SCRABBLE ALL*STARS 2003 Commentary: Round 9
Go to: Before the Tournament, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 6, Round 7, Round 8, Round 9, Round 10, Round 11, Round 12, Round 13, Round 14, Round 15, Round 16, Round 17, Round 18, Final Round 1, Final Round 2, Final Round 3, Final Round 4, After the Tournament.
John D. Williams, Jr., took to the podium this morning to tell us that it was "Lights, Camera, Action" today and for everyone to be prepared. ESPN is here in full force setting up the "theatre" next door to this room where the finals will be held. David from ESPN has been hanging like a monkey from the lighting grid over there getting the lights just so. For this finals this year, instead of a big screen that can sometimes be blurry, we'll be using a state-of-the-art plasma screen tv screen, which is smaller, but incredibly sharp. On the stage to the left of the screen are four directors chairs and behind it all, suspended in front of the black curtained background are giant tiles spelling out ESPN and other words (going on memory here).
Charlie Southwell, ever trying to set the rounds off with a bit of humor, looked over to board 1 where Kristen Chew and Gregg Foster were annotating Brian Cappelletto (Chicago, IL) vs Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY), and said, "In addition to other acceptable reasons for pausing the clock during game play, should your annotator go into labor, you are permitted to stop the clock." All eyes turned to Kristen, who is due November 15, and I don't think I've ever seen her blush a greater shade of pink!
As games were starting, tiles clinking, I heard Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY) ask an ESPN producer if he should use a preferred color of tile for their cameras. He even offered to show color choices to see if any were better than another. The producer assured him that any color he chose to use would be good for them!
Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) just classes up the joint everywhere he goes. Today, sitting at board 2, he is a suit jacket that is a unique cross between a houndstooth pattern and a plaid. When I asked him to define it, he said it was "adjective fine."
Of all the players in the room who received event t-shirts in their goodie bags, only Ron Tiekert (Alpharetta, GA) chose to wear his today. It is a brilliant white with the blue & red logo encircled with a bit of yellow. Not to be shown up, his annotator this round, Milt Wertheimer, is also wearing his. One's eye is drawn to that corner of the room!
Brian Cappelletto (Chicago, IL) is demonstrating his unique tile drawing technique this round. At board 1, he hunches ever so slightly forward and down, bending at the waist, raising the bag above his dipped head, and withdraws tiles one at a time and places them face down on the table. I think the motion is more noticeable this round because he is using Joel Sherman's (Bronx, NY) tile bag, which is made of a shiny material that resembles a rain slicker or a soft-sided lunch box. The effect is a bag that stands up, literally, doesn't flop over, and stays larger than life throughout the game. Nice bag!
As I wander the room, I see Marlon Hill (Baltimore, MD) put down F?ENSERS. His opponent, Jerry Lerman (Foster City, CA) hands him a blank designation form. Marlon says "L", writes "L", and then says, "wait, I'm not sure if that is what it will be. I haven't hit my clock yet." He then says, "L" again and hits his clock. As they are both writing it down, Marlon pauses the clock to ask Charlie Southwell, who is passing by, if he could have changed the blank designation to another letter after he had written and announced it BEFORE he hit his clock. He was assured he could. Then he resumed Jerry's clock and the game went on with FLENSERS unchallenged. Sitting at the corner table closest to me this round, I've heard Marlon more this game than in any of yesterday's game. He is sighing louder and just making his presence more known.
At the next table David Boys (Dorval QC) is suffering from vowelitis. His rack is OAIUEOI. He is calm, sitting with his legs crossed with a tiny white pad for tracking sitting on his upper knee. I miss his play, but I note he doesn't exchange. This reminds me of something Gregg Foster, an annotator, said about yesterday's play. He had the chance to annotate Dave Wiegand (Portland, OR) all day and he said that he really enjoyed observing David play through bad racks. Gregg acknowledged that David had a lot of dreck all day long, but it didn't seem to bother him. He played through the difficult racks with finesse, finding plays that continually cleaned out his rack, preparing for a better rack each time. I guess they don't call them the All*Stars for nothing!
