City of Sydney Masters - January 30th & 31st 1999


Report from Evan Simpson, UK

Subtitle:Caught behind two sheep!

I had looked forward to this tournament with great anticipation. I'd been on holiday travelling around Australia for a month and not even thought about Scrabble. I'd brought along my Psion with TSP and my SOWPODS conversion kit for a bit of brushing up but somehow they'd managed to stay at the bottom of my suitcase.

I met up with David Webb in the hotel a couple of days before the tournament was due to start and we arranged to have a couple of practice games. He was very full of the Thai tournament that he'd just attended and this also contributed to my anticipation. The games removed a bit of ring rust and got me in the right frame of mind for the tournament.

The morning of the tournament dawned and I did not really know what to expect. We all gathered in one of the hotel function rooms and Bob made a few announcements and identified the 'foreign' contingent. All the out of state and overseas players were named and we had to stand up and take a bow. This was quite good fun if a little embarrassing.

The opening fixtures were pinned to the wall and we all made our way to the respective tables. This was where some of the differences between UK and Australian tournaments soon became apparent. In the UK we tend to use what are called 'deluxe' boards that have plastic ridges which stop the tiles from moving, the players sit opposite each other and the boards are generally turned between goes. The Australian boards were of the folding style and were left in position for the whole game, the players sitting adjacent to each other and looking at the board at a 45 degree angle. This took some getting used and resulted in an erroneous play by me later in the tournament but in general wasn't a problem. The boards were all left in position throughout the tournament and the tiles were generally made up into a 10x10 grid to demonstrate the fact that they were all present. This is much better than the UK system were individual boards are lugged around and players argue over which board to use or find they haven't got one between them. Challenges were also performed in a somewhat different manner. The challenging player normally took the slip up to the front desk, where the 'Look' program was in use. This program prints the challenged words and the result of the challenge on a slip of paper and eliminates any handwriting problems that may have resulted in illegibility. The third major difference was the time allowed. In the UK 25 minutes per game is used almost universally, in Oz (and also I believe Thailand) we had to squeeze all of our creative energies into 22 minutes. Finally, the fixture system does not allocate a starter and so start/reply information is compared between the two players and a draw of tiles made from the bag if necessary. This is accomplished with the use of a tournament record which shows starts and replies and is signed off by each opponent to prevent people 'forgetting' how many starts they have had. I was a little worried that this technique could produce imbalances but I got 9 of each and never more than 2 replies in a row (3 starts though).

I was a little unsure how to approach my first opponent, because, like most of the rest of my opponents, I'd never played her before and had no idea of her standard. The game progressed reasonably smoothly and I managed a 71 point victory. After this game, I started to look at the ratings of my opponents to gauge their relative strengths, but as the ratings were different to the UK ones it was only a guide. In my second game I had a nice play of KinETIC (with two blanks) to hook the C onto HOOF for 94 and the even nicer find from AEEHILNP[1] for 102 as a four-timer. The third game was a complete struggle. My opponent started with a bonus and built up a commanding lead which was looking fatal when I played PUTAMENS* out of desperation. I thought another nail in the coffin had arrived when I attempted to dump EA making AGE. I had accidentally hooked the A onto the front of RAPID because the tiles were slightly offset from their correct position. I hung on and tried to open the board as my opponent followed me attempting to close it down again. I eventually squeezed in VINASSE making four other words and briefly regained the lead. My opponent missed a go and I won by a flattering 41.

I won my first five games and was starting to feel the pressure and then I had to play Nigel Richards. Like James Bond, his reputation had preceded him, Mark Nyman had described him as having the best word knowledge in the world (perhaps a back-handed compliment as he had just beaten him in the Thailand final!) and his reputation had even spread as far as the UK Scrabble mailing list and Onwords. Towards the end of the game, I led by 8 with an S on my rack and an S and a blank to come. There were several possible seven spots, a nine-timer with M in second that Nigel had just opened and 5 tiles in the bag (which were fairly bonus-friendly). I decided to take my life in my hands and played off six letters emptying the bag. I also took one of the bonus slots and restricted the other openings to eights through my floaters or the M mentioned earlier. My letters revealed that Nigels letters were AFGNSU? but he was not able to avail himself of the floaters and the game finished quietly in my favour. Phew! I was now leading the tournament and feeling very drained. I played two more overseas players in the next two games, Kendall Boyd (NZ) and Tony Sim (Singapore) and lost both. I didn't have a chance against Tony but I should have won against Kendall having two opportunities to play bonuses which I chickened out on or missed (an easy) higher scoring word. This loss probably cost me second place.

