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NSSC 2009 Commentary: Before the Tournament

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Go to: Before the Tournament, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 6, Final Round 1, Award Ceremony.



The machine behind the National School SCRABBLE Championship just keeps getting better every year. The National SCRABBLE Association staff arrived on Wednesday and by Thursday every setup detail was done. All that was left was to show up for registration on Friday morning!

As has been the case for the past several years, the NSSC is being held at the gorgeous Rhode Island Convention Center. The event hotel, connected by a 21st century catwalk, is the Westin Providence. Starting with Thursday evening, the hotel offered Waterplace 1, on the second floor, as a place for game play. Opting to enjoy a table in the lobby, I stumbled upon School SCRABBLE coach Lou J.B. Miller. Once again, Lou has flown in from Oregon to accompany his team to the NSSC. He was just a few plays into his second game with former student, Quincy Cerabino-Hess. Quincy had won their first game (note, Lou is an expert player with a more than 1800 rating!) and was looking poised to do well in this second matchup. As I watched, Quincy played sTORING/QIs/RIFT for 77. Lou was Quincy's coach in 4th and 5th grades before Quincy's family relocated to New Hampshire.

I learn later that Lou managed to eke out a win on that second game. Proving that he can't get enough SCRABBLE, Lou then took on Joey Krafchick & Allison Fisher, Atlanta- Pinckneyville Middle School (GA). Their game still on the board, I spoted anGLERS, AERATION through the I, and CARCELS. It was Lou's win, 392-307.


Registration opened on the top floor of the Convention Center at 10am. Teams streamed into the sunlight atrium space all morning long. After registering and receiving a goodie bag and an event T-shirt, the students milled over to pose for a team photo. Free for the next few hours, some opted to explore the area, heading to the mall or out on to the streets. Many teams sat at tables sprinkled all around the atrium and played many games of SCRABBLE. The Franklin and Merriam-Webster event sponsors each had tables set up near the registration area. Students, coaches, and parents signed up for giveaways, grabbed pamphlets, and thumbed through display dictionaries and electronic devices.

It was great to see the siblings of players, parents, grandparents, and general team entourages.

This year's committee consists of NSA staff members and a committee of NSA members who've long been affiliated with the School SCRABBLE event. John D. Williams, Jr., Jane R. Williams, Joe Edley, Patty Hocker, Theresa Bubb, Meghan Mills, Katie Schulz, and Chelsey Rothman were joined by returning NSA workers Jon Gould and Monica Sledjeski. Once again, Ben Greenwood is directing with his perfect combination of patience and clarity. He is just the right person for this job! Also an NSA educational consultant, Christine Economos is here. John Chew and me on web and Annette Bailey, Donna Paul, Sam Rosin, Joel Sherman are on the floor. Annotating this year: Gregg Foster and former School SCRABBLE phenom, Sam Rosin.

At a bit after 1pm, the pairing were posted so that as the students milled into the playing room, they could find their tables more quickly.

Two long rows of chairs flanked either side of the room behind velvet ropes to keep the onlookers at bay. Nearly every single chair was taken and what looked to be nearly 100 others stood near these chairs and at the far end of the room. This level of interest and enthusiasm was wonderful!

Before long, the room quieted and we began the pre-event announcements covered in the next color commentary section.