Las Vegas Scrabble Players Championship

Mark and I played in the Las Vegas Scrabble Players Championship and it was my first time back in the Silver City since 2001, when I worked as an annotator during the World Scrabble Championship. Mark had only been through Las Vegas to catch a connecting flight, so he had never set foot on the Strip or seen any of the casinos or attractions.

My win-loss expectation before the tournament was 11.8 wins (later amended to 11.6) so my 12-19 record confirmed my mediocrity. I am happy to report that none of my games were lost by blowing the endgame; in Niagara Falls in May I could have won one game and tied another if only I had made one fateful move to go out–yet chickened out on each time. I was bolder in Las Vegas, yet still let a whopper of a phony go even though I held my opponent on it for a good three minutes.

I have included my bingo count for each round as well as any notes. My bingos are listed first, separated from my opponents’ by a virgule. My score is listed first followed by my opponent during that round.

01 GUNNERS (69) WAIsTeD (87) SOLATED (78) / FORSPENT (78) 443-338 Joey Krafchick

FWIW I drew the last tile from the bag, which, fittingly, was the Z.

02 PODEsTA (81) LIStEES (81) / none 360-361 Chris Cree

My draw after PODEsTA was BFGHJNS. I played JOHN for fourteen points next.

03 MISSOUT (68) / GLADIEST (64) VIRAGOs (70) RESORBED (74) 362-488 Jerry Lerman

04 CROFTER (74) BROMATeD (98) SPIRING (70) SMILAXEs (101) / ANALYSE (78) 495-427 Michael Fagan

For my second move I mulled over the acceptability of KRITTER, which I believed was an alternate spelling. I decided to play it because I didn’t want to be burned by the curse of timidity. It is my feeling that it is the lesser of two evils to have a word challenged off versus declining to play a word that turns out to be good. Michael held KRITTER (78) for a long time, then challenged it off. Perhaps I was confusing it with KRIMMER and CRIMMER. I played CROFTER two turns later and Michael held me on it again. I was way more confident with CROFTER versus KRITTER, yet had my doubts when Michael put me on hold. While pondering the play Michael said “CROFT is a farm and CROFTER makes sense but you could have played REFACTOR through this A, so…”. I did not react to anything he said, but there was a good reason I didn’t play through the A: REFACTOR is a phony. (So is FACTORER, by the way. In fact, the only letter CROFTER builds through to make an eight is the obvious S to make the plural.) In the end, Michael wisely did not challenge CROFTER. I was lucky to make a double-double BROMATeD through the A. The Scrabble gods were looking down on me as my draw after BROMATeD was BEGINOS, which makes BINGOES (as well as BIOGENS). I made a 30-point play next as there was no place for either bingo, then laid down SPIRING for 70. Michael played WITS from the top right DLS to the TWS, exposing the entire right column, provided you could find a bingo beginning with S. It did not take me any more than a few seconds to find SMILAXEs. After I ended my turn Michael said “Are you kidding me?” which caused the other two players at our table to take a sneak peek at our board. As it turned out, during the endgame replay, had Michael decided to play WIST instead, I could not have played my 101-point bingo but I still would have won the game, most notably by playing off my X and then slotting my blank as an s on the DWS after CROFTER and between a P and an I to make CROFTERs and PsI. I kept my mouth shut when the game ended about the phony status of REFACTOR. Michael was feeling quite down, expressing how his parents were going to feel so disappointed in him. He was only 1-3 after Round 4, so it was still early days.

05 CARLINEs (64) / SPOTLIT (76) 376-414 Noah Berger

06 PAINTERS (79) STREAKEd (63) / DWiNDLER (92)* AVIONICS (67) 322-457 John Karris

I held John for about three minutes after he played DWiNDLER. I did not like it and I knew the number of words beginning with DW- was very short. I have told myself time and time again that if I keep my opponent on hold for an eternity then that is a sign to challenge the play. The best thing about this game was John’s remark after he opened the board a bit: I was able to play my second bingo and John said “I didn’t think you’d be able to bingo through a K!”

07 SULFItE (80) MinIONS (82) / REINDICT (76) NOTATES (71) 417-456 Michael Baker

08 MIScAST (78) / SANTERO (74) ELENcHI (72) 326-400 Ed Roth

09 OUTSKILL (63)* ASInINE (69) / OvERHEAT (92) TIGEREYE (98) 357-486 Kenneth Rubin

I debated whether or not to play OUTSKILL or OUTKILLS, yet chose the phony instead. I did not flinch when Kenneth extended OUTSKILL to the lower right TWS to make OUTSKILLED* for 45. My game wasn’t helped when I drew seven consonants. I kept ST and drew five more consonants in my replacement draw.