In the ninth game I faced another Aussie and scraped home by 8 after letting him get back with a late bonus. I then faced another 'alien', this was David Webb the only other UK rep there. I started very well, with INTERNES on my first move and the excellent find from CINNOSTY[2] for 92 on my second (well, I thought so!) I held onto my 100 pt lead throughout the game. This was the end of the first day and I was looking forward to a bit of relaxation and a couple of beers.

Day two started and I was up against one of the pre-tournament favourites. I had great letters at the start and managed to record an 80 pt victory. The school bell was soon ringing again to tell us that the fixtures were up and this time I was drawn against John Holgate one of the top Australian players. I'd played John twice before in the UK and lost both times. Would I triumph this time? It was a tough game with some heavy scoring on both sides and despite a near-fatal mistake at the end when I let John in with a bonus I stayed ahead for my 10th triumph in 12 games. I lost one more game in the next two to another non-NSWer and we entered the final phase of the tournament. Games 1-14 had been some sort of Swiss affair with no repairings, but the last 4, from 15 onwards was straight King of the Hill. I knew what I had to do. Nigel Richards was 1st 2 clear wins ahead of me in second and he also had a massive spread advantage. All I needed to do was win the last 4 straight (probably all against Nigel) to win! I lost ago on my first move with SAPLIKE* (missing SOAPLIKE) and although it was a fairly close game, Nigels second bonus finished me off. My next game was against another player I'd player earlier, Derek Mckenzie but good letters for me set up a third game against Nigel who had just beaten Kendall. This was a fantastic game, I scored 475 and got beaten by over a 100! In the mid game I had consecutive scores of 76, 60, 63, 44, 44 for MERRIES, BEESWAX, RUINOUS, QI and ZEK unfortunately he had 98 for the four-timer ORNITHIC and 158 for ANCHORET (both with blanks he says rather bitterly).

The final game arrived. Nigel had the tournament sewn up and Kendall and I were fighting for second and third. We were both on 12 wins, but his superior spread meant that if we had an identical record in the last game he'd take second. In fact, if I'd lost the last game I would have been forced out of third. I had a third rematch and Kendall was playing Nigel, so I had a good chance. In fact Nigel had only one loss on his record at that stage and that was to me in the sixth round. (Don't worry I made the most of this particular fact!) I duly ran out the winner with a nice seven from ACIRSSU[3]. I'd won, but was I second? Sadly not as Kendall had managed to beat Nigel in the last round. I suggested to them in a tongue-in-cheek manner that it was a Kiwi stitch-up but couldn't really see Nigel deliberately throwing a game.

The tournament was over and the leaderboard was littered with foreigners!

(Aus unless specified)
1 Nigel Richards (NZ) 16/18 +1595
2 Kendall Boyd (NZ) 13/18 +1114
3 Evan Simpson (UK) 13/18 +358
4 Bob Jackman 12/18 +685 \ How did they
5 Derek Mckenzie 12/18 -149 / sneak in here?
6 David Webb (UK) 11/18 +793

The tournament was really enjoyable and I had a great time and met lots of new people. The organisation was superb by Bob Jackman and the tournament was directed very smoothly by Wilma Vialle. The playing conditions were very good and the fact that we all had to sort ourselves out for meals and accommodation did not detract from the event. It was interesting to see how different countries ran their tournaments and the UK scene could learn a lot from the Aussie way of doing things. The standard of Scrabble was very high and it was great to see a true master of the game in Nigel Richards at work, he really does play a great game and must be a strong favourite for the World Championships.

