Let's Beat Him
After a rousing welcome of "It's 'Beat Graeme Night' tonight" led by Rene, I sat down to my first game against Val feeling somewhat queasy - though I think it was more to do with something I ate earlier in the day.
After a lucky 12 bingos to nil performance last week I braced myself for some horror pickups. From AIIBLNN I selected ABLIN to open. Little did I know that this would lead to my downfall! Val played VALI which I commented was appropriate, but soon she was spending her big bills freely with LEZ, WINY, QATS, SEC before squashing my hopes of some decent tiles by hooking a G onto my ABLIN with FEeDiNG. In spite of my best rack-balancing efforts I could only produce small change like YIN, VEEP, UFO, KAROO (35), (P)AINT, AERO, AUDIT, XU (50), DOH, LIND, JATO (43), BRE(W)ER and HOSEN. "Karma" I mused.
Next was Maggie who, having lent her reading glasses to Jean, quipped that I would have to read out the words and scores to her after each move - so perhaps I wouldn't dare beat a blind lady. She needn't have worried. I had to help her locate the board's centre square but she tried *WINDIES, claiming it's something you get when you eat gas-producing food. Nonetheless, I struggled again to counter with anything significant until I was able to assemble AEIGLSS on rack number 5. I thought about *ALGISES which I later realised was meant to come out ALGESIS. I then saw SILAGES for a lowish score before settling on GLASSIE, spouting its "a glass marble" meaning to a doubting Maggie. I didn't know LIGASES - which sounds like it would have a similar meaning to Maggie's *WINDIES. Soon, Maggie assembled SANDIeR and SEZ (43) to forge out a comfortable win while I fumbled again with puny plays like TIRR, OUTGO, JO(T), VILD, BY, CALX (52), (C)AMO, (M)EU, IDE and QAT. Maggie inadvertantly blocked my surprise bingo spot that required an E front-hook of PACT that I could have otherwise grabbed with ERODENT. This was hardly any improvement on my first game. Would my luck change in game three?
Keith was next up. There's no better jinx than when your opponent says that you always beat them. Keith changed his whole rack and I did likewise when confronted with IIIUCWY. I extended his opening AFAR to AFARA with BLARE and by rack 4 had assembles EEOSTT?. I selected rOSETTE out of the many possibilities and by the 9th rack was looking at IUQNRTT. The E of rOSETTE was still sticking out invitingly and my heart throbbed faster as a rare opportunity was suddenly obvious to me. There were plenty of other scoring opportunities, but for some reason Keith chose to dump ION parallel to the TE ending of rOSETTE, foiling my chance of playing the unlikely QUITR(E)NT. To rub salt into my wounds, he was able to later hook SPLINES onto his ION to clinch a win whilst I once more struggled with rack balance. There was an ironic symmetry to this game when my earlier discarded tiles lay in wait to help reprise my opening rack of IIIUCWY.
The tortuous night was soon going to be over as I faced a "sympathetic" Rene in the final game. My CRUX, WE(X)ED and QAT openings were followed by my flippant UNAI dump - leaving a juicy TWS opening for Rene. She could only take it with ION, for 11 points. I played WAILERS to take a lead for the first time over any of my four opponents. The tide had turned! However, 3 moves later Rene played RESISTS then REMiTtED to even up the game. The turn before, I had played an extravagant HELLO for 35 points, creating two TWS openings and leaving the other TWS opening that Rene had created for her impending double-blank bingo. The ploy worked in that I was able to score enough points with NOTING to a TWS to secure a tight win. My last letter was an A but there wasn't enough room to play ATONING. When the game was over, Rene discovered that I had played the false *LOH when I played HELLO. At the time she had stated that it didn't take an S but neither of us realised that that was because it was a phoney in the first place!
The tile gods were having fun with me this week. One blank from a possible eight, six from sixteen S's combined with horrifically-balanced racks afforded me a return of just 3 bingos from 4 games. My opponents managed 5 bingos. Last week I had managed 3 bingos in each game to none against. It's amazing how luck swings around from day to day. I am now looking forward to an inevitable upswing this weekend at the State Challenge in Potts Point when I take my place beside NSW teammates Mark Smith and John Barker. Go the Blues!
Just for the record, president Natalie cleaned up with 1st place, highest game (3 bingos) and highest non-bingo scratchie prizes. Jean got 3rd place and highest word with PRISING (also makes RISPING and SPIRING). Lovely Lila took second place. The rest of us got a "Thanks for coming".