Back to WSC 1999
|Jim Geary is a 32-year-old computer programmer working in Phoenix, AZ. He qualified again for the WSC on the basis of his NSA tournament rating. At the 1997 WSC in Washington, D.C., he placed 47th. He edited a now defunct newsletter concerning SCRABBLE® strategy, and when not playing SCRABBLE® or poker practises for an appearance on Jeopardy!|
Second round, hoping to catch a break, I'm paired with Dave Wiegand of the US, one of the strongest players in the world. He opens with T(e)NDRIL for 66, and I quickly see that the British word, INTR(o)LD would've been 2 points better. Lot of good it does me. Looking at a semi-awkward rack for too long, I eventually come up with KATY making TA, ET, and NY. I start to think, "hey that's not a word," when I luckily remember the Cab Calloway song "She Caught the Katy," from the Blues Brothers soundtrack. As soon as I punch the clock, I feel sick. Probably confusing it with the British 4's JUDY & MARY. It comes off, and he plays SECRETED through the R in TENDRIL for a double-double and I'm down 160-0. Then things really start to go bad. I lose 515-368, and am now in 96th place out of 98 after two games. Worse, my confidence is shot, as I see losing a turn on a phony four as part of some big morality play where all my weaknesses are magnified at the wrong time. I should've memorized the 4's in order or something. I skip the coffee break and go straight to calling Jane to wallow in worry. She's completely upbeat and points out that I made the exact same phone call after going 1-2 to start the Phoenix tournament in February before I ended up destroying it.
Buoyed, I bound up the stairs to face my round 3 opponent. I play a couple 3 letter words to balance my rack and am drawing to a beautiful REST when he lays down a blank bingo on move 2. Thinking I'll bounce right back, I see that I've unfortunately picked QEY to my once promising rack and am faced with this situation:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o -> jaygee EEQRSTY 39 ----------------------------- RicardoGonz ------- 100 1|= ' = ' =| 2| - " " - | 3| - ' ' - | 4|' - ' - '| 5| - - | 6| " N E K " " | 7| ' M I X ' ' | 8|= ' F U G U ' =| 9| ' ' ' N ' | 10| " " D " | 11| - R - | 12|' - ' A - '| 13| - ' ' W - | 14| - " n - | 15|= ' = ' =| -----------------------------So I play QWERTY (the designation for the standard American typewriter) for 62 points. He bingos again with LIVIDEST through the D in undrawn. To my ES leave, I pick AJROZ. I rue blocking my N in UNDRAWN which would've allowed ZANJEROS, but I use my S to good effect with SEZ o13 for 52 points and the battle is on. He remains a half step up on me while I deal with awkward racks. Eventually, I get six unique 1-pointers and a consonant but the board is getting unfriendly:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o -> jaygee ABEINRS 236 ----------------------------- RicardoGonz ------- 258 1|= ' = ' =| 2| - " " - | 3| C ' ' - | 4|' R - U L I C O N '| 5| V A P O R O | 6| " F N E K " H " | 7| T M I X ' O ' | 8|= E ' F U G U S ' =| 9| D ' ' N ' | 10| " L I V I D E S T " | 11| D I D R - | 12|' J O G ' A - '| 13| I O N ' Q W E R T Y S| 14| - " n - E| 15|= ' = ' Z| -----------------------------And I play CARBINES for 71 to pull a tempo ahead myself. We swap punches the rest of the way, but I hold on to win by 26, 402-376 Good thing too, as had I lost, I would've chanced the unenviable possibility of being 0-3 and facing Brian Cappelletto, who had started off in similarly unspectactular fashion. For the rest of the tournament, the last half row was affectionately referred to (by me at least, and probably solely) as the Brian boards.
He made a mistake early on misplaying TUBAIST as "TABUIST." I was able to play ball-control offense while immediately countering his two bingos with two of my own. Despite eating the Q, I win 460-355. I'm firmly in the middle of the pack at 3-3.
We both crawl through some bad racks when I get down EXTIRP for 64 points to take control. Two turns later, I played JOINTURE. I manage to find one of the two bingos to go out in this position:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o -> jaygee ?AELLNS 361 ----------------------------- VQuiballo IT 283 1|= ' = ' =| 2| - " " A - | 3| J ' C L I Q U E | 4|' O - R U - G| 5| L I B E R T Y A V O| 6| " N " P " R I Z A| 7|N T ' T ' O H D T| 8|O U ' I N D O W S E| 9|N r ' C ' E N ' E E| 10|E M E S " B A D X | 11| O U - O A A T | 12|' V R G R O W I I '| 13| I F F ' K A M A - R | 14| E E " Y E S P H| 15|= D = G ' I| -----------------------------to win 420-281.
