Intercity Scrabble Tournament 2006
Report and Photos by Aaron Chong
Held from the 18th to 19th of February at Hotel Putra Kuala Lumpur and organized by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to commemorate Federal Territory Day, the Intercity Scrabble Tournament was a unique Scrabble event where players form teams of two, each other cooperating to move up the rank by garnering combined wins and spread. The tournament was divided into two categories: Masters, Non-Masters, School and a special category that comprised of representatives from Bank Negara, Bank Simpanan Nasional and Universiti Malaya. Thankfully, Ganesh Asirvatham entered the tournament as a tournament director instead of a participant, ensuring a tranquil and stampede-free event. And since this is an event sponsored by the government, DBKL was gracious enough to provide free meals: breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, for all players over the two days.
Penang had certainly sent her best representatives for this prestigious event. For the masters category, Ong Suanne and Aaron Chong a.k.a Garfield and Odie were definitely the tournament favorites to win the top prize of RM1200 while the teachers John Lam and Chuah Sim Swee were a force not to be underestimated. Doctors Ng Chee Eng and Adele Tan, Yeoh Eiu Jun and Lee Yee Fun, and siblings Yeoh Sue Ann and Yeoh Sue Jane joined the non-masters category. Paulette Yeoh, another PSC member, had played the role of a renegado by teaming up with Sarah Law who has come all the way from Singapore to join the non-masters division.
It's not smooth sailing after all...
Although Ong Suanne and Aaron Chong were considered the strongest team, many unexpected surprises had befallen on the dynamic, brattish duo. It began in day one at round 3 when Seshi Ramanathan obtained a win over Aaron by playing heart-breaking moves such as MITTENED as a four-timer and CONVEXES, an extension from VEXES that touched the triple word square to score 60 points. After lunch, Suanne lost three games in a row, while Aaron struggled with unbalanced tiles and had to rely on strategy to win his games with slim spread. When playing with Gan Yi En, a Malaccan school-leaver who was waiting for his SPM results, Aaron was lucky that Yi En missed two enormous plays: EQUALISE and EXONUMIA, phoneyed on a bingo and a 5-letter word, and sabotaged the balance of his later racks by dumping vowels that were about to be depleted from the pool, allowing the USM student to reclaim the lead later in the game and win.
In day two, Aaron arrived at the tournament thirty minutes late for being unaware of a change in the schedule. Suanne and Aaron both started strongly in round 10 where Suanne beat Jocelyn Lor by 204 points with a non-bingo nine-timer, LIONISER, and a nine-letter-bingo, REFRACTOR, and Aaron beat Chim Wai Main by 213 points by outscoring Chim in every turn and Q-sticking Chim during endgame. After game 10, the two Penang teams emerged as strong frontrunners; Ong Suanne and Aaron Chong were in first spread with a combined spread of over 1000 while John Lam and Chuah Sim Swee became second. Both teams played with each other thrice over the next game. In round 11, Suanne trashed Sim Swee while Aaron beat John by keeping him stuck with the Q. In round 12 where Aaron faced Sim Swee while Suanne faced John, John and Sim Swee redeemed themselves from their previous loss by beating the brats. In round 13, Suanne and Aaron retaliated and defeated John and Sim Swee, and after the round, Tan Jin Chor and Yi En surprised the Penangites by accumulating about 600 spread from Martin Yeo and Seshi to move up to second place, pushing John and Sim Swee down a rung with their superior spread. In round 14, Jin Chor and Yi En beat Aaron and Suanne respectively.
Suanne and Aaron's losses in round 14 jeopardized their comfortable lead against the other six teams. Jin Chor and Yi En were only two wins and 388 spread behind the leaders, and that meant that Suanne and Aaron had to stop the dark-horse duo from trashing them by more than 194 spread in each of their game in order to win the overall tournament.
In the final round, and once again, Aaron sneaked away with a win from Yi En when Yi En failed to block his incoming bingo, RETRAITS, and phoneyed with KIAE. That win ultimately confirmed Suanne and Aaron as the champions. Despite that, Suanne was disappointed that she had lost to Jin Chor, marking her sixth loss of the tournament. John and Sim Swee had been pushed down from 3rd to 4th and allowed Raja Fuadin and Tengku Asri to snatch 3rd place, resulting from a net spread loss from their games with Chim and Jocelyn.
In the non-master category, Paulette and Sarah were 3rd while doctors Ng and Adele finished at 4th position. Although Eiu Jun, Yee Fun, Sue Ann and Sue Jane ended up in the bottom of the rankings, they were glad to have come all the way from Penang to represent their home city.
Little star shines bright...
William Kang, an 11-year-old from Subang Jaya was undoubtedly the cynosure of the tournament. Escorted by his father and teamed up with Irene Lim to join the non-masters division, William Kang won all 15 games and flexed his versatile word power that had surprised his much older opponents. There was no denying that William would join the ranks of young Malaysian Scrabble players who had made breakthroughs in the master Scrabble scene. Ong Suanne and Yi En both did well in the masters division and the tournament had been a good indicator that Malaysia would do superbly in the forthcoming World Youth Championships (WYC).