I'm not going to lie, I got very very very very lucky to win on Thursday, although, I had been on quite a run of 3-1 nights.
Of course, that's the rub, isn't it?
That last win -- or, more likely, the first win.
Lately, Joel has been pairing me with Steve as my first matchup and Steve is ridiculously tough. He makes play after play of four or five letter words that don't take any hooks...no, actually sometimes they take random i hooks or l hooks (tae...tael???? UGH!) But don't try putting any esses or dees on the ends of his words. You've got to bingo early and really open up the board for yourself, or you're just dead. So, usually I lose to Steve, get paired up with someone else that lost in the first round, beat them and go on to win my last two games -- unless, that game is with Ellen Perr, then it's the old 2-2 for Dawn. And Jean L. always says she'd rather be 0-4 than 2-2. Ouchy.
On Thursday, Joel announces I'm to play Steve. I frowny face. But then he changes it up and says I'll be playing this guy whose name I always forget...so let's call him Paul. (Why? I don't know.) Anyway, Paul has never beaten me. He is a good player, but doesn't have very good board sense, i.e. he misses easy hooks, falls for obvious traps (like when I hang ava next to the triple line, he'll try to play his ess bingo down the line making avas, even though I obviously wouldn't have done that if ava was hookable. He needs to play Steve more.) and he opens up the board in disadvantageous ways.
I felt very comfortable playing him. (Unfortunately the Scrabble club was out of tracking sheets, so I had to play the game blind. Wow, what a difference (and not in a good way) it is just playing without knowing what letters are out or the chances of completing a stem for a bingo if you exchange or play off a couple of tiles. Paul had his own tracking sheets from home, so that was the one way I felt a bit off kilter during the game.) He took a pretty substantial lead on me, but I wasn't worried. Sure enough I was able to play zaire for 50 points and then bingo with moisten under it to make moisten/zaires and I had taken the lead. I could see he was trying to put down a bingo, so I started to block everything up and he kept exchanging in frustration and I kept scoring. In the end I won by 114 points. (After looking up letters in the Franklin he said he had the word toonies which he could have played on top of cry (scry/toonies.)
"Hey, that has an anagram! Isotone," I said, evidently having now become that guy.
JC, who was playing his own game, but sitting next to Paul said Paul also missed another bingo "deities." He quickly added "Sorry, I don't mean to be one of those people."
(That's the difference between the weirdo Scrabble players and the regular Scrabble players. We are all geeky nerds, but the normal ones acknowledge it.)
Having dispatched with Paul, I was feeling good. Until Joel announced that I would be playing Steve.
Bleeping bleep bleep!
I opened with jailed. My last tile was a blank. I KNOW! Pout.
Steve took literally seven minutes before playing rete through my e for seven points. I didn't know what he was up to but I knew FOR SURE that rete didn't take an ess. Not because I know the word, but because Steve played it. (HA! I just looked it up, the only back hook is AN EM!!!! WHAT THE HECK??!!!!)
I drew really badly with my blank -- think vvchwi. I dumped the vees and made vav. Steve made some other small six point play to block me from being able to use an ess on vav, but he gave me an opening to play my newly drawn zee for 33 points. I took it.
He then took the triple word square for like 12 points or something, giving me the opening to bingo with canister through to the other triple word square. (It was the classic case of saving a penny, but losing a pound...or some currency saying.) I had a ridiculous lead on him. 140 to 66. But I have blown bigger leads, so I stayed vigilant. I drew the second blank. Then he bingoed -- but it was a 59 pointer. I was still okay. I played nit, giving me a chance to hook an ess either to the back or the front. Steve didn't block it and on my next turn I bingoed with frontes. That was game. I won by 180!!! But that wasn't even the luckiest part of my night.
Where fortune really smiled was that two tables away, Dulcet, a woman who plays for fun (though she is very very competitive and just doesn't study enough to be good) had taken down BOTH Jean L. AND Nikki - two of the stronger players in my division. So not only were two strong players out of the running for player of the night, but one of the weakest was now 2-0, just like me!
Sure enough, I drew her as my opponent!
My heart started pounding. Dulcet was CAKE. If I like playing Paul, I LOVE playing Dulcet. So, of course, my mind jumped to match number four which would likely be against Ellen, who usually slaughters me. But, my spread was huge, so hopefully, if no one else was 3-0 by the time I had to play Ellen, my spread would be the deciding factor and I would win.
Of course, while I was busy gaming the fourth game, Dulcet was busy beating me ragged in the current game.
She had drawn two esses already AND had bingoed. I was losing by 70 and my rack was garbage.
"Exchange six," I said, holding on to an e.
She then played "odours." Dulcet was raised in Jamaica and is infamous for playing "British words." I insta challenged.
It was good.
Luckily my exchanging worked out and I was able to bingo with arenites through one of her esses and hitting a triple word score. I was hoping to draw the challenge, but it didn't work.
She then played rave. I had drawn aeeilnt. There was no place for me to put lineate, so since she didn't challenge arenites, even though I KNEW by her face that she didn't know the word, I tried to play lineater (as in one who lineates) through the ar in rave. But the problem is that the word looks like "line eater" which just sounds too weird to be right. I saw that very thought pass across her face, but I hoped against hope that she would assume that I wouldn't play such a funny looking word unless it was good. Sigh.
