I must say that after my fortunate win at Bishan Heights last month, I harboured some hopes of qualifying for Causeway Premier Division – it would certainly have been an honour to play in that division, whatever the result. I needed to win this tourney with a high number of wins to have any chance at qualifying for the Premier Division of Causeway (and hope that Ricky and Cheah do not come close). As the tourney drew closer and closer though, I did feel rather unprepared, not having played much since the Bishan mini. Though I was ready to give away many rating points (my rating has been fluctuating around 1900 over the whole year, so I did have some real expectation not to do well), I did somehow feel that I might be able to grab some wins with the luck of the draw.
My qualifying chances took a major blow after the first two rounds – I lost narrowly to both Tony and Hubert. These two games were probably the lowest points of the whole competition – in Tony’s game, I was too cautious to hook an S behind PEKOE and forewent the chance to play GAZOO, thinking I might have confused it with the many other -AZOO words. In Hubert’s game, I recovered from a phony STADIAN* (I had always thought this was good since years back, along with STADIAL), only to let go two of his phonies and lose the game narrowly. Though I recovered in the third round against Ricky, my play had hardly improved – I missed two bingos (I did not see DaCTYLs from ??CDLTY – only the unplayable DaCTYLi, and was unsure of SUTTLeD) and burnt a blank only to give him a huge score. I only managed to win by blocking off his self-created S hook and then drawing a bingo at the end.
My play started to pick up a little bit against Michael – though his start of MARINER did lead me to think that I might eventually perform as badly as I did last year. I managed to counter back with 3 consecutive bingos, though one of them was an unchallenged phony (RELAYERS) – those managed to tide me through the rest of the game. Against Marlon, I attempted a very risky PI(T)URI O1 with an unseen blank, Q and X, not to mention a wide open TWS spot. I was hoping to pick one or two of the goodies. Though I did manage to get QAT the next move for 63, he countered with OXIdANT which put me away with my biggest loss of the tourney (and back to 0 spread!). Upon analysis Quackle suggests I should have played it safer, taking the TWS even though it would lead to less turnover (and an uglier leave of IORU). Against Yen Nee, I was fortunate to play up DRAcAEN(A) and immediately follow it up with A(c)OEmETI – though analysis suggests I should have played ETAErIO instead for the second bingo, which I saw but felt was not as cool as a 5-vowel double blank bingo. A phony from her meant that I was a bingo ahead, and I managed to build on the lead with pretty solid play.
I probably played the worst analysis-wise against Li Wei, but probably the largest mistake (not blocking his INFLOWs/(DESPITE)S 14H) after his phony attempt elsewhere was somewhat justified. His phony telegraphed to me that he was unsure of the hook, so I could probably get away with leaving the spot open – and true enough, he didn’t take the spot the next move. Otherwise, I was pretty lucky that he was “rusty” enough not to capitalise on some of my outrageous openings. I played alright against Kian Boon – the biggest mistake being missing a bingo in a tough spot (oUTGAVE). I think the biggest strategical mistakes were his, though, and I managed to pull away courtesy of a midgame EPIGEAN (88), following it up with NEEMB (45) next move. Against Cheah, I played OK, but my biggest error was not being 100% sure of DOIL(Y), leading me to open up multiple lines with (T)OLUID. That gave him a few high scoring moves (the first being to the Y which I had left open), and eventually a bingo which made it tough for me to come back into the game.
The standings were rather close prior to the last game – there were 3 players on 6 wins (Marlon +404, Kian Boon -97 and Tony -99) and 3 on 5 (Yen Nee -71, Cheah -148 and myself +393). Marlon was paired with Kian Boon and I was paired with Tony. This meant that I had a very good chance of becoming 2nd if I won, except if Marlon lost to Kian Boon narrowly and I beat Tony narrowly so that Marlon’s spread would still be higher than mine. With some luck, I managed to build a rather large lead early in the game (despite chickening out of WROOTED), and followed it up by leaving the board closed and hard to capitalise on without opening fresh spots for me. As it turned out, Kian Boon beat Marlon by 20+ points
Overall, I am not too happy with my performance – my word knowledge needs to be polished quite a bit, I must say (I had 6 missed bingo opportunities – of which I saw but was unsure of 2). Making rather foolish mistakes like seeing DACTYLI but not DACTYLS proved to be rather costly, and I can only say I was lucky to win that game. This tournament is probably one of the closest tournaments I’ve ever seen in recent times, with many games being decided within a spread margin of 100 points (see this). In fact, there were no 100 point spread games until round 5!
Will be posting some interesting positions and statistics from the tourney next week, if I find the time.