Sunday, April 13, 2008

NeoScrabble's Spring Fling

Posted by Tina
What started out as an inconvenience this week turned into an opportunity to represent West Virginia in a one-day Scrabble tournament! NeoScrabble (Northeast Ohio Scrabble) had their Spring Fling on Saturday just outside of Akron. I had previously learned that I had to go to Akron this weekend to pick up my sister's grandmother's cedar chest. (My sister's grandmother passed away about 13 years but her husband, my sister's step-grandfather, had just died late last year.) Frustrated with the thought of spending at least $100 in gas and traveling money, I checked Cross-Tables to see if maybe, just by some chance, I might get in some Scrabble during the trip. I lucked out and Dallas, NeoScrabble's Montrose club director, was taking late registrations.

So Saturday 5:30 a.m. found my husband and I on the road to Ohio. Shortly before 9:00 in the morning, I was enjoying my free, tournament-provided breakfast buffet (including fresh fruit, muffins, juices, yogurt, and more!). Did I mention the view? The tournament was held in Furnace Run Metro Park in a well-appointed, indoor shelter with walls of windows and nothing but a view of the woods and a lake. Though the morning was somewhat overcast, the view was, by far, the most beautiful I've had during a Scrabble tournament.

By shortly after 9:00 a.m., I was getting my first game started against a tall young man that I thought for sure might be graduating college soon. Turns out, Christopher was a 15-year-old who already had a rating of 998 going into the tournament. That first game resulted in my first mark in the “L” column and a pretty sizable negative point spread (his 419 points to my 249). He did, however, have a shiny new board from and I was able to spend a few minutes examining it in an attempt to discover its maker's secrets. (I just made my first board and, although I learned a few lessons, I was pretty happy with the results.) Here's the game...and the board:

Aside from the severe ass-whoopin I received, about the only notable things about the game was the board and Christopher's 4th move...a 79-point bingo for SOOTIER. I enjoyed the game, though, and the chance to check out the board. Christopher was polite and good-natured so there was no touchdown dance after his win. Maybe he experienced some of the same guilt Chris does with beating a petite, friendly person like myself.

My next opponent, Dennis, was a man with a quiet nature and, thus far, no rating (and a bye in the first round). When he sat down, since he didn't have a rating, I asked what he did for a living (which would give me some idea about what to expect). He said, “I'm an accountant” and I offered him some support on his first tournament game saying, “Well, then, you'll come out of this with a nice rating. People think Scrabble is about knowing how to spell but it's really a math person's game.” He obviously didn't need my ego boosting on his Scrabble skills but his face brightened a little at our common thinking. He agreed with me and we started a very pleasant game. Since I'm a creature of habit, I decided to get my arse kicked here, too.

After my fourth turn, I had racked up an amazing 35 points with GAP, NOR, a 2-tile exchange, and RITES. Dennis had started off slowly, as well, but had 76 points. Still unable to get a good rack (heh, heh, hehahhhh...) I maxed out my scoring ability with FAXED on a corner square. Dennis had steadily accumulated 30-point words, not to mention a bingo with TINIEST on the 6th play, and came out with a debut score of 397 to my 317. Of course, Dennis was a good sport and we parted ways with friendly words.

In the third round, I had a bye...then, lunch! Linda, Mary Kay, and Diane, all of whom I had met in the recent Elyria tournament, sat with me during lunch and we had a great time talking about Scrabble and pets and kids. They're all such nice women, I was glad to see (and play Scrabble with) them again. Lunch was also provided with the cost of the tournament. Dallas' wife had prepared a wonderful buffet for us (and she had prepared the breakfast one) including beef barbeque, pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, chips...and a whole table of cookies, fudge, cake, and other treats!!! Lunch was so awesome and it was really convenient not to have to venture out into a strange town and find someplace decent to eat.

The 4th round was my game against Joyce, a strong player who came into the tournament with a rating of 869. As usual, I like to start my games off real slow, you know...lull my opponent into a false sense of security. I stuck to that M.O. with Joyce but did manage to accumulate 64 points by the end of my 4th turn. Finally, I made my first bingo of the day with RESALER* for 74 points. Joyce sais, "hold," and thought for a minute before telling me to go ahead and draw my tiles. The next turn, I added a “P” for 43 points. A few turns later, she played TRIAGED for 62 points. Toward the end of the game, I managed SHELVING on a red square for 89 points. In the end, I had finally secured my first victory with 392 points to Joyce's 350.

