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NSSC 2009 Commentary: Round 1

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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.

Round 1

Randolph Middle School (NC) sat down for round 1 and their opponents, Floyd T. Binns Middle School #1 (VA), had taken the same plane as them here! Hannah Lieberman said, "This is weird!"

At a nearby table, Conor from Glenfield Middle School (NJ) was concentrating on the tracking sheet/score sheet while he waited for announcements to start.

Sage School #2 (MA) has a series of plushy, non-edible "peeps" on their table. I'm told they are "incredible" good luck charms!

John D. Williams, Jr., made opening announcements while event worker bees ran around the room making sure team numbers were proper and the right teams were at the right tables. In addition to wishing the students good luck and acknowledging the returning and new players, John read two letters written specifically to the students at this event. The first one was from Shaquille O'Neal. He gave the NSA one of his giant signed jersies to present to the team that makes the highest-scoring Q play in the event. The students were surprised and delighted.

The second letter was from President Barak Obama. The entire Obama family plays SCRABBLE so he wished the students well and many triple-letter-words. The squeals of delight that were heard throughout the room were wonderful. These two letters are being kept at the event press table and any attendee who wants to touch and read them from themselves has been encouraged to do so.

Event director, Ben Greenwood, then took to the podium. He made sure the students were aware of five important rules (in addition to all the others they've been taught). They consisted of sportsmanship, use of the challenge machines equipped with zzyzyva, bag above eye level, proper paperwork, and end of game procedures.

We started with all 102 teams! Yeah!I

As the games began, the first challenge I caught was Our Lady of Victory Baltimore #2 (MD) and Salem Elementary #1 (NC). The challenged word, DET*, came off the board.

I watch a Braintree Elementary School #1 (VT) vs. Salem Elementary #2 (NC) team playing. After the Braintree team announced their score, their opponents politely corrected them. The play had initially been underscored.

I walk by a board and see Seawell Elementary School (NC) slap down ENTIRES for 73. At that table Perry Elementary (PA) has a player with a personalized tracking sheet. Check out the photos this round: way to go Riley! When their game finishes, I see that Seawell played four bingos: HEAVIER for 73, STRANGE for 81, ENTIRES for 73, and REGINAL for 74. I find the Seawell coach, David Klionsky, in the back of the room and he tells me that he has 40 students in his School SCRABBLE club and that this strong team he's brought is two 5th graders. They will be back again!

In an Our Lady of Victory Baltimore #4 (MD) vs. Bay Area Youth SCRABBLE #3 (CA) game I saw GARDENS/HUNKS for 80!

Armuchee Elementary School #3 (GA) has a dreadful rack midgame this round: EEIIUUL.

On a Lexington MA SCRABBLE Club #108 (MA) vs. Windham Middle School #2 (NH) board, I see STRONGER for 59 and STaNTED for 81.

Janney Elementary School #1 (DC) vs. Chappaqua School SCRABBLE Club (NY). At the midway point they are 192-202 and Janney has just played RAIsERS/ARTs for 69.

Former three-time National Champion Joe Edley tells me that the number of correct challenges is much higher this year. Even only part-way into the first round he is seeing much less frivolous challenges. For emphasis he says that the students "know their stuff!" Ben Greenwood walks by and concurs that the challenges are better and that they are more numerous. The students aren't just taking any play made, but are actually looking at the plays and challenging bad ones off the board. This may seem like a silly thing to say, but in years past there was almost a fear of challenging. Let's just say, this group is fearless!

A heartbreaking situation. Bay Area Youth SCRABBLE #1 (CA) found the lovely ZEaLOUS but hooked it to the board creating EDE*. They picked the wrong team to try this dubious three-letter-word on as Atlanta- Pinckneyville Middle School (GA) challenged the play off the board. I find out later that the team from Atlanta won that game.

I see Town of DeWitt School SCRABBLE (NY) play ReTAINED for 64 this round.

On a Carlisle SCRABBLE Team (MA) vs. Lexington Montessori School #1 (MA) board, I see hERRING for 83 and SLINKER* for 97 for the girls from Lexington. The boys from Carlisle played DRAFTInG through the R for 76 and NUMBERS for 83.

A student from Mount Pleasant Christian School #1 (MD) was counting a high-scoring play on this fingers for emphasis. It was dramatic and effective! Their opponents, Western Hills Middle School (RI), are fashion forward today with their long brunette tresses interspersed with streaks of metallic blue hair dye.

Good sportsmanship always gets me. I hear Randolph Middle School (NC) say to Floyd T. Binns Middle School #1 (VA),"great game, thanks for playing, and sorry the tiles were so uneven." All four players exchanged handshakes and smiles. I glanced at the scoresheet and saw a 478-195 victory for Randolph. Hannah Lieberman is following in her older brother's footsteps. Noah played in School SCRABBLE events until he aged out last year. Proving that SCRABBLE is indeed a family affair, Hannah and Noah play in many adult tournaments with their mom and coach, Katya Lezin.