I'm writing this on the train to Ottawa - the wifi is a big buggy, but at least it's there. FanExpo is over, and I had a wonderful time.
Today, I divided my time between the trade show and the gaming room -- the crowds weren't as bad as they were yesterday, except in the line to see William Shatner. As much as I would have liked to have seen him, my instense dislike of lineups held sway and I decided to give it a miss. But I bought a few things, got Kelley Armstrong to autograph a copy of one of her books, which I am currently reading, and took some more pictures, including a good one of Summer Glau.
But it was nice to get back to the gaming room, where John Chew was still enticing people into playing Scrabble. He cancelled the planned rated tournament due to lack of participants and whhaen I wandered in at around noon, he was putting a young novice through his paces. I always find that interesting, because it wasn't so long ago (four years and a bit, to be exact) that I was a novice player and made all the same kinds of mistakes. Despite my lacklustre rating (1172 at last count), it's incredible how much I have learned over the past four years about this fascinating game.
Then John asked me if I wanted to play -- and given that I'm not one to turn down a challenge (or, for that matter, any Scrabble game at any time, anywhere), I agreed. At the Ottawa club, I'm the bottom seed in Divison A (my club rating is 1273 and 1200 is the cutoff for the top division) and I had played expert players before, usually losing. So I expected to get trounced, but I was pleasantly surprised by a combination of good tiles and my ability to make the best use of them.
Since I didn't record my racks (I am now determined to start doing so in future), I can't do a full analysis of the game, but I can talk about a few of the highlights. My opening rack contained 3 As and a V, so I opened with an obvious play of AVA - if appears John was a bit vowel-heavy himelf and played FEE. Having rid myself of the junk on my first rack and drawn very well, I was not only able to bingo with FATTIER, but it was a DWS/DWS for 97 points. Two turns later, I found myself with AEGINTX and hoped John would provide me with an open C or L; no such luck, so I played off EX for 22 and drew S?. TASTING tasted just fine hooked to his previous play of DAW - and it wasn't until he responded with EROSION to my first T that I realized that, of course, I should have made the blank a C (I had dismissed WASTING and BASTING because of the possibility of an E back hook to a B or W, but for some stupid reason, CASTING eluded me).
At that point, I was still leading 221-154, and got some mileage out of EROSION sitting next to the TWS line by playing MIB for 38. He then played B(o)ZO for 30 and I was able to respond with 38 points of DO(z)E.
I continued to draw wel and made a few good playsl. I failed to challenge HEROISE(d) - apparently it's good in SOWPODS but not in TWL - but the tile gods were smiling. I was holding the last S (both blanks were gone) and I realized I could play HARK/KI with the H right next to a TWS ,and play something and SHARK next turn for heaps of points. But then I saw the following: 1) If I played HARKS/SI instead, the K would land on a DLS and I'd pick up 53 points on the one play and 2) Given that I still had a good lead, I'd much rather have an H sitting on that wide-open bingo lane than an S.
After playing HARKS, I picked up a J and played JAG for 35. A few small plays on both sides and the final score: 497-372 in my favour. I'm well aware that if I were to play 5 games with John (or any expert player) I'd probably lose 4 of them, but it didn't diminish my pleasure at the victory.
After that, I talked to John about some of the barriers I was facing to improving my game, and we decided to play a game in which he Quackled every move (for the uninitiated, Quackle is a computer program that simulates a game and will tell you what it thinks is the best play for any given rack & board position). I lost that game 420-407, but I learned a great deal about strategy and choosing between a variety of different possible plays. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, and I am grateful to John for his wise counsel.