Second-guessing not challenging RESALER* and PRESALER*, Joyce checked them on her Franklin and found out they were phonies. I really, really thought they were good. In fact, I could have sworn that I had seen them both on a word list or in a dictionary before and thought, “huh...those look odd.” Guess not. (Joyce has also taken, and passed, NSA's director's test, so she was nice enough to answer several questions I had as we went along about certain rules of play.)

My 5th, 6th, and 7th round games were against Linda (2) and Mary Kay. The 5th and 6th round games didn't send anyone's ratings into the stratosphere as Linda and I scored 306 and 322 (respectively) and as Mary Kay scored 326 to my 318.

In the 7th game, though, Linda beat me like a rented mule (that cliche's for you, J-Si) with PUNIEST (72 points), QUAY (48 points), and SHELTER (77 points). Linda's 471 points made for a bit of a tough closing for me and my 306 points.

I ended the tournament with a 3-4 record and a -315 point spread. But I am...NAHT...sorry I went. Dallas put on a great tourney and I love talking to the people I've met at other Scrabble events and meeting new people.

After the tournament, most of the group relocated to the local Dairy Queen for the awards ceremony. The park's rules against exchanging money on the premises required it. Well, it required no money changing hands on the premises, not necessarily that the money then be exchanged at the DQ. Anyway, I didn't place in the tournament but I did win some prizes! I won one of the door prizes, an original piece of art with a...well...”artistic” Scrabble theme:

I also managed to win both special “tournament words” competitions by playing SHELVING. The prizes were for the words including the most letters in “Spring” and “Fling” with the highest score breaking a tie. Shelving had scored me 89 points and $40 which was the exact cost of the tournament entry fee!

After the awards, about seven of us stuck around the DQ to play Taxes Hold Me, a Scrabble board variation of Texas Hold 'Em poker. In what I hear is the usual outcome, Dallas won the game...but was probably slightly less thrilled than usual since the public game had to be played with poker chips as opposed to real cashola. I have to say, I gave him an early run for his “money” even though it was my first time playing. It was a very un-serious end to a day of concentration and I was able to make the statement that I am a “feminist so I'll go on top.” I guess sometimes your subconscious will break through no matter what. My subconscious is funny.

Here's how everyone fared overall:

Division A
5.5-1.5 +446 Dan Stock - $200
5.0-2.0 -28 Jeff Clark - $120
4.0-3.0 +295 George Viebranz - $60
4.0-3.0 +127 Linda Hoggatt
4.0-3.0 +88 Pete Zeigler
3.0-4.0 +149 Eileen Popick
3.0-4.0 -207 Connie Breitbeil
3.0-4.0 -344 Frank Lee
2.5-4.5 -34 Karen Smith
1.0- 6.0 -492 Walter Konicki

Division B
7.0-0.0 +464 Diane Joseph - $200
5.0-2.0 +535 Christopher Walleck - $120
5.0-2.0 +223 Pat Hardwick - $60
4.0-3.0 +49 Tim Smith
4.0-3.0 +44 Cecelia Huber
3.0-4.0 +135 Linda Robinson
3.0-4.0 -4 Joseph Reiben
3.0-4.0 -165 Joyce Stock
3.0-4.0 -224 Dennis Tomlinson
3.0-4.0 -315 Tina Totten King
2.0-5.0 -392 Mary Kay Quinn

Low Probability 7-letter natural, valid bingo - HEARTHS - Mary Kay Quinn - $20
Low Probability 8-letter natural, valid bingo - WITCHING - Jeff Clark - $20

In the end, a bit of a frustrating task turned into a really awesome day. Since Cross-Tables estimated I'd win 1.8 games, I felt okay with my three wins. Dallas was a great host and obviously put a ton of work into the day. I can't wait to get to NEO-Scrabble land again.


  1. Thanks for your kind words, Tina. It was great that you could join us for the tournament. I have been going to that park since I was a kid (my grandmother lived right up the street), and when I decided to run my first fully-rated tournament, I quickly thought of that lodge, as I thought it would be a good venue.

    I don't know if I've mentioned it to any of the WV Scrabblers before, but my family (on my father's side) moved to Akron from WV for jobs in the rubber factories. We were from Richwood, and we traveled back all through my childhood to visit family on Point Mountain (the tallest mountain in WV, I was told all my life -- I should Google that fun fact to make sure it's true).

  2. Represent us, you did.

    Jealous, I am.

  3. Cool. Great write up!

    Thanks for posting the names. I was curious if my ex might have shown up there. I guess the world of competitive Scrabble is still unexplored by her. Good! :-)

  4. Oh, and I LOVE the Scrabble Art! Who designed it? It inspires me.


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