The last round of day 1 is against Gareth Williams who made it to the semifinals of the '93 WSC. After I pass, he opens with a 5-letter word. I sheepishly challenge saying, "it's not in ours." While the runner is running, a light-bulb goes off, and I say, "wait, is in ours," and he adds that it's not even good in theirs. On my third turn, I have SILTIER but nowhere to play it. After much introspection, I convince myself that RILIEST is an acceptable British anagram of the word and lay it down. He probably thinks I'm some kind of moron, challenging five-letter American Z-words and taking five minutes to find RILIEST. On move six, he plays RADIA(N)S to retake the lead. The battle goes back and forth, until I pick the remaining blank on move 11 and get down (U)NVEILED on a rapidly closing board. On the next turn, I shut down the rest of the board with VERMIN and win a close one 412-390. At the end of the day, I have managed to find myself at 5-3, +195 in 24th place, a galactic improvement over my 96th place 0-2, -273 sta rt. A good recovery.
I start day 2 on board 11 or so on the first row, about a 9-iron from board 1. I'm paired against Kendall Boyd of New Zealand. He plays RESINATA on move 3, SOLIDLY on move 6, and HAGRIDE on move 7, while I sit on these racks: BDLSTUV, AILOSVW, AALNNOR, ABMNORT, FKMMOZ?, FGIMMO?, FGIPTV?. I pick the second blank, and get a late bingo of PERVE(R)S(E), but still lose big, 479-322. Apparently the end of my tenure on row one.
For round 10, I get matched with Russell Byers of England who was leading much of the way at the '97 WSC. Fate was a bit kinder as I opened with (P)OWDERY, plunked down RETAINER on move 3, GO(E)THITE on move 7, and LASAGNE on move 8. Almost missed LASAGNE, so enamored was I with trying to place the British anagram ALNAGES that I completely overlooked the American-acceptable troika. I was about to play GALEA somewhere when I thought gee, GALEA plus N makes GALENA that town in Western Illinois I stayed in while visiting Jane's family over Christmas 96. Fond memories of seeing the bank thermometer read -27 at Midnight Mass and the Colonel picking up the Axis & Allies game that I'd been playing for three days were shattered when a little voice inside my head whispered, "you moron, GALENA isn't just a proper noun, it's a word!" "not only that it's part of an anagram set." Another Brit must wonder how he lost to an idiot who took five minutes to find the only playable common bingo. I win 512-368.
For round 11, I've made it to the top of row 2 and am playing Arvind Abraham of the United Arab Emirates. I open with WOOD 8f, he overlaps with MOZO 7e to go up 53-16. I'm now sitting on ADEGILS. I think to myself isn't SILAGE a verb in British? All the high-prob 7's start swimming together, so I try to see if I ever recall doing SILAGING as an 8. Eventually, I wus out and play something else. Next rack I end up with AEILMST which subscribers of the JG Newsletter will recall from the MALTIES rack article. I'm sure I don't recall ever studying a British word and saying, "hey that's the MALTIES rack," so put down a non-bingo with more confidence. The next rack, I have AEISSTT and turn it into DISTASTE to pull ahead. Through the E, he plays RELAX to tie the game. With a rack of ADHIOPR, I happily play PAROTID for a double-double through the T in DISTASTE, but miss the superior HARDTOP in the same spot. The next turn he slides in a blank bingo FEATU(R)ES through an unlikely spot, but I manage to hang tough with HOWBE, CONCH, JURY and HIVES from nonideal racks. I make one mistake, at least, happily playing FUGU for a nice score from a bad rack but I should've just played FUG as Q-insurance. It's tight going into the late game, but he ends up with the blank while I make three pair. He fishes off an I to empty the bag and sitting on a great rack, and I face the task of trying to block everything simultaneously AND not opening anything new AND I'm just about over on time, so if I waste time, he might win without even bingoing:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o -> jaygee EENNPTT 388 ----------------------------- ArvindAbraha EGIINR? 353 1|= ' = ' =| 2| - " " K - | 3| - ' ' A | 4|' A R ' - I '| 5| L A M V I B E | 6| " G E L D I I " | 7| ' M O Z O ' N J | 8|C Q W O O D Y A U N E| 9|O H I V E S I R | 10|N " " S L A T Y " | 11|C P A R O T I D | 12|H O W B E ' A - '| 13| F E A T U r E S F U G U| 14| - " T " D O - | 15|= ' R E L A X E R S| -----------------------------With all this in mind, I slapped down 3i PENTANE to kill everything at once, and guarantee an out next turn. He goes over trying to find the bingo that's not there and I win 414-332.
