Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My 2011 in Scrabble

Lots going on but little I'm inclined to write about here just yet, so I'll turn to a familiar subject. I'm not playing any more tournaments this year, so I'll recap my 2011 Scrabble season:

February: Texas State Championship, Salado, TX. Finished 1st of 14; won this event for the second time (previous win was in 2008). North American TWL rating up from 1941 to 1970.

March: Dallas Open, Dallas, TX. Finished 3rd of 70; lost a close final game to the first-place finisher, Dave Wiegand. North American TWL rating up from 1970 to 2014, a new peak rating; new peak rank of #7 in North America. A couple of club members made me a cake!

Later in March: West Coast World Championship Wordlist Challenge, Ashland, OR. Switching to the big word list now. Finished 4th of 18, just out of the money; would have finished 2nd or 3rd with a win in the final game, but Nathan Benedict bingoed out to beat me. North American Collins rating down from 1986 to 1968. (Note: "Collins" refers to the word list, published by the Collins dictionary company, used in tournaments everywhere except North America and for a small but growing number of tournaments in North America; "TWL" refers to the smaller North American word list.)

Memorial Day, Houston, TX: Finished 4th of 14, just out of the money again, by losing the final game by a mere 10 points to second-place finisher Orry Swift. The game began with five passes, and had I made a sixth pass the game would have ended in a tie and I would have finished 3rd. Tough call to make in the moment; I chose to play it out, but in retrospect passing was probably better. Oh well. North American TWL rating down from 2014 to 2004.

Austin June one-day tournament: Finished 1st, 4-2 record, playing in our first-ever Collins division. North American Collins rating slipped just a bit, down from 1968 to 1962.

July 4 weekend, one-day San Antonio tournament: Finished 5th of 6, 2-4 record, North American TWL rating down from 2004 to 1968. Near-total trainwreck. One-days can go that way sometimes. Glad to see tournament Scrabble action in San Antonio, though!

National Scrabble Championship, August, Dallas, TX: After a miserable NSC in 2010, I had hopes of redeeming myself. It looked good halfway through, as I was 12-4 and playing at Table 1...and then I went on one of the worst losing skids I've ever had, losing 10 of 11. Finished 16-14-1, 40th place of 108 in Division 1, North American TWL rating down from 1968 to 1928. Not as bad as the previous year's debacle, but still a poor result. I'm very happy about one thing, though: I've never been calmer or more Zen at a tournament than I was in Dallas. Surprised myself how well I handled the roller-coaster ride emotionally, and I didn't feel bad about the outcome. I did my best, that's all you can do. I think that calm, if I can maintain it, will help me in future tournaments.

Austin August one-day tournament: TWL this time; I usually direct these events and don't play, but we needed an evener and I joined the field. Finished 1st, 5-1 record. North American TWL rating up from 1928 to 1940.

Toronto International Open, September: Finished 3rd of 22, behind a couple of pretty good players named Adam Logan and Nigel Richards. Given the strength of the top of this field, I was very happy with that result. North American Collins rating up from 1962 to 2007, a new peak on that list and in the top 10 North Americans. WESPA international rating up from 1940ish, I forget, to 1991 going into Worlds.

World Scrabble Championships, Warsaw, Poland, October: Finished 16th of 107. Got as high as fourth on day 2 and managed to eke out a win against Adam Logan at table 1, but day 3 and the morning of day 4 weren't as kind, and I had to rally to win my last five and get into the top 20. Played a lot of very strong players, so a top 20 result is respectable, though of course I wanted more than that. Ten-day European vacation/endless pub crawl/major international tournament. Whew! This was my third Worlds, and it's always a rewarding experience. Great to see and play old friends and meet new ones. WESPA rating up from 1991 to 1999.

North American TWL rating started the year at 1941 and ended at 1940; I'm ranked 31st now.

North American Collins rating started the year at 1986 and ended at 2007; I'm ranked 12th on that list now, 8th or 9th (something like that, too lazy to check) if you don't count one-off foreign players or Quackle.

WESPA International rating is 1999 after Worlds; I'm now ranked 28th on that list.

(Yes, having three ratings is weird.)

Money won this year: about $1,800. After expenses, I lost a fair amount, which isn't really unusual; very, very few people make a profit playing Scrabble while going to the types of tournaments I often do. I would guess that I've broken about even over the eight years I've been playing tournaments, and that includes nothing for the time spent practicing. Worth it for many other reasons, though.


Outlook for 2012 (etched in jello, as always)

I'm committed to playing four tournaments: New Orleans in January, Texas State Championship in February, Las Vegas in February, and the Dallas Open in March. At this point, I plan to take an extended indefinite break from tournament play after that and focus more on some non-Scrabble things. There is a small chance I might play a strong event like the British Masters (do I have that right? I can never keep those British tournaments straight...EDIT: no, not quite: it's not the Masters, it's the British Matchplay Scrabble Championship) in August. Almost surely not playing Nationals this time, as much as I'd like to wash the last two years' results out of my hair. (The two NSCs before that were pretty good, though.) It's possible I may not play out of my region, or much at all, before the 2013 Worlds, which is too far in the future to say much about now.

As a player...well, I recall thinking around 2008 or so that I'd gotten about as good as I was realistically going to get. A year or so later, I recall thinking I might be able to make a push and get up another level, but that really didn't happen. Now, I'd say I'm a better player than I was three years ago, but not by much; my instinct then that I've found my level has proved to be correct. I'm not and most likely never will be one of the top 10-15 players in the world - I'm somewhere in the next group of, I dunno, 30? 50? 100? A lot of good players out there now...anyway, I'm cool with it. The question is whether to do what is required to stay where I am. I can't imagine not doing the words at least some, and I'll still play games now and then in club and elsewhere, so even my time off won't be a total break. So who knows. After thousands of games, I still enjoy playing; Scrabble's a very replayable game. Not every game turns out to be interesting, but enough do to keep me engaged. And more important, I've got lots of friends in the scene.

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