10 AIRIEST (77) / TENANTs (73) tWISTED (88) 377-420 Jonathan Lindh


11 TOKENING (65) aMNIONS (81) / REvOICES (131) 398-403 Frank Tangredi

Frank played his triple-triple several moves after I emptied my rack of drek when I played HYDRO, slotting the O in the TWS lane. He regretted not making the blank a j. I drew EIIIITU after aMNIONS, thus this game was likely a win if I didn’t have to exchange on my next turn.

12 DEVOICE (81) / TWiRLIER (64) 334-394 Darrell Day

Darrell challenged off my desperation outplay UNsPILL (78)* which would have won me the game if it was acceptable.

13 SPUnKED (82) OUTPORT (65) eVENTING (94) / SANITARY (74) 485-396 Mike Early

The opening play in our game was my MM. Mike then exchanged tiles. I was then able to play SPUnKED alongside MM to make UMM. eVENTING was a double-double which he held me on, but eventually accepted. My three bingos were in consecutive plays.

14 TENUrIAL (66) THREADED (66) ROULAdES (58) / SPIGOTS (69) 424-366 David Poder

I had a triple-triple ANTINUkE (through the second N) all ready to go then David took the spot. I played TENUrIAL to an L instead.

15 SMALLEsT (73) / TRITONE (66) EPSILON (79) VIsAING (76) 273-509 Scott Appel

After my bingo, the score was 193-183 in Scott’s favour. Then the game went downhill for me fast. I drew seven new tiles: AEEEORU, and played ROUE. Perhaps I should have exchanged and kept the R, as my replenished rack was even worse: AEEIIOU. Scott played VIsAING in the same place that I wanted to play SWEATER (and then I couldn’t get it down). Of all the times to have an S and then have your opponent beat you to it with a blank s.

16 HeTAIRA (70) EXISTED (91) NEGATOR (88) / ReVALUED (86) 441-384 Wes Eddings

I was hoping to play EXISTED on the TWS lane, with the X on the DLS for 129, but Wes took it with LINERS, scoring 31. Of all the racks that I recorded and bingos I missed, while unable to play either bingo in ACEPRSU (APERCUS or SCAUPER) I could have played SUPERCAR to an open R. That would have been a flashy play.

17 LANDLESS (60) POUNDALs (72) POOFIEST (71)* VIOLATER (74) ANTIBIAS (72) / INEdITA (64) 548-324 Robin Pollock Daniel

My first four plays were bingos. Robin opened with INEdITA, giving me the E I desperately needed with my rack ADLLNSS. Robin held me on POOFIEST. I believed it was acceptable as an adjective without slur status, referring to pillows or whipped toppings (and I am not confusing it with PUFFY). I remembered that POOF, as a noun, was purged, so POOFS was no longer acceptable, yet POOF as an interjection was still valid. Robin was angry with herself for letting POOFIEST go. I followed that play with my fourth consecutive bingo, VIOLATER, which she challenged unsuccessfully. I was able to play CURB for 33 through its R and then played my fifth bingo.

18 CAPITOL (78) GITaNOS (91) DARKEST (76) / EcHIDNAS (86) 467-331 Mike Frentz

I spent a long time deciding which of the four anagrams to play, eventually deciding upon CAPITOL. I was glad I did, as I was able to stack GITaNOS alongside it, also making GI, IT, TO and aL.

19 DECLARES (68) INSUReS (69) / TReNDING (83) OUTVIED (79) DILATION (63) 392-425 Mark Miller

20 BITTERER (72) GLUELIkE (68) / INDAGATE (70) REALLOT (69) NEWNeSS (75) 393-493 Jeremy Hall

Our first four moves were exchanges, with the sixth and potentially game-ending move in Jeremy’s court.

21 RESPADE (77) TURBINE (81) TABOOEd (63) / OSETRAS (76) 398-290 Paul Holser

Paul was not having a good game–he could never play poker–and his expressions after drawing bad racks led me to be more daring. I opened up a bingo lane by playing WO (holding the last T to make TWO; it was not possible to play a tile after WO) but did not get a fourth bingo down. After my third bingo Paul tipped his baseball cap to me, which accompanied by his facial expression seemed like a backhanded compliment.

