Vic Champs 2016

Clearly I'm not posting any more. But I wrote this at Gerry's behest for some MSI thing, and here it is.
I was keen to do well and defend my title at the 2016 Victorian Championships, but it was strange to see a rather depleted field, several likely top contenders having to be absent for various reasons. It looked as though about five of us could take out the title, including the welcome late addition Ayo Saidu of Nigeria, and that’s why the wise decision was made to have two resets over the 24-game event (ensuring the best players fought it out between themselves repeatedly). Not that the rest of the field was cannon-fodder.

After a long hiatus, I had started studying all 7s and 8s in earnest again this year (I definitely felt rusty in Perth, and the 2015 additions haven’t stuck very well). I’ve been through all those with more than one solution, adding misses to the cardbox where necessary, and am currently working my way up the single-solution sets. This helped my sharpness a lot, notably finding EEILLRY on an opening rack without having to second-guess myself, and quickly unravelling the double-double round a D with ?AMOSTY.

A pretty good opening day, notching 7/8 and only falling to Esther Perrins when I couldn’t work through a final clunky rack. Best bingos maybe SUNRAYS, HALIOTIS, KALYPTRA, WORSHIP. Tensest game was against Ayo (

Day two was a nine-gamer, and I didn’t fare so well with losses to Ayo (, Esther (again) and Carmel Dodd. That was a strange game – I held a small lead after an earlier AMARETTI, then Carmel tried to S-hook it with a two-blank bingo for 70 points. I knew it was no good, but I had an 84-pointer in response on what looked a very tight board, giving a potential lead of 30 and ensuring the blanks were out of the way. Tough call but I accepted the play, and suffered with an immediate QUA 54 that led to her taking control. Last game of the day was against Chris Scholten who also made me sweat with his opener VARIETY while I held AEIHOUU, my needed change securing him a massive lead. I had to change again on move 4, but pulled back with AZOTISED and later NAGARIS to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Enjoyed moves like DAYGLOW, PREMEDS, OLIGURIA, TORTIOUS, GADOIDS, POMWATER.

The final day was just seven games, and my opponents bingoed on their first turn five times. The worst of these was Lois Binnie’s opening QUIETLY for 108, but I clawed back into it with PYCNITES and DOSSERET for a win. With Ayorinde leading at this stage, game 19 ( was very important and turned into the most interesting encounter of the tournament, yielding me a narrow win. I then finally vanquished Esther (she let me off the hook a little, overlooking SELFISTS 140 and settling for FUSSIEST), got past Karen Richards in a close game, and with two to play was on top of the pile. This was when I succumbed to my sole loss of the day, a relentless onslaught by Nick Ivanovski who bingoed four times in his first five moves while I was struggling with LNSTVVW, AHNNNRT and the like. Fortunately for my campaign, Norma Fisher was in the process of beating Ayo at the same time – his endgame draw of two further Is to AEIRS proving fatal. Norma then took me on in the final game, and I had a flowing win to take out the title on 19/24, ahead of Ayo and Esther on 18.

Quite a pleasing outcome from only 20 blanks in 24 games, and a few of us celebrated with a drink at the local RSL club. I elected not to try the Bailey’s/ouzo cocktail recommended by Joanne.

On Nigel

I'd been asked to write an article for the upcoming Aussie scrabble magazine about Nigel's triumph in Belgium. It ended up much longer than I intended, but the editor is going to publish the whole thing - I also put it up as a public Facebook note, and amazingly enough it has already been shared 35 times (I'm going viral). So I'll put it here too.
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Nationals 2015

Three games against worthy opponents for my readership's delectation:

Game 1 vs Peter (the eventual champion):
Game 2 vs Peter (closer than it might have been):
Game 1 vs Naween (featuring some fab words):

The tourney went fairly well on the whole, though still a bit of a blank drought (20 out of 48). Notabilia included crawling to 302 against Daniel's 621 which featured the dull but effective FLATTEN, STAIRED, SNEERING (3x3), DETRAINS and ORDINEE when my highest score was the opening 36; a close win over Alex Tan against the tiles; an ultra-blocked board against Ricky who deployed some surprisingly bold openings (he said it was a tactic to throw me off); a flowing 594 against Adam and later 612 against Rael (6 bingos here, CLOSURE/RADIATOR/WINCHED/INWEAVED/MOUNTANT/PLURISIE); and a solid final day, falling to Esther at the death but finishing a respectable fifth.

Three phoneys on my part - the careless NUKND (imagining the blank N was an E, for some reason), the optimistic UPCART (hoping my opponent might give me a good floater if I was challenged off) and the disappointing natural KILLAUT which I really thought was good. Turns out any of KELLAUT, KILLUT, KHILAT, KHALAT, KITTUL, KITUL and no doubt numerous other similar words, are good.

The dinner on Monday night was actually excellent fun, and I was fortunate enough to be on the coolest table. Maybe I'm looking forward to the next big tourney.

