE – use IE Tab!)
44 participants in war of words
Two local teams get podium finish in scrabble meet (This website doesn’t acknowledge that there was a Singaporean player! I guess I am Nigerian now)

(Gee maybe I should have sent this to SA News. Please tell me if you want it there and I might take it off this place, Victor!)

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