I've spent the last five days competing in the 2012 National Scrabble Championship. This is the second national Scrabble competition I've been a part of — the last one was the 2007 Players Championship where I took eighth place in my division and came home with $150 in my pocket. I'd hoped to have a similar performance this time around, but it didn't happen... I ended up in 60th place out of eighty, eleven spots above my seed. Overall it was a good time, though. I made a few new friends, played quite a few good games (and some really bad ones), and am now seriously thinking of flying out to Las Vegas for the 2013 event.
If there's anything I've learned from this tournament, it's that I need to study again if I want to do well at this game. And I think I want to do well. It's fun doing the tournament scene, it's fun meeting people who are both strange and smart. It's not fun drawing racks full of garbage and not knowing what to do with them... which is a large part of what happened to me at this event. There's apparently an art to this where you can get bad stuff off your rack, score well, and at least salvage something out of it. And I'm not talking about big chunky letters like K, B, and H... I can stuff most of those anywhere. I'm talking about turn after turn of five and six vowels, Vs mixed with Is and Us, that kind of thing. Turn after turn without an S. In at least four games my opponents had both blanks simultaneously, and it seems like over half the time I saw no blanks at all on my rack. I don't know what the odds of that are exactly but it made for some long games.
Speaking of blanks, a pretty serious scandal erupted in my division when a kid was caught cheating and subsequently ejected from the event. Basically he palmed the blanks before each game started and would sneak them into the game at opportune moments. This is the first time something like that has happened at a National Scrabble Championship, which is pretty much our version of the World Series, so in the Scrabble world it's huge news. I think the whole situation is pretty sad but I also believe the tournament officials took the right action. To address the immediate problem, not only was the kid ejected, but anyone who lost against him had those losses reversed; and, anyone who won against him was credited as having won by 50 additional points. There will likely be further action taken, the manner of which I will not speculate about... but I will say that cheats are not well-tolerated in this community.
Anyway... in an effort toward improving, next week I'll be doing a study session with the other directors at my club, something I've wanted to do for awhile now and something which we're hoping to turn into a regular activity. The problem is finding a recurring night when we're all free — we're all pretty busy, the woes of having diverse interests. But I personally need some motivation in the studying department. I need someone nipping at my heels on a pretty regular basis and who is also interested in some level of success. The hope, I guess, is that we can all lift each other up like some magical mandala thing and start kicking ass on a regular basis.
And maybe... just maybe... I can do better in Vegas.