Last round before lunch, I play Femi Awowade of Nigeria. On my opening rack, I have DEEENOP. I think isn't DEPONEE good in British. I hem and haw and finally pushed over the fence by my failure to pull the trigger on SILAGED last round, lay it down. The actual word is DISPONEE, not DEPONEE, and I'm left hoping he puts out an R (or something else, I told myself at the time, tho there is nothing else). He opens with SIX, which is usually a bad sign. Sure enough, next turn he playes IDEATES. I struggle with vowel-heavy and replicate racks the whole game while he piles it on. I still almost steal the game when he lays down a phony blank bingo with the bag dwindling down, but at the last second, he changes to an acceptable word for reasons known only to him. I steal some equity in the ending to only lose 405-421.
Though I only went 2-2 in the morning, I feel like I was doing my best. Other than the "DEPONEE" debacle, I played pretty damn well against Femi, and I never had a chance against Kendall.
So, at the halfway point, I'm 7-5, +238. I'd hoped to be doing better, but I feel I'm playing well, and know that I'm capable of stringing something together.
First game after lunch I got a rematch against Odette Rio of the Phillipines, who had beat me with ease at the warmup tourney three days prior. Once again, she dropped 3 bingos on me early in the game (TOROIDS, DELISTED, & HUMPIEST) while I was blessed with these racks: DEFINSW (got down DEWANIS for 44), AADFOTW, CDFLNOQ, CMNQRRX, CLMNQRU, CEGILMT. I'm quickly history. Next time I play her, I'd like to see her have maybe at least one bad rack of her own. I try to create counterplay, even getting a phony safely down, but lose 322-446.
Having lost two games in a row, I'm hoping to catch a break from the pairings but get the redoubtable Bob Felt. Going second, I have DILOORT. His opening rack is DEEILN?. Serendipitously, he makes the blank an A for (A)LIENED, and I am able to get down TOROIDAL (DECLINE would have yielded the other bingo for me). A couple plays later, I have AEIIRSS with the D at L8 being the best letter through which to bingo. I know the British word DIARISE and remember it has an anagram, AIRSIDE. AIRSIDES, though two points less, is a much better play defensively than DIARISES. But I can't recall whether or not AIRSIDE is an adjective or a noun. I think well SEASIDE is definitely a noun, maybe it's like that, but I can't visualize any usage where AIRSIDE is a noun, and perhaps influenced by the DEPONEE debacle lay down DIARISES. He eschews the S on the triple line, and instead plays BEWAILER 11e for 102 points. Of course, AIRSIDES is good, and post mortem, Bob actually tells me that he uses it with respect to his work at airports. This error is the archtype of the kind one would never make playing double-dictionary full time. (There is quite a nice list of which that I'm anecdotally aware from the American team, but I proselytized sufficiently in my 97 report.) I temporarily retook the lead with JOSHED through the exposed S, but he gets down MATZA in the other spot AIRSIDES would've blocked for 56. I get lucky and land a rack that gets ADOPTING down at b6 to take a 13-point lead at one point, but he simply plays QuEEN a4 for 80 parallel to it, and I'm dead. A weaker player would just attribute this loss to "he got both blanks, what could I do," but I know I failed to maximize resistance. I lose 406-517.
My next game was against Shafique Thobani of Kenya to whom I had lost two close games in DC. He led early, but with consecutive plays of OLEARIA, VIEWING and UNMEW, I took the lead. With 2 blanks available, and none on my rack, I took a turn out to shut several bingo lanes, but he manages to squeeze a blank bingo in a less likely spot. Now I'm faced with trying to come back, after I've conspired to shut down the board. Can't pick anything, but still manage to pull ahead. Unfortunately, he picks his 4th S to keep his 2nd blank from getting lonely and hooks DONGS onto VIEWING to win the game by 9 points, 359-350. After this game, I really felt frustrated having been just outside the top and watching four games go by with very little opportunity for me to get in the game.
Now just 7-8, I'm emotionally exhausted and hoping to catch an opponent from Neptune or something, find I'm paired with another strong American, the equally frustrated Lisa Odom. I pick well, she doesn't, and I play pretty well. She actually got down two late bingos, but it was still a rout, 495-321. I don't think either one of us took much satisfaction from the game, and both hit the bar immediately after the paperwork was complete.
So at the end of day 2, I'm 8-8, and will not be World Champion this century.
