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Back to 1998 MSSC Commentary

1998 MSSC Commentary: Round 1

As the event begins, I have a chance to take in the room a bit better. There are many ballons and banners and the students are provided with ample playing space with only one game per table. Deluxe SCRABBLE® boards, wine-colored wooden tiles, and 50th Anniversary tile bags are the equipment. There are tables strewn with prizes and free handouts from the NSA, including pamphlets entitled "How to Start a School SCRABBLE® Club" and the most recent newsletter.

This tournament is original in many ways. This is the first tournament of its kind in North America. And, as a new enterprise, there are adjusted tournament rules for this championship. The students play in teams of two and their rounds last 30 minutes with one master clock. At the same time they are told to begin and at 15 minutes warned that half the time has been used. At 24 minutes into the round, the team playing at that time is told they can only finish the play they currently working on (and they only have three minutes to do so). Three minutes later another announcment is made for the other team to make their last play. Racks are not replenished after this last play and remaining tiles are subtracted from each side's score before final scores are tallied. Team members fill out cards recording their scores, their opponents' scores, and the cumulative total of loss or win spead. These cards are handed into the MSSC team, verified for math accuracy, posted to the master wall charts, and the next round is paired according to these results.

Another difference is that the rounds will be adjudicated with The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary, Edition 3. Because some of these editions have words in them that have since been removed from competitive play (the word DA for example), Joe has ruled that, for this tournament, any word in any *green* OSPD is permissible, including DEI, DES, PDQ, etc. This way, students who may have been working with slightly older versions of the dictionary will not be penalized with 11th hour knowledge of suddenly unacceptable words. A very fair decision, I think.

Among the parents, coaches, and family members, the Massachusetts Corporation for Educational Telecommunications (MCET) is represented here by their director, a reporter/producer, and a video camera operator. I'm told by John D. Williams Jr. that Kathleen Kouril, MCET's reporter/producer, was at one point the New York State Spelling Bee Champion. The tension of competing at that level as a young student certainly prepares her perfectly for covering this event. MCET created a satellite network known as Mass LearnPike that is broadcasts daily to all public school districts in Massachusetss and every state nationwide. They can be contacted at 1-800-556-4376 for further information.

Hasbro, has many representatives here as well. One, Earl "Bumper" Donahue, is taking more photos than me. I wonder where his photos will end up!?

At table 20 I see the word WEDGe to the triple for 35 points. The Searles team pulls me aside to ask how to spell the word KNIVES. Since their game is under way, I say, "Imagine that I can't answer your question right now," and walked on smiling. I notice a brother team, Sullivan-Lowell's Bill and Steven Boisvert red team.

As the round ends, The team of Dalton/Koza (Plumfield red) shows me their winning board against Camara-Gagne (St. Joseph blue), 215-85. Anne Koza tells me, "We had the luck of the triples," as she points out YO and WEDGe. Their opponents got one triple word down, WERE.

The word judges tell me words they adjudicated that were acceptable: CORNY, XU; and unacceptable: RA, MADES, SENAR, QUN, and QUAS (I tried that one early on in my SCRABBLE® career,too!).

An excited Runkle coach, Ben Loiterstein, tells me that both of his teams won this round.

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