I pulled it back. I was now down by 56 points and running out of tiles.
But then she inexplicably played "fa" leaving the f just begging to get the e in my lineate on top of it.
"Here ya go, ef!"
Woot! I took the lead.
Dulcet looked disgusted. She then had four successive single digit turns and I was pounding her with twenty/thirty point plays. In the end, I won by 111.
Dulcet sat staring at the board and lamented that Dawn "knows all the stem words."
"I'll learn them eventually, Dawn. You'll see."
Joel overheard her and snorted.
"You think she knows stem words?" He starts picking out my tiles from lineater and reorders them until they read: entailer. He walks away without further comment.
I started asking around to find out how other people were doing.
" Nancy, did you win?"
"No, JC beat me."
JC, who plays "up" in expert level "for fun," is extremely good. When he first started at the club, last year, I used to beat him all the time because he still had the SOWPODS dictionary in his head and he was too proud to use Joel's cheatsheet for newbies. (Dude, if Joel would let me, I'd still be using the cheatsheet for newbies!)
But by the "'08 Big Apple tournament," it all turned around. JC would crush me every time. In word knowledge: (JC plays "Colinear." I challenge. Joel says it's good. JC goes "Its anagram is Acroline. My ex-girlfriend's name is Caroline." I want to punch him in the face.) In strategy, in word placement, in everything. He would crush me and crush me baaaaad.
So that he was 3-0 made me sad.
THEN I found out that Ellen Perr was ALSO 3-0! So, there went my spread-will-save-me hopes. Someone was going to be 4-0.
"Unless we tie," JC said unhelpfully.
Matchups were announced. I'm not going to lie, I was hoping for Ellen.
JC is actually one of my favorite people at club, so I always enjoy my games with him, except for the losing, of course.
As we put the tiles in the bag I begged him to play the worst game of his life against me.
"Come on. Pleeeasseee??? You're so good, it's only fair!"
Then I came up with an even more brilliant plan.
"Dude, don't you want to see if your worst game can beat my best game? I think you do..."
"I'm playing like shit tonight," except it sounded elegant when he said it because he's British and everything a Brit says sounds elegant to an American.
"Great, you're playing like shit, but you're 3-0??? Bite me!"
Ok, game? On!
We had both gone first twice, so we had to draw for first. I won.
I opened with evite for 17 points, hoping he'd challenge. He doesn't. Dangit.
He then plays whiny for 30, after toying with playing whiney. I am so challenging whiney! But he doesn't play it and whew! It's good.
I play mo because I have a blank, a crapload of vowels and an em.
He hits me with Joe for another 30. I am losssing! My rack is r d i t o r ?
I shuffle and shuffle, but I can't find anything, so I dump the or and open up another bingo lane for myself. I draw a stupid t and n. I find trident, but stupid JC plays lee under my or. (He originally was going to play eel, so I was happy, then at the last second, he switched it to lee...I can only assume, I was donktastickly leaning toward the board with all my tiles in the air, blinking the phrase "I am about to bingo under that word," in morse code.
I went back to work.
I saw nothing. The only spots needed words that started with an ess or end in a, but I didn't want to waste another turning fishing again. So, eventually I find nitrated through the e. It was like 60 stupid points, but I learned my "always play the bingo" lesson from Philly.
Scrabble rewards me! I draw the other blank! I am looking for something through the i in nitrated, because I am consonant heavy, but JC takes the spot by playing wind.
I shuffle and shuffle, am about to dump some consonants because I am already down to something like 11 minutes on my clock. But at the last minute, I see a place, through an ar to bingo again. "Handlers."
JC looks deflated. His chin is literally on the table, so imagine my surprise when he bingoes with dipteran.
Now, I have bingoed twice, gotten both blanks and I am ahead by only 18 points. RIDICULOUS.
I have drawn decent. A Q AND a U! Yay. I search for a good spot to play them and I see I can stick an ar or tee next to lee, so I can do quit on the double word score or...hmm is "quirt" a word...cause that would get my q on the double letter and the t on the double word for 52.
I stare at it for a while. I decide to give it a shot. I am like 62% sure it's good.
Joel says it's good! Yay!
I draw the x and play it for 25, JC comes back with a big zee play.
I am in the lead comfortably though, so of course, I start fishing for a bingo that I DON'T NEED.
I play nag for three, then oka for 12 -- horrid. (Although, later JC says that my dumb oka play actually blocked his bingo...didn't make me feel better for missing the forty point play of "koa,")
I do get my bingo: soaking. But it's unplayable and then JC stabs me right in the kidney by playing "chef" down the triple line, front hooking the c on handlers.
He takes the lead.
THE LEAD! Did I mention the two blanks, q and ex that I drew???? JC is obviously in league with the devil.
I retake the lead with vibe, he takes it back with moaner. I play cons. Dawn is +9. We are in endgame. He takes a loooong time (he's got tons of time on his clock because I was playing so slowly in the early rounds.) and then he sighs and plays jot.
He is up now by 2, but I've got a 17 point play of jota/yea!
I don't know what he has, but when he finally plays area (scaring me by continuing to lay all his tiles out for areaoi) I knew he couldn't win.
"Does that screeching mean you won," Joel asked walking over.
Why, yes, yes it does!