In this particular game, I jumped to an early start with GOETIE(S) on my second turn, but he played YESTREEN for 94 through the T immediately and followed it up with DRIPLESS through the S, and QUARE for 50 to the second E. Around that time, I'm sitting on a rack of EEEISST and with 63 unseen tiles, realize that that's it for the E's and S's, while I'm down 130. Not a good sign. Clever boy that I am to realize this, not so clever am I to miss SEELIEST on the boring side of the board. This was the first bingo I missed all tournament, but I can take solace in the loser's mentality, that I would've been dead anyway had I found it. Postgame analysis also revealed that on the GOETIE(S) play, I had E(C/K)LOGITE through the same innocuous looking L, which certainly would've stopped him from using my word as a through-tile smorgasbord. Once again, a slight imprecision early in the game leads to a rout. I lose 360-496.
My second game of the day was against Rodney Judd of Pakistan. On my first rack, I pick up AEITWX, and think it's time for me to catch a break, give me an S. Blank. Ding. I play WAXIE(S)T (microscopically better defensively than TAXWISE) for 98 points. Finally, I'm gonna be the guy dishing it out I think. A couple of short plays later, he lays down RAPINES, and my 98-point lead has vanished into thin air. Soon thereafter, I get the second blank and play BA(I)LORS to go back up by 80. Now completely rolling, I pick out of the bag the bingo rack AEIILMR. The S is open in TAXWISE so I'm faced with slotting the triple-triple with the first letter of my word at g1. I choose to sacrifice two points and play MILIARES instead of the anagram RAMILIES because an M in 7th position seems much safer than an R. Problem is MILIARES isn't a word! D'oh! He plays NONELITE on another part of the board (n1 ) (he would've left the R untouched and played there anyway), I put down the correct RAMILIES, and he throws down TOWERING through it! I pull the Q, while he plays YEAH at n1 for 70, hooking the N-O-N-E of NONELITE. I manage to get down a late DILATERS for 80 but it doesn't matter.
He opens with GOLIAR(D), but I'm dealt ADEELNT and play the highest-scoring ANTLERED. A few turns later, he gets down TOASTED, while I play REWIRING. It's neck and neck, with an unseen blank remaining. I get down VINERY for 41, followed by GYVED for 39, but fail to pull the blank and am waiting for the inevitable blank bingo where I lose again. Towards the end of the game, I find myself playing the natural UNHORSE, but opening up the northwest quadrant with through letters for him to bingo out with. Miracle of miracles, I see we have left the blank in the bag til the very end, and I win 481-406.
On my first rack I have EEEKOT?, and play OKE 8h. The next turn, I have EENPTX?, and play EXPO(N)ENT through the O. The play was apparently significant enough to make th e official web site, but it was actually a screwup. I should have played EKE on my first rack, to leave undoubled letters. I just had a temporary lapse. I then would've had EXPONE(N)T for 101 points instead of the air-ball that it was. I realized this right away, and got a little chuckle when I saw EXPONENT mentioned in the press releases. Anyway, it's a lot easier to chuckle when things go well, and they went pretty well this game. The next turn I pulled SULFATE out of the bag and I was up 150 pretty quick. I get the second blank late, just as he's desperately trying to open the board, and play CLEAV(I)NG to run away.
Lunch of the third day I'm disheartened but very clear on my objective. Win at least 3/4 to finish with a winning record, something I failed to do in DC after losing the last five.
Just when I need an easy match to start this run, I find that I am once again playing Bob Felt. Why doesn't he just win some games and leave me alone? We swap some early high-prob bingos before he gets down UPROOTAL. I had almost blocked the spot, but saw a better play elsewhere, but one that made a hook word which I wasn't sure was valid. Finally convincing myself that "BEH" was good, I laid it down. Bob, happy that I didn't block his UPROOTAL spot, didn't see it til much later in the game. I certainly wish I'd made the legit play. Anyway, I struggle, struggle, struggl e trying to get back in. Just as I pull even, he makes a nice play of (G)ADABOUT for 88 points. I try to set him up so that when I play my blank bingo, he's emptied the bag, but the board is too closed for me to do anything. I blow some spread here trying to win the game, and lose 320-465. The spread blown turns out to be telling, as at the end of the tournament Bob was exactly two spread points ahead of me, not that anyone really cares who comes in (x)th as opposed to (x-1)th where x is a large number that I won't reveal until after round 24. Three rounds to go, I need to win them all.
