The Niagara Falls International Open

Over the Victoria Day long weekend I participated in my fourth Niagara Falls International Open and I was happy that Mark was able to play in it for the first time. On my past three occasions I had attended the tournament with Grant. We decided to drive down on Friday afternoon and saw more of the city that at any other time I was there, which included a walk to the really tacky part of town with the tourist-trap attractions and rows of souvenir shops. For dinner we ate at Zappi’s, nextdoor to the Rodeway Inn, where I always stay when coming down for this tournament. We joined Shauna Petrie and Dave Krook among a group of fourteen for dinner at Milestones on Saturday night and enjoyed dinner again with them as well as Steve and Sophia Ozorio, Priya and Percy Fernando, eventual TWL3 winner John David, and Abdul Khan at Passage to India on Sunday night.

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 PROpHET (79) / STRAINs (70) 327-343 Arie Sinke

02 tATTIEsT (71) / UNBLENt (72)* SWARMER (83) SEAPORT (75) 328-511 Jason Li

When there is a T already on the board and you’re holding two of them, what else to do but make your blank a fourth t. Jason’s rack of BELNNU? makes no sevens.

03 GAMESITE (74)* / OVERhEAR (72) 330-385 Anna Miransky

GAMESITE* was a desperation play and I chose it over MEGASITE* as the more plausible phony. I didn’t like either of them and Anna did not put me on hold.

04 INDITES (71) TEAcHING (76) SMARTIE (78) TALONED (89) COEnURI (61) / REIFIED (76) 558-331 Lou Cornelis

In this the first of two games against Lou I was fortunate to play five bingos and score my highest game. Lou would have identical revenge later.

05 ELATERID (80) SHATTERER (64) / CROWNERS (80) 390-375 Judy Cole

With nowhere to play HATTERS, SHATTER or THREATS, I saw an open -ER and placed SHATTER in front of it. I had tried to play oVERGOOD* which Judy successfully challenged off. I was greedy; I saw the D on the right centre TWS and could have played OVERDOGs for 63 but wanted 26 more points for oVERGOOD. Only after the game did I remember OVERGOaD, which would have scored 89. I never managed to play a third bingo.

06 rUINATION (70) HEARERS (80) / SEALANT (72) 382-387 Matt Canik

I first attempted UNcIATION onto an open -ON and Matt challenged it off. It is very likely that I would have won this game if I had played rUINATION first, since I would have had an extra turn. I only lost by five points. Why didn’t I see it? After I removed my tiles and put them on my rack I saw it immediately. Matt held rUINATION, telling me that he thought I would have played UrINATION instead. rUINATION was the better play as it slotted the r underneath a DWS, and the X was still out. He couldn’t block my bingo because I had NAUTIlI or mINUTIA elsewhere. I didn’t even look for a seven-letter word since I was so focussed on the 9LW possibilities. There were two other 9LW that would have fit: AnTIUNION and, while still designating the blank a c, INcAUTION. Matt played a phony, GREIGH, expecting me to stick an -S at the end of it. While I never as much as held him on the play, it looked too much like DREIGH/DRIEGH/DREICH which I knew were adjectives so I just left it. I wasn’t going to touch it.

07 ATtUNES (64) UNSALTED (61) ATTENDED (64) eTIOLATE (74) / none 464-316 Carl Madden

08 INSURER (64) DoNGOLA (76) / GHERAOES (98) LITOTES (76) ANCESTOr (77) 454-437 Jared Cappel

09 SPINOUT (65) HALIERS (69) / INfARES (81) 397-291 Richard Popper

Richard challenged HALIERS, believing it to be a variant of HAILERS (it’s not); HALIERS is a former monetary unit of Slovakia. I chose to play it over HAILERS not so much to try to elicit a challenge but because the L in HALIERS would land just below a DLS, two places away from a TWS. If I had played HAILERS, the I would have been adjacent to the DLS. Since Richard lost the challenge I was then able to play FLED for 36.

10 sANTERO (71) INULASES (77) COURTER (70) / ISLETED (70) SPRAINED (62) 462-324 Steve Ozorio

Steve attempted PARDINES* from the P on the lower middle TWS. I held him on it then challenged it off. It was not possible to block his bingo at his next turn, as SPRAINED scored 62 while he could have easily played SARDINES to the first S in INULASES for 63. That would have been the riskier play. With two bingo lanes open and the blank still out (yet a lot of clunky tiles still in the bag) I blocked one lane yet in doing so I had to empty the bag. Steve’s final rack was ACEFIV?. He attempted FACtIVE, which I challenged off. Then he tried FoVEATIC, which I also challenged off. I played out and got all 28 points from his rack. There are no sevens with his rack and the only eight is CAVEFIsh.

11 ARSONIsT (66) / NITERIES (60) INTREATs (78) GRAnDEE (73) 373-377 Mack Meller

This is the first of two consecutive games where I doubted my word knowledge and thus threw away the game. In this case, I would have tied Mack if only I had played SYPH. I saw the word and imagined it on the board yet didn’t play it. By not playing it in effect I am resigning myself to accept the loss. However if I did play it, I tie the game. Why would I be so afraid to try it if the alternative is a certain loss? I don’t know why I do this and this timidity would carry over to the next game.