CSIM things

I’ve not blogged in ages, partly because nobody much reads this and the conversation has moved on to other arenas. And partly because I’m less focused on Scrabble than I used to be. This could be related to an ongoing campaign of unpleasantness from a bullying individual who has been haranguing and harassing the Victorian committee (of which I used to be a part), and who may comment here in due course – that has certainly made me less inclined to attend local tourneys, so I suppose I am rusty. It could also be attributable to some domestic distractions, which have been weighing on my mind and possibly making my decision-making even more questionable than usual. That said, I’m going to jot down a few odd memories from the City of Sydney International Masters over this last three-day weekend.
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Victorian championship 2014

This year’s Victorian championship was a real struggle. The field was pretty weak despite a good top prize of $1,000 – only 50 participants, of whom a mere 5 exceeded 1700 in rating. Good to see quite a few interstaters, but I don’t know why the locals are so Laodicean these days (possibly a three-day tournament is too long for some). I was expecting to be in with a very good chance of winning, but was only able to secure 5/8 on day one, 7/9 on day two and then a shocking 3/7 on day three.

You sometimes get games in which your opponent can afford to squander the gifts showered upon them, winning despite playing rather badly. I had more than a few of these across the weekend, and I must apologise to any opponents who found my demeanour less than sunny as I was repeatedly raped (also, indeed, to any who dislike the sourish tone of this blog entry). My rack synergy was generally poor, I was hampered by a dearth of blanks despite turning over more than 50%, I drew 19 Q’s in 24 games, and all the rest of it.

Somehow I was still in contention with two games to play and no serious opposition left. But here’s a screenshot of the penultimate game, which seemed fairly typical of the whole event:

Afterwards, Matte croaked at Norma who had been annotating his racks, “What did I miss?” Looks like there were a couple of oversights – maybe LAPDOGS is marginally better than SPLODGY on move 2, but there was SPAZA for 83 on move 3, UPSTAYED for 95 on move 4, SHALOTS for 97 on move 6, LEVITIC for 68 on move 9, SLAINTE etc for 82 on move 11 (and the change on move 10 is kind of bizarre).

Then in the final game I was paired against Heather. She had crushed me on day 1 with a succession of bingos alternating with massive X or Z plays, but I still had a faint hope of salvaging a place (my win ratio against her was 15-1 prior to this event). She seemed out of sorts and unfocused, misadding the plays a few times, and on one occasion forgetting to take her new tiles out of the bag until I had replenished my rack. She then asked me to confirm the scores (at least, she barked “Score” and that is what I inferred), and when I told her what I had, she tossed her scoresheet across the board to me in disarray, showing my tally inflated by 50.

At this point she admitted that she had been drinking from a large beaker of gin and tonic (apparently an extremely strong one), not water with lemon slices as it might have seemed, and that it had affected her too quickly. She was tired, stressed, had been up all night talking to her son, had had two close endgames, and so had accepted the drink from another player who had some liquor stashed away.

We sorted out the scores and continued. I was fortunate enough to draw an S in the course of the game, permitting a late GUERITES that pulled me almost level. I then drew seven consonants, and as a final kick in the teeth did not see another vowel for the remaining three racks as Heather rolled out VITA, DONE, NOW and RAINS to vanquish me by 50.

Peter K told me that my face looked fearsome at the end of the game, and I must say I felt murderous. Scrabble is unfair by design, but this was rich, losing to somebody who was half-asleep and hardly knew where she was. But then the floodgates opened as Heather realised how she had been behaving – her face reddened with tears and she became distressed, apologetic and emotional, not just about the game but also about society’s behaviour in general.

I like Heather a lot, and she is very supportive of the gay community. News had emerged that Philip and I were now engaged, since the recent decision to allow UK same-sex marriages to take place in consulates around the world. She even became a little weepy later when I mentioned we had been together 25 years, but had not been able to do this until now – and of course still not under Australian legislation, because it is ‘not a priority’ for Tony Abbott (whereas reintroducing knights and dames was crucially important). But Heather’s inability to take the final game seriously, combined with yet another run of disastrously poor tiles for me, left a bitter taste. One wonders what the point is – though you could equally say that if you win.

I’ll close with a puzzle – I spotted two unusual bingos scoring over 70 in this position against Trevor (others are available with a lower score, e.g. URINARY and QUARRIER). Will probably put the answer in a comment at some unspecified date in the future.
   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O   -> Andrew Fisher   AIRRU??   228 
   ------------------------------     Trevor Halsall  xxxxxxx   329 
 1|=     '       =   R U N W A Y| 
 2|  -     R "       "     H Y E| 
 3|    -   E   '   '       I    |
 4|'     - D     '   N   B O I '|
 5|        D         E M O   G  |
 6|O Z O N E "       K O I   N  |
 7|    '   S C O T '   U   R I P|
 8|A V A N T     A J E E '   T I|
 9|    '       ' W A X     ' E S|
10|  "       "   A B O       S H|
11|        G   U S     -        |
12|'     C E R T '       -     '|
13|    -   E   '   '       -    |
14|  -       "       "       -  |
15|=     '       =       '     =|

CSIM 2014

Looks like I was playing pretty sharply this time (much better than in Prague). I'll post links here to some of the games when uploaded, but will also put them on Facebook where I expect a few more responses will be engendered. This is my first of two matchups with Naween:

Naween was in the lead for most of the tourney, and after round 17 had a three-game lead (15 wins to my 12). I breathed down his neck throughout the final day as we approached the 26-game target, with one game in particular gifted to me by a flustered opponent, and was able to keep on winning; he had a tough run of adversaries in the last three games and lost all of them by smallish margins, so amazingly I pulled through to victory on 21/5 + 2174 to his 20/6 + 1415.