In the sixth round of the day, I'm paired with Tony Sim of Singapore. I have some vowel-heavy racks, and at one point slot a triple line with the O in OUTLOVE, not really inferring that I should be scared of a triple-triple. He shuffles, shuffles, shuffles and I get a little worried. Finally, he plays REACTOR(S) through the O for 80, not bringing himself to play ACROTERS for 140. I stay a little behind him and play FRISKET for 98 and I'm off to the races. I'm almost slowed down by I-heavy consecutive racks of: DIIINST, IIILQSU, EIILSU?. but get down NITID, QI, and U(T)ILISE for 149 points over those turns and I end up winning 467-347.
One down, two to go. This round, I'm paired with local Joan Rosenthal who starts out buttering my muffin by saying how much she enjoys my writing on cgp. Well, this snoozer of an iliad ought to straighten her out. Once again, thinking I'm finally catching a break, I open with PEATIER for 74. Things turn south immediately thereafter as I can't buy an easy rack while she gets two blank bingos, GOATI(E)R and S(T)EALED to go ahead in the midgame. Worse, I completely lost my mental control. Rather than focusing on my short-term objective, I was plagued with sadness and self-pity and frustration and anger as I though about all the effort that I had put into the game over the last few years just to come up a no-op at this tourney. I've never had a mental breakdown of this order of magnitude in the middle of a tournament game before. Usually, I can correct fuzzy thinking with auto-suggestion right away, but this was like a dam breaking. Despite all this, computer critique reveals I didn't really play poorly. I futzed about trying to get a bingo down with my later racks, but by the time I did, she had scored enough to pull away. I lost 406-427. I said nice game, and staggered away crushed.
Now, I said, you gotta win this game to make sure you don't go below .500 again. There's, of course, no shortage of tough players at the WSC, and I get Dylan Early of South Africa who is probably just as desperate as I to get to .500. I pick the blank first tile out of the bag, and am on an uptick til the J and Q follow close behind, yielding AAAJOQ?. I pass 5 and he opens with DIRTY h8. I get AENUPY?, and the first thing I think of is PYENGADU! which is a complete air-ball as far as hitting the premium squares. A couple seconds later, I think of UNP(L)AYED which is 25 more points. A couple turns later I have SEANCES but nowhere to play it due to the right angle formed by UNPLAYED and DIRTY:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o -> jaygee ACEENSS 111 ----------------------------- DylanEarly ------- 91 1|= ' = ' =| 2| - " " - | 3| - ' ' - | 4|' - ' - '| 5| - - | 6| " " " " | 7| ' H ' ' ' | 8|U N P l A Y E D ' =| 9| ' V ' I ' ' | 10| " I " R " " | 11| M O T - | 12|' O U Y - '| 13| - O R ' I ' - | 14| - I " N " - | 15|= ' G ' =| -----------------------------The best play is INCREASES at 10e for 65 points. Whether I was in any mental condition to be finding 9's through discontiguous tiles will never be known as I elatedly played NASCENSE at b8. It wasn't til the perfunctory challenge came back with the word disallowed that I even considered that I had made a completely boneheaded play. He makes a nice play, and I try to open the board for my S's. He immediately puts down GANDERS to "my" spot, and I've gone from rolling to deep trouble in just a few turns. I squirm like a fish on a hook for a few turns before stumbling into ALATIONS b2 to pull within 20. I pick the second blank on this draw along with EEKMOS. No bingos play, but I do get down MEEK a1 for 60 the next turn, and now I'm back in game. The board is shutting down, so I had enough presence of mind to not pin all my winning hopes on getting a blank bingo. With this in mind, I gladly burn my S for a 26 point play, and keep an eye out for the five unseen E's which might steer my below average leave into something bingoable. Luck smiled on me as I left the J and Z in the bag and picked EER which was good for bingos in two spots. Next turn, I played GOVERnED off of the G in DIRTYING, but if I had a gun to my head, I would've laid down HOOVERED off of the H in WEALTH, which I was only 95% sure was a verb. Given that 89 points were probably just as good as 95 points there, I took no chances. There was still a worry of picking the J and Z and him having some 60-point special, but that was not to be. He plays WIZ and I play JERID to go out. I win 459-399, but I think we're both pretty dissatisfied with the game. Being the guy who fights and fights only to lose to a late blank bingo is something I could relate to, and I felt bad for him in some kind of Betazoid empathic way I never feel for anyone. We're sitting there after the game, and he's saying something, and I can barely hear him, and I'm just drifting off in some kind of resignedness like a zebra that's just been dragged down by a lion and doesn't fight, doesn't yell, doesn't kick, just gets a glazy look in its eye and walks toward the light at the end of the tunnel. The emotional turmoil I had somehow postponed last round was coming back and with interest.
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