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 (http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=23653#0#).
Day two was a nine-gamer, and I didn’t fare so well with losses to Ayo (http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=23654#0#), 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 (http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=23625#0#) 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.