[1] ELAPHINE [2] SYNTONIC [3] CUIRASS


Results after game 18
SYDNEY INTNTL MASTERS -- MASTERS

Rank Player            Wins  Mar
--------------------------------
  1 Nigel Richards (NZ) 16  1595
  2 Kendall Boyd (NZ)   13  1114
  3 Evan Simpson (UK)   13   358
  4 Bob Jackman         12   685
  5 Derek Mckenzie      12  -149
  6 David Webb (UK)     11   793
  7 Joan Rosenthal      11   775
  8 Steve Sunter        11   485
  9 John Barker         11   403
 10 Tony Sim (SIN)      11   336
 11 Marie Knight        11   215
 12 Carmel Dodd         10   -3
 13 Paul Cleary         10   859
 14 Peter Shaw          10   700
 15 Harry Malcolm       10   226
 16 Keith Bioletti      10    74
 17 Ivor Zetler         10    72
 18 Sue Flack           10  -220
 19 Rene Chelton        10  -332
 20 Sal Costanzo        10  -686
 21 Anne Drew            9   710
 22 Esther Perrins       9   425
 23 Rod Talbot           9    51
 24 Trevor Halsall       9   -35
 25 Angie Pearse         9  -107
 26 Audrey Newman        9  -146
 27 Sue Gergelifi        9  -220
 28 Ian Close            9  -333
 29 Jan Serisier         9  -463
 30 Gloria Gallagher     8   207
 31 John Holgate         8    81
 32 Tengku Asri (MAL)    8   -33
 33 Joanne Craig         8   -57
 34 Michael Vnuk         8  -229
 35 Kris Logan           8  -376
 36 Peter Sheehan        8  -452
 37 Ros Gibbons          8  -565
 38 Alison Rae           7   306
 39 Robert Archer        7   168
 40 Betty Foreman        7  -155
 41 Zina Costanzo        7  -337
 42 Cheryl Michler       7  -467
 43 Sam Greenberg        7  -786
 44 Graeme Lock Lee      6 -476
 45 Ethel Collins        6  -323
 46 Hanne Marks          6  -430
 47 Eileen Seaborn       6  -646
 48 Jean Noonan          6 -1196
 49 Robert Tomkins       5  -555
 50 Val Ryan             5  -861
HIGH GAME: Peter Shaw        644
HIGH WORD: Peter Shaw        212
            "DITCHERS"