Looking for the small things (some might say minutiae), I noticed that Jim Kramer (Roseville, MN) has the tiles NORR on his rack. This observation continues at the next board where I see the opening play was JAYGEE! One of North America's best players, Jim Geary, just missed qualifying for this event, but as Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY) said to me later, "Jim made it after all! Did you see that play!?" It's nice to see that the "small" things are of interest to others, too. :)
At table 5, Joe Edley (Coram, NY) falls to John Luebkemann (Charlotte, NC), 459-390. It is often hard to tell who wins and who loses these games because the players are so focused and serious no matter what the outcome! Spying John's sheet I see the score and Joe's late game bingo on the triple lane of LEMUROID for 86. John got down PIETIST for 75, BILLoWED through the I for 67 and HYAENaS for 112, a double-double. John is a cumulative-score-only scorekeeper and he knows that I like to know how much each play was worth, so while Joe is doing a quiet endgame discussion with him, without me even having to ask, he writes down the bingo scores near the bingos for me. I like this kind of assistance. He's my kind of expert!
At table 6, Sam Kantimathi (El Dorado Hills, CA) falls to Paul Epstein (Ann Arbor, MI) 411-397. On their board I see InTROMIT, VINTAGES, LIQUORS, and PANDIES. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Sam has the aircraft carrier of clipboard/tracking sheet combos! He lays it on his lap and leans it up against the table in front of him. A lot of his writing on the sheet is done in different colors: green, blue, black. I count 13 different colored pens and markers on his side of the table!
David Gibson (Spartanburg, SC) had a big game this round vs. Joey Mallick (Cape Elizabeth, ME), 501-288. He said he needed it. He opened with BROMALS for 78 and then got down TEnORITE to the E, CONQUER, and ECHIDNAS. He points out Joey's DERISION to the N and EUTAXY plays.
Susi Tiekert, helping again today, pointed out Tim Adamson's (Saint Paul, MN) rack. His letters are sideways, upside down, and even backwards! He must not be a shuffler like me! He defeated Jeremiah Mead (Chelmsford, MA) this round, 436-399. Jere got down PROTEAN for 74 and OUTCaVIL through the V for 74. Tim played PELORIA for 82 and REGAINED for 80. In the end game, he played CoZ/oDE/ZAG for 52 points, with the Z on the double letter square. That play wowed me, but he pointed out that maybe COZY on the board's top left would have been better, for more points. Always maximizing their plays even when they win! Which is a point to be made, seriously. These players are at every turn making the best play all the time. There is no playing off, hoping it will get better. They actually "plan" for it to get better. And they make manifest such beautiful plays! Jere said to me as I stepped away, "Tim exercised board control beautifully throughout this game." Always nice for your losing opponent to be such a sportsman!
Joel Wapnick (Montréal QC) defeated Randy Hersom (Morganton, NC) this round, 567-380. Just a plain good guy, Randy led me through the board's better plays. Joel played NATIVIsT to the T for 83, PATIENCE through the A for 78, OCHREATE* through the C for 78, and OUTRACE for 63. Randy got down DUELERS for 70 and the lovely LITERaTI through the second T for 72.
Two challenges this round: RETAL* ruled not acceptable and QUACKIER* ruled the same. I see that the latter was played in a game between Trey Wright (Beverly Hills, CA) and Joe Weinike (New York, NY). Trey won, 423-419, despite his phoney being challenged off. Trey got down ADNATIoN from the A down the triple lane and BEAVERS and AQUIFER. Joe played TESTIER/ARFS. Trey admitted, "I pulled the bag." Margaret Bauer Williams and Charlene White, visiting expert players, crowded around Joe and pumped him up despite the loss. Ever in good spirits, I'm not sure he needed much pumping. Margaret said to me, "We came to cheer up Milt Wertheimer because we heard he was undefeated!" Nice joke, Milt is undefeated: he is annotating!
A one-point win for Rich Baker (Westhampton Beach, NY) vs. Rita Norr (Danbury, CT), 356-355. They quietly explained that there was one tile left in the bag, and Rich held ANNJEEC. He was ahead by 76 and passed fearful of the Q and her bingoing, leaving him with the tiles on his rack. She held seven of these with one unseen in the bag: QUILTR??. She chose to play the non-bingo TORQUaTe for 75 down the triple to pull within 1 point. Rich then played EJECT for 15, Rita played LI for 9, going out and got 9 from his rack, but was still one point short. This type of situation is hard to explain, a bit, how the endgame can change for top players who are constantly thinking ahead, playing the odds of what could happen. Frankly, my head is swimming!
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