Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Club (At?) Tourney!

Yesterday, due to my newfound Cleveland-ness, I was able to attend a Scrabble club tourney in Independence, OH at the quite-yummy restaurant Angie's Pizza. I must digress for a moment to say that while at this tournament, I certainly missed the presence of my (club??) attorney. Michael and I always attend Scrabble tournaments together - but he had to go be a good lawyer and defend constitutional rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, bring justice to the land, all that cwap ;-) ;-)

Is that you I hear, readers? That teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling, the stomping of feet, the plaintive wail: "WHYYYYYY?! She just told us about Scrabble tournaments and now there are club tournaments and she's talking like they're different and I don't understand, oh I will never understand, and besides that she's going on about missing her boyfriend and I don't know WHYYYYYYY I have to put up with all this oh WHYYYY?!"

Okay, I'm overdramatizing and overemphasizing what is not likely a true disaster. But call me Calamity Heather and I Will. Open My CAN. and score over 600 against you on your own Scrabble board with your favorite tiles so quickly your head will spin.

Now that we have that cleared up, no further worries needed. I will explain the club tourney phenomenon.

This isn't something I understood either until a few days ago...but apparently there are fully rated tourneys, and there are partially rated tourneys, AKA club tournaments. As I understand it, a club can say "Hi! We wanna have a tournament! and register it with NSA and actually get their members rating points for it. Club tourneys are usually four games, might be on a weekday night (or whenever the club meets) instead of a weekend day, and are usually a pretty solid chance for everybody to play people of various skill levels. For example, yesterday I played two 1100-something-rated players and two 1500-something-rated players. (As you might expect, I now bear both the scars and the heightened sense of sheer awe that naturally flow from playing those rated 500 points above you).

Anyway, you play four games, and if you're comparatively-low-rated and lucky, you might win a game or two of your four against the tough field. Enter uber-rating-points for you, since mathematical probability (which compares your rating to the ratings of those you played to determine how many games you are statistically supposed to win against these people) maybe says you weren't supposed to win more than a half a game or one game or something - and you just squeaked out two. Club tournaments, though, are not what is called "fully rated" - meaning you don't get all the rating points you'd get after a normal tournament. It's club, it's a small field, NSA apparently doesn't think clubs are as difficult as tourneys - so at the end of a club tourney, you get one-third of the rating points you would get at a regular, fully-rated tournament.

Example: Last night, I played two 1100-something-rated players, and got lucky to pull out two wins. I also played two 1500-something-rated players, and they executed two brilliantly-played and classic massacres of my semi-valiantly-struggling Scrabble corpse. But one of the cool things was, I still pulled out two wins against a field of people who were all higher-ranked than I. Whether you beat a 600-rated player or a 1500-rated player, in the end it all looks the same to the system that figures out your new rating: I pulled out more wins than I was supposed to against a particular field. I determined with the help of the Scrabble ratings calculator that if this had been a fully rated tourney, my rating would have gone up 57 points, from 1040--->1097. But because I'll only get 1/3 of those points, my rating will likely be up about 19 points, and I'll be 1059-ish once it's all calculated and done. Woo hoo!!!!!!

Now for the fun part - talking about the actual games. My first two were clear luck and nothing more by me - I drew well and closed down the board on two opponents I'd never played before. (Heather's Cardinal Rule of Scrabble: I DO NOT TRUST YOU NOT TO BINGO!!!!)

My next two were, as I mentioned, clear and brilliantly-played stiflings of the gasping breath of my Scrabble corpse. Did I mind?! Not in the slightest!

Confucius say: "Playing Scrabble with 1500-rated player instill in 1000-rated player deep sense of wonder and awe."

I learned new words, I marveled at the ability to turn racks like BDEEFIR and ADEILOS into bingos (DEBRIEF 86 and ISOLEAD 75, both played by the eminently skilled Pete Z), I got the chance to see games played by those with a level of skill I can only hope to someday attain. George V made the comment that I'd gotten much better since he'd last played me - which is a great thing and a wonderful compliment! But that also tells me, after a game I lost to George 470-294, that I have a heck of a long way still to go. That's okay. It just tells me one thing, loud and clear. I echo Tina in one of her blog entries:


And that, my friends, is why I study Scrabble words: So that one day, I can walk into a tourney or club and give the Petes and Georges of the Scrabble world a run for their money. This will take more years than I can measure, more time than I can ever dream of having at this moment. I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of Scrabble prowess.

But you know what? The list of three-letter-words-I'm-not-quite-100%-on-yet is beckoning to me. I think I'll go give it a run-through. That way, at the next club meeting or tourney or the next fully-rated tourney (Battle Creek on the 27th, anyone?!?!!?! :) I might know and be able to bring to mind a few more words than I knew at the previous tourneys. And that, while not even close to everything, is certainly something of a step in the right direction. :)

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