Stats for Tournament : SYDNEY INTNTL MASTERS

+--------------------------+-----------+---------+-----------+---------------+
| state     Name           | National  | State   |   Wins    | Rating Points |
|                          | Old  New  | Old New | Exp  Act  | Old Change New|
+--------------------------+-----------+---------+-----------+---------------+
+Section: *MASTERS                     +         +           +               +
+--------------------------------------+---------+-----------+---------------+
|*NSW Nigel Richards       |    0    1 |   0   1 | 16.0 16.0 | 2277     2277 |
| OS  Kendall Boyd         |    0    3 |   0   1 | 11.3 13.0 | 2004 +26 2030 |
|*NSW Evan Simpson         |    0    2 |   0   2 | 13.0 13.0 | 2072     2072 |
| NSW Bob Jackman          |    1    4 |   1   3 | 12.5 12.0 | 1966  -9 1957 |
| QLD Derek McKenzie       |   31   20 |   1   1 |  7.9 12.0 | 1707 +83 1790 |
|*NSW David Webb           |    0    6 |   0   4 | 11.0 11.0 | 1927     1927 |
| NSW John Barker          |   14   18 |   6   9 | 11.1 11.0 | 1804  -2 1802 |
| NSW Joan Rosenthal       |    9    9 |   5   5 |  9.3 11.0 | 1846 +27 1873 |
| NSW Marie Knight         |   17   27 |   8  12 | 11.9 11.0 | 1760 -17 1743 |
| OS  Tony Sim             |    0    5 |   0   2 | 11.6 11.0 | 1966 -10 1956 |
| VIC Steve Sunter         |   12   21 |   6   8 | 12.5 11.0 | 1809 -23 1786 |
| SA  Carmel Dodd          |   40   45 |   2   2 | 10.4 10.5 | 1670  +1 1671 |
| NSW Paul Cleary          |    6   13 |   4   8 | 12.6 10.0 | 1888 -41 1847 |
| NSW Peter Shaw           |   30   26 |  11  11 |  8.1 10.0 | 1707 +37 1744 |
| VIC Harry Malcolm        |   60   39 |  32  19 |  7.1 10.0 | 1628 +58 1686 |
| NSW Keith Bioletti       |   67   52 |  19  19 |  7.2 10.0 | 1601 +57 1658 |
| VIC Sal Costanzo         |   55   36 |  28  17 |  7.4 10.0 | 1639 +52 1691 |
| NSW Sue Flack            |  193  136 |  47  41 |  4.6 10.0 | 1350 +121 1471 |
| NSW Rene Chelton         |   68   69 |  20  21 |  9.0 10.0 | 1597 +21 1618 |
| NSW Ivor Zetler          |   53   43 |  17  15 |  8.7 10.0 | 1651 +27 1678 |
| NSW Esther Perrins       |    2   12 |   2   7 | 13.9  9.0 | 1926 -78 1848 |
| QLD Anne Drew            |  141   97 |   4   3 |  4.5  9.0 | 1449 +90 1539 |
| NSW Rod Talbot           |   38   54 |  13  20 | 10.0  9.0 | 1675 -19 1656 |
| VIC Angie Pearse         |   41   60 |  21  28 | 10.3  9.0 | 1667 -27 1640 |
| NSW Trevor Halsall       |   34   34 |  12  14 |  8.2  9.0 | 1684 +16 1700 |
| NSW Audrey Newman        |   80   91 |  25  27 | 10.2  9.0 | 1572 -22 1550 |
| NSW Ian Close            |  122  125 |  35  36 |  8.3  9.0 | 1477 +14 1491 |
| NSW Jan Serisier         |  152  123 |  40  35 |  5.4  9.0 | 1422 +73 1495 |
| NSW Sue Gergelifi        |   70   82 |  21  24 | 10.4  9.0 | 1594 -27 1567 |
| NSW John Holgate         |    3   11 |   3   6 | 11.1  8.0 | 1918 -50 1868 |
| NSW Gloria Gallagher     |  118  105 |  33  29 |  6.2  8.0 | 1485 +37 1522 |
| OS  Tengku Asri          |   22   37 |   1   3 | 10.3  8.0 | 1736 -46 1690 |
| NSW Joanne Craig         |   28   72 |  10  22 | 13.8  8.0 | 1716 -117 1599 |
| QLD Michael Vnuk         |  143  113 |   5   4 |  4.7  8.0 | 1444 +66 1510 |
| NSW Ros Gibbons          |  161  129 |  42  38 |  4.5  8.0 | 1409 +69 1478 |
| NSW Peter Sheehan        |   65   86 |  18  26 | 10.9  8.0 | 1619 -58 1561 |
| NSW Kris Logan           |   82  107 |  26  30 | 10.5  8.0 | 1567 -49 1518 |
| VIC Robert Archer        |   24   70 |  14  36 | 12.7  7.0 | 1729 -113 1616 |
| NSW Alison Rae :act      |  134  130 |  36  39 |  6.0  7.0 | 1458 +20 1478 |
| VIC Zina Costanzo        |  160  147 |  77  69 |  5.0  7.0 | 1413 +42 1455 |
| NSW Betty Foreman        |   74  118 |  22  33 | 10.9  7.0 | 1584 -79 1505 |
| NSW Cheryl Michler       |  217  201 |  53  52 |  4.8  7.0 | 1304 +45 1349 |
| NSW Sam Greenberg        |   96  134 |  28  40 | 10.0  7.0 | 1532 -60 1472 |
| NSW Graeme Lock Lee      |  156  160 |  41  46 |  5.9  6.5 | 1417 +11 1428 |
| NSW Hanne Marks          |  195  196 |  48  50 |  5.4  6.0 | 1349 +12 1361 |
| NSW Ethel Collins        |  165  177 |  43  48 |  6.5  6.0 | 1401  -9 1392 |
| SA  Eileen Seaborn       |  219  218 |  15  14 |  5.2  6.0 | 1303 +16 1319 |
| NSW Jean Noonan          |   78  139 |  24  42 | 11.3  6.0 | 1573 -106 1467 |
| NSW Robert Tomkins       |  196  202 |  49  53 |  5.0  5.0 | 1348     1348 |
| NSW Val Ryan             |  211  216 |  51  55 |  4.7  5.0 | 1318  +6 1324 |
------------------------------------+---------+-----------+----------------+