Penang YMCA Open Scrabble Tournament 2006

Schoolkids Strut Their Stuff

Reported by Aaron Chong

 

The organizers (well that's us) didn't expect such a massive turnout for the tournament. There were 42 competitors in total. Besides the regulars - Dr Adele, Suanne, John, Chuah, Dr Ng, Jackie, Dr Salahudin, myself - and other Penangites such as Paulette, Zeenath, the Yeoh family and the Seow family, we also received participation from KL players - Pui, Jocelyn and Jin Chor - who wanted to have fun with us and better their ratings for Causeway in this coming December. Moreover, the tournament had seen an influx of young schoolkids who wanted to have a taste of a competitive Scrabble tournament (there were no divisions), especially those who were going to represent Malaysia for the World Youth Scrabble Championship (WYSC).

I played with about seven of these youngsters, including Suanne who was the highest rated junior player in the nation. In my second game I played against a complete newbie who just started playing the game three days ago. I extracted over 450 spread from her. Many apologies.

In the next game I played with one of the Yeoh family, Sue Jane. To my surprise, she utilized all my hot spot openings and scored enough to be neck-on-neck with me. I held my breath when she placed a C on the triple word square seven spaces from the T below. I then sighed in relief, challenging off her bingo attempt CURRIEST*. If she had a D, which was the last tile in the bag during her next turn, I would be toast. In the fifth round I played with Gan Yi En, another promising young Scrabble prodigy, looking forward to avenge for his losses against me at Intercity. Yi En surely had improved tremendously since Intercity, but against me he made an endgame mistake and subsequently lost the game by merely ten points. I hope he won't overdo such mistakes at WYSC.

In round seven, I played with another WYSC rep, Khoo Beng Way, whom I played before at the Times Square sparring session not too long ago. We were neck-on-neck until he played a phony almost at the end of the game, allowing me to open up a triple-word bingo line that eventually I used to perform a bingo outplay. Word knowledge: OK but cut down on phonies. Tactics: You need homework: you could've blocked that bingo line and keep a few ties in the bag.

In round nine, I was matched up with Suanne. I was hoping that it'd be one of those 'I bingo, you bingo. I stinker, you stinker' games. Unfortunately, for Suanne, the game went to me. Despite Suanne playing SEASURE on the second move, I replied with sEEPaGE, followed by OURIEST, AMOTION and RATTEENS to garner a hefty lead. The game would certainly be different if she played ZANELLAS as her first move.

The next day, I had my second tournament game with Loh Vern Sern, another WYSC rep. The game started out slowly and picked up mid-game. Nevertheless, his futile attempts to create openings by fishing and desperate phoneying had allowed me to lead by a mile. In the next game, I played with Martin, the 2003 Under-18 Junior Champion and now studying in college. This was my first lost after a ten win streak. He had all the premium tiles except the K and scored bigly with them. He also had two blanks and played high scoring bingos: EUPhOBIA and SHEETEd, compared to my inferior YEARNING and RESOLUTE. Too bad he'd outgrown of the WYSC (well me too).

The tournament had been a three-way match between Pui, Jocelyn and me. We had the same number of wins until the final three King of the Hill matches, where I triumphed over the both of them. My first KOTH game with Pui had witnessed a power struggle for the H, in which whoever got that would definitely win the game. I gambled in my second KOTH game with Jocelyn in order to retrieve an elusive win. Although she was a furlong ahead in the first half, I tried to recover with sERMONIC, with the O below the triple letter square and the Z and J were still unseen. She blocked it with a P and I dumped more tiles trying to draw the J or the Z. I got both. I had been eyeing on a 72-point TZARS whereby the Z would be placed on the double letter square and the whole word would have its score tripled. There were two tiles remaining. I played off the J to be a point behind Jocelyn, hoping to draw an R since two Rs were unseen. I drew the R, and with Jocelyn failing to block that crucial winning spot, I won the game with TZARS.

With the first two KOTH games being slow and sluggish, and full of gambles, I hoped I would have a more exciting game against Pui in the final round. I played CURRANTS, PAPERINg, CAMISOLE and two regular plays scoring over 50: BORER and HEYED to wrap up the game and the tournament. I won RM400. Whee!

This tournament had shown that PSC was growing into a robust local Scrabble community. Although we planned the YMCA to be a low-profile tournament, the turnout was far beyond our expectations. We hoped that more people would participate in our tournaments and we would like to the organize more next year. Besides the ICT Penang Open we would also like to have monthly mini-tournaments. There had been plans by ICT to organize a championship for schoolchildren. We hoped that the YMCA had prepared the WYSC reps for the championship at Sydney. We wish the best of luck to these youngsters.