I did get some slices of luck here and there, often in the form of late blanks that transformed the situation from negative to positive at vital times, and giving me some heartache before the payoff. Also a couple of endgame 'gambles' went my way, including one 50% shot and another 33% shot. But that's what you need if you're going to win a long tournament.

Bob J made some introductory remarks at the prizegiving, opining that Naween would have been a more deserving winner because he had been leading virtually all the way. Thanks Bob! I think there was a tinge of sourness because I had vanquished him in round 25 (with the help of the kind of tiles that would have enabled him to beat Nigel). Or perhaps he was just reflecting that only one prizewinner out of six was from NSW. Overall it was a good three days of Scrabble, plus some highly enjoyable extra-curricular activities like the free Symphony in the Domain concert with Alex on Sunday evening.

SCT, or WSC, day 1

I had three pleasant days in Prague before the tourney began. By the time Wednesday rolled around I had been everywhere I desired, mainly on foot, occasionally bumping into parties of scrabblers (e.g. Chris Cree and friends en route for the mediaeval clock, or Hubert in a seafood café in an out-of-the-way mall) and occasionally meeting them by design (some of the US guys at a splendid beerhall, for example). The weather was unwontedly warm for December, up to about five degrees and generally sunny; the vaunted Christmas markets were mainly full of tat such as doylies, dolls, baubles, glassware and the like, but it was nice to see roasted chestnuts and the trdelník on offer.

Perhaps I was too distracted by the local flora and fauna, for I played truly dreadfully in many of my games (or maybe it was the K-pop that Chris M assiduously sought out in his nightly channel-surfing, sometimes making do with lolloping Kraut rock). Embarrassingly badly, even, so that I should hardly have been rubbing shoulders with the rest of the Australian team. I was probably too complacent in some games, and my bingo-spotting matrix was seriously awry – so far I have found six misses in my first sixteen games, which is absolutely appalling and well below my usual level. Maybe I need to rethink things from scratch, and simply spend more time looking for better plays instead of falling lazily into the ‘hit and hope’ mentality. This is the world championship we are talking about.

MSI’s organisation was generally fine, but there were some minor irritations such as the tiny tile bags (I brought my own), and the means of advertising pairings via a small laptop.

Anyway, game 1 was against Indonesian rep Fadlan Satria, who opened with the straightforward REPUTES. I wasn’t at all concerned at that point, even though I felt I needed to change holding AAEORRS. But as it happened, AERATORS might have been a better choice (yes, one of my low points). He got a 100-point lead and sensibly started clogging up the board, and by midgame I thought it worthwhile to phony him with the nonexistent anagram of DOLPHINS (that’s *PINHOLDS). He accepted without demur, promptly using the S to play YEASTIER for 140 which was not helpful for my cause. I later jammily bingoed twice in succession to garner a lead, but he secured INSTEAD to draw level while I held BKMMOOQ. I suppose I misplayed the endgame but his tiles were slightly easier, and he ended up winning by 13. Very poor play on my part, but you can often get away with that against unheralded so-called cannon fodder.

Joanne Craig then completely outdrew me, nabbing four bingos to my consolation PASSATA, and I had to face Taewan. This started OK, but my draw was rather weak after UNCURSE (the rebarbative AAAIIUW, which I stupidly tried to play through) and he then double-blanked me to come back and win. I almost had him, but managed to draw the only tile out of eight unseen that let him bingo out. So be it, I was on 0-3 minus 197 (much the same as Cappalletto in Melbourne, but it’s probably harder to recover these days).

I was down on table 90 or thereabouts, and my opponent was Japan’s Kunihiko. I’d have to say he played quite badly, usually dumping two tiles here and there without much thought as to the consequence of his play, and on move four he played S?IFTIER round an open E. My heart had been sinking until he declared a W as the blank, and I was able to kill all immediate possibilities. I ended up with a 160-point win despite his rather nice TzETZES.

The tiles flowed beautifully against Peggy Fehily, and here I played reasonably well including a late block which spurned a 60-point (VALOR)IZE but set up a likely bigger play, and I did end up with HAZIER 89 for a massive win. Then against teammate Esther Perrins, I couldn’t complain about drawing into SELFISH, ROULETTE and BIPAROUS (though HISSELF would have been a lot better). Last of the day was against Wong Zhi Yuan, current Oxford student and occasional sparring partner of Chris (who reckons he wins about 75%). Some smallish inaccuracies here and there, but when the (bull)dust settled I had clawed back to 4-3.