12 BROTHELS (68) hEADLINE (68) / BRIGATE (70)* ADVENTINg (63)* 393-415 Chris Sykes

Regardless of any timid reluctance to play words, I certainly deserved to lose this game by letting both of Chris’s phony bingos stay on the board. I never even held him on them, yet didn’t like BRIGATE* one bit. That phony took the spot I needed for my own bingo so why did I let it go? I felt myself regressing to when I was a scaredy-cat player and let everything go that higher-rated players played against me. I used to be too trusting in believing that all such players were honorably bound to play only legitimate words, yet I have since developed the courage to challenge immediately, and not hem and haw while keeping my opponents on hold. At least his second phony, played through -EN-, sounded plausible. It used his blank while scoring a paltry 63. I would have won the game had I not doubted TONLETS. I wrote it on my score sheet and liked it, but then doubted it, choosing to play it through another L for TOLLNETS* instead. Chris challenged it off. Had there not been that L to play through, I would have played TONLETS and won.

13 TIDIEST (74) / ARRAIGNs (59) 389-350 David Engelhardt

Near the end of the game I played EONIC* in order to close the board.

14 UNHEATED (74) / DANSEUR (89) 431-373 Agnes Kramer

15 STAINED (77) SEALERS (80) / TOUsLINg (62) 369-369 Max Panitch

I set up plays holding the last two S’s, such as CRIED one row from the top. I had GODDESS to play on top of it yet Max blocked it. It was obvious that Max knew I was setting myself up for an S- hook. I was eventually able to play GOD leading down to the bottom row, and Max, very short of vowels, had no way to block it, unless he played EF, slotting the E next to the D in GOD. That would have placed the F on the TWS row, which would have given me FEARLESS anyway. So Max left it. My bingo SEALERS emptied the bag of its sole tile, and I was afraid of what letter it might be. If it was the J or even the K, I might end up getting stuck with it. I was happy to pull out an H. Max’s rack was the heavy AFJKLPY. At that time my score was 333 and Max had 344. I felt I had a good chance of winning since he couldn’t get rid of enough of those tiles at once. There were multiple spots to drop the H: onto a TLS after a U for 13 or in double-cross spots for 10. Max, short of vowels, used that open U to play FLUKY, slotting the K on the TLS and scoring 25. That took his score to 369. I looked and looked and found a 12-point play: there was a DLS after AIRT, so I played AIRTH for 12, jumping to 345. I got twice the value of Max’s AJP = 24 to tie the game at 369. Max told me he thought he had won as he didn’t even see AIRTH. I did not see it at first, but did not play it right away as I knew I had to find at least a 13-point play to win, so I wound my clock down looking at every available space. We did a recount that confirmed the tie score.

16 GLAIRIER (68) DIsPOrT (80) / TINGLERS (72) 448-339 Jason Li

As Jason pointed out during this game’s postmortem (at the link above), when I played DIsPOrT, I had the chance to play a ten-letter bingo through a disconnected -OS- and -I- to the bottom centre TWS: POSITIOneD for 86! I missed my CHLORODyNE moment. Thankfully the bingo I did play scored 80, so I didn’t miss out on too many points, but I totally missed out on the Scrabble flash and style.

17 DERAILS (76) / ABOrTION (70) INVERTEd (72) OUTRANCE (72) 329-459 Agnes Kramer

18 AdOPTEE (65) DOTTRElS (66) RELAXING (70) / URINOSE (83) 393-395 Richard Popper

19 none / SERRANID (68) MONTAGES (72) WARMING (87) JUbILES (69) FAUlTED (68) 369-503 Lou Cornelis

It was now Lou’s turn to play five bingos against me, however I did score two bingo-like plays with FOREX for 65 and ZIT for 65.

20 none / OEsTRIN (66) AStOUNDED (72) GOULASH (81) USEABLE (81) 225-551 Jared Cappel

Jared built AStOUNDED around -UN-. After USEABLE he played WINZE for 81. I unsuccessfully challenged APTER after he played WINZE, thinking I had nothing to lose as the spread was already pitifully enormous.

Monday morning left me crestfallen by lunchtime. I lost all four games, each to players whom I had beaten earlier in the tournament. I was sullen and felt very down during the lunch break.

21 NESTLER (84) PLATTING (63) / OSPREYs (72) 418-331 Judy Cole

22 none / rElEASE (57) 380-343 Carl Madden

I played no bingos but did score 84 for RETAX, slotting the X on a double-cross TLS with the R on a DWS. I challenged two of Carl’s plays. The first was DURIANS, which he hooked under LA and OE to make LAN* and OES. My challenge consisted of two words, DURIANS and LAN, which was ruled unacceptable. At the end of the game Carl wondered if DURIANS was the phony! I also challenged Carl’s CORS too hastily. I said so, aloud, before we had even left the table to check it on the computer. I was confusing it with GORS*. I was glad to win both of the last games so I went 2-4 for the day, despite drawing only two of the possible twelve blanks, which I did in Round #18 where I still proceeded to lose by two points.

38 for me / 38 for my opponents

I was expected to win 10.7 games and managed to pull off a winning record only after playing the 22nd and final game, to go 11½-10½ +104.

Mark was ranked third in division three and came in third place at 13-9 +278. He won $300. Congratulations Mark!

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