22 SaTIETY (72) BANKERS (74) / IDENTITY (66) AROUSES (67) ChANGEUP (98) JAVELINA (70) 406-519 Joe Edley

I saw other bingo possibilities with my rack EISTTY? yet SaTIETY seemed the safest. I didn’t think that Joe would need the Y, of all letters, but right after my play he plopped down IDENTIT-.

23 SUCRASE (92) SERIATES (70) / LoGOUTS (81) 338-452 Chris Sykes

24 LIMITEs (73) SEINERS (66) / TABORED (68) POISOnED (83) 358-474 Rick Julian

25 BLONDINE (62) cATJANG (100) / SAFROLE (75) MOIsTURE (70) VIRELAIS (62) 386-406 Zachary Ansell

I was holding an A when I set up TONE at the top left corner of the board. There was also a bingo lane at the bottom left, yet the possibility to play a bingo by making ATONE was far more likely. Zachary blocked it. My replacement tiles caused me to cringe–AAGJNT?–and then I saw cATJANG for 100 points, which involved playing a three-word overlap, including making JOE. The score was 369-267 prior to cATJANG, and Zachary held me on it for a long time. I could tell that he was sweating bullets; what might have been a one-hundred-point victory for him was now virtually a tie game. There was only one solution to end Zachary’s agony: he had to let it go. If he challenged and lost, then I would go out with the last three tiles in the bag (EIR) and win. I had definitely chosen my courtesy tiles after fifteen seconds had lapsed into Zachary’s hold to plan my endgame. I am sure Zachary was counting on winning this game by over one hundred and not twenty. While we were playing our endgame Robin Pollock Daniel, who was seated beside Zachary, looked at our board to see what play he had held. She exclaimed and mouthed “CATJANG!”. Even though I felt I would still lose the game I at least had impressed a veteran expert and caused my opponent to sweat a little. Zachary’s last play scored 37, taking him to 406, and I went out with VIER to score nine plus the ten points from his rack to make 386.

26 ETESIAN (66) / pARENTED (77) pELORIAn (71) NOUGATS (84) DOCUMENT (73) 332-556 Mack Meller

Mack’s second bingo was played from the p in pARENTED.

27 SAtIETY (88) MaNPOWER (78) OVERCOAT (83) / INITIAL (61) 470-316 Jack Peters

I had played SaTIETY against Joe Edley in Round 22. Jack missed a bingo to go out (FLEECERS) which could have been played through an E, hooking the S onto HOG. Had he found this bingo he still would have lost. I got away with a 22-point phony, BONILY. Jack was kind to say “Nice play” after MaNPOWER, which I had played to the R. Had the second W been out I would have attempted WOMaNPOWER, as the space to the immediate left of the M was a DWS.

28 LAMInATE (62) SOOTIeR (75) / none 405-314 Seth Lipkin

I challenged off Seth’s phony GANOV, and then as my final play, I jokingly hooked GANOVS onto the end of IT, then took it back, and played VANGS there instead.

29 ENSUiNG (69) / OURARIS (74) sORTIES (78) 357-451 Jason Li

30 STAGIER (70) NORTENO (68) boNEFISH (89) / none 496-281 David Poder

I chickened out of playing KINgFISH for 101. After I fished off IK I drew the second blank and an E.

31 VETErAN (84) COLDNESS (62) WIZaRDS (95) THERMALS (89) / RETINOLS (68) 513-261 Frank Tangredi

With three unseen R’s and the rack DIRSWZ?, I contemplated playing off the S (after QI to make QIS) to fish for another R as there was an open Y available, thus giving me the possibility of playing WIZaRDRY for 104. I wisely did not do this, and played WIZaRDS instead for a fine 95 points. Since I always draw my tiles from the bag one at a time, the first replacement tile I drew after playing WIZaRDS was in fact an R, so there was a chance I could have played WIZaRDRY. I did not need the extra points by fishing for it yet it would have won more style points over WIZaRDS.

69 for me / 51 for my opponents

Waiting for Round 1

Round 1 versus Joey Krafchick

Round 2 versus Chris Cree

Round 9 versus Kenneth Rubin

Mark versus Florence Spanfelner in Round 5

Mark versus Sheikh K. Dukuly II in Round 9

Mark versus Don Erbe in Round 23
All photos by Shelley Stevens

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