Sunday, September 27, 2009

A few spoonfuls of Division B thoughts: Battle Creek Cereal Bowl

For some, winning is important. For others, including me, winning is kinda scary. Happened to win Division B in yesterday's one-day Battle Creek tournament, and am now invaded with the righteous fear of the most idolized entity in Scrabble, the Increasing Rating. But first, a few highlights from the tourney as I saw it --

1. Had good tiles. Didn't do anything I thought was too dumb, (of course, Quackle will soon disabuse me of that notion, I'm sure) other than playing DECENTER to an open R against an opponent and leaving the D right next to a triple. Thought process being, "There's gotta be a bingo in here! Hey, DECENTER could be good. Anything else? Hmmm, RECENTED* - no...okay, we'll go with this and hope it looks as plausible as I think it does. Hit the clock. Had OH SHIT moment immediately following, realizing CENTERED, you idiot, play CENTERED, and he can't get back at me with a triple word on his next turn. DECENTER gets challenged; I thoroughly doubt myself; have further OH SHIT moment realizing a worse thing than an opponent making a good play after a bingo is losing a turn. But the Scrabble gods like me, DECENTER comes back good, and it's my triple! I'm keeping it!!!!!!! Rest of game goes happily.

*note: apparently DECENTER means both "more decent" (which is what I was thinking when I played it) and "to put out of center/make eccentric". Therefore, it even takes an -S!

2. Strategy was apparently good (in those games, at that time, lol). One feel-good moment for me was in the endgame of my last game. End rack was BELOUVW; opponent's was AOOUS. Close game. This opponent capable of very good thinking and strategy. Had to get out in two to win; opponent had 10 min and I had like 1:30 on my clock. Opponent's turn; she's taking a while. I see BLEW for 28 points or so; hey, that would put me ahead, but what does one then do with a rack like VOU to go out?! (laments one's horribly-lacking knowledge of fours, that's what one does). Please please please there has to be a better play. Suddenly I see the other use of the open R, the double word above, and the double-letter three spaces below: VROUW, 30 points, leaving me with BEL. That's actually a word!!! Could I put it anywhere? Dude - I see two places for BEL, right off the bat. Score!!!! That is, if she doesn't block my spot, the only spot I can really see to secure this for me. She thinks I'm going to play WEB with the B on a triple letter for 28 points or so and decides to block that spot, well away from mine, with AMINO for 9. Yay! I win!

3. Got lucky; several challenges elicited on good words like TRODE, DATARIES, etc., that allowed me to build lead/catch up significantly. I was once told, "Even if you're more than 100 points behind, you still have to try to find a way to win it." Coming from behind is way easier if you happen to run into luck like I did.

4. AND if you take it one play at a time. I'm always telling myself: there is no pressure on you and there is no correct pre-conceived notion about how a game is going to turn out. There's just a rack of letters in front of you and you just need to figure out each time what the best thing you can do with them is. One game at a time. One rack at a time. One play at a time. Without that mentality, I never would have been in the right frame of mind to see that I could come back from being behind 70 points AND being nowhere close to a bingo toward the end of a game. But when your opponent challenges a 30 point play, it's good, and you draw the tiles to make a 36-point play immediately following, suddenly the game seems a lot more winnable.

All in all, I felt like I was as smart as a 1200-ish player (maybe soon to be 1300? rating will be 1285 after this according to one calculation and 1313 according to another...we shall see) can legitimately be on any given day. But the goal in this game, as ever, is to work to be even smarter...more on that in the next blog post!

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