Gretchen Kernkamp Cowan!!

Another record breaking turnout last Friday at the IHOP.  Friday regulars Debbie Bloom, Donna Dwaileebe and Reinhold Bauer made another appearance but the highlight of the afternoon had to occur during game 3 when I received a phone call from Gary Moss.  I was in total shock since Gary had not called me in 20 years but he did so last Friday.  He was actually calling for Marty Sturgeon who wanted to come play with us on Friday but when I told Gary that we start at 11am and not 1pm, our usual starting time on Tuesdays, Marty was not able to make it.  But it was so encouraging to know that Marty is now one of us.  Marty has been a regular attendee of Gary’s club at Laguna Woods for years and I have tried to encourage him to attend Club 34 for years.  But Marty made it perfectly clear that he did not like to travel too far away from his home in Lake Forest.  But one Tuesday night 2 months ago, Marty found him traveling from Los Angeles on the 405 Freeway in rush hour traffic.  He remembered that there was a Scrabble club that met in Huntington Beach that night so as to break up the commute, he got off the Freeway at Beach Boulevard.  The rest is history.  He has attended the last 3 Tuesday nights and now wants to make Friday a part of his regular schedule??  Very impressive….

On Saturday another festive event, another Blankheads extravaganza took place at the beautiful home of Gretchen Cowan in San Clemente.  Gretchen is really the only one who has tried to keep the spirit of the Blankheads alive all these years.  She tries to hold 3 or 4 events each year and they have always been quite a festive occasion.   Gretchen spends a lot of time preparing her home to accommodate all of us, for the most part furnishes all the food and accessories, and is just a splendid hostess for the entire day.  Our own Amnon Meyers supplied a summary of what transpired yesterday in an email to the participating players.  Congratulations to Barbara Creighton for her undefeated performance in Div B and to Karen Sturm for her second place finish.

And of course Amnon had to toot his own horn and announce to the world that he finished first in Div A.  Anyone who knows Amnon and yours truly and knows about our friendly back and forth all for the fun of a good Scrabble rivalry will know that when I do poorly Amnon loves to put in a jab towards yours truly.  Yesterday was no exception.  He loves to use such adjectives like ‘poor and overqualified’ when describing my play but I have always taken it with a grain of salt, knowing how much admiration he has for me and how much respect he has for my Scrabble prowess.  So I always laugh it off.  But turn-around is fair game so I will tell you about what transpired in our first battle Saturday.  The game had everything!!  Scrabble end-game strategy, Scrabble word knowledge, board and rack management, and above all Scrabble etiquette.

If you have read my Blog over the years, you will know that I try to speak of events that occurred the previous Tuesday and Friday, but I also try to discuss Scrabble rules and strategy of the game.  So pay close attention and try to visualize what happened in this game.

Amnon and I were paired in the first game of the day.  He got off to his usual good start against me capturing both blanks and taking a commanding lead.  I was in survival mode the entire game, just trying to stay reasonably close.  Brian Cappeletto, a top expert of Scrabble, told me years ago to try to stay close and maybe your opponent may make a mistake late in the game.  That has proven to be the case so many times throughout the years, too many to count.

It was getting late in the game.  Amnon had a 50 point lead and the board was closing down.  There were no bingo alleys to be found so I had to find one if possible.  Every time I established one, Amnon brilliantly closed it down as he was supposed to do .  I made a play near the end of the game, making the word ‘ef’ knowing that it took only a d, k, or r front hook.  And of course when I did that, Amnon played the six letter word duping, hooking the d to ef to make ‘def’.  Now the board was really tight!  There were only 9 letters left unseen in the bag of tiles.  My rack was ‘aeinrtu’.  So I had urinate, ruinate, taurine and uranite with ruinate playing off the ‘ef’.  But of course Amnon spoiled that play with ‘duping’.  I was really in trouble.  Time was running out.

I noticed that there was only one ‘r’ left in the game and I had it on my rack.  Fortunately I had plenty of time left on my clock to decide my next move.  I decided to play ‘a’ next to the ‘i’ on duping to establish ‘ai’.  This 2 letter word only takes an ‘r’ in front to make ‘rai’.  I had no other choice but to make this play, knowing full well that Amnon would block the area somehow….  I played ai and prayed for rain!!  My prayers were answered.  Amnon has a habit of playing quickly but this time he took several minutes before he made his next play.  My blood pressure was rising, my hands getting very sweaty..  He finally played off two vowels, not really blocking the ‘ai’ word but now establishing ‘ane’ which takes several front hooks..

When I played off the ‘a’ I drew one letter which was a ‘d’.  Now I had on my rack ‘deinrtu’ which as you can see gave me intrude, untired, untried and turdine.  The first three words would not work.  Placing a vowel in front of ‘ane’ would obviously be a phoney and get challenged off.  I knew that ‘dane’ was no good.  The only word in that set of letters is ‘dean.’  I took several minutes to decide what to do but my only chance was to play ‘turdine’ hooking r to ai for’rai’ and d to ane for ‘dane.’  I fully expected Amnon to challenge the word off the board but instead what he did is totally unacceptable in the game of Scrabble.  He showed total disgust when he saw that I was playing a bingo.  I announced my score, placed it on my scoring sheet, waited more than 15 seconds before I drew the last letter in the bag.  Then he saw that I had played ‘dane’ and said “wait a minute, that isn’t a word” and then used several four letter words to describe my character, none of which I can expound upon in this body of work.  Amnon did something I never want to see or hear any of the members do at Club 34.  It was extremely poor sportsmanship and terrible Scrabble etiquette on his part.  He had no one to blame but himself.  Those 4 letter words should have been directed at himself.  So yes, maybe I played poorly, was overqualified on Saturday afternoon, but in that game I was focused, played smartly, and won the game.  It was also not necessary to point out in his earlier email that I had lost to Bill Lapinski and Lynn Gunn, two players that are certainly qualified to beat me at any time anywhere……

So lessons to learn from that game??   Don’t ever give up on a game, stay close, try to steal at the end.  Play quickly so you have plenty of time at the end of the game to strategize your end-game moves.  It helps to know all the anagrams in any given sequence of letters.  And above all, NEVER gloat when you win and DON’T EVER whine and curse out your opponent when you lose, especially when you are the reason you lost!!!!

And now for some real tough love..  Gretchen begged me not to say anything but since Amnon already addressed this, I will say a few choice words..  When you are lucky enough to be invited to one of these amazing extravaganzas, stay for the ENTIRE event.  It was a 6 game round robin, with the last game King of the Hill.  So what happened??   8 of the 14 players left after game #5…  Why did this happen??  Are we so old that we cannot stay for all 6 games??  I won’t answer that but if you do not have the stamina to play all 6 games, DON’T come….It is very rude and shows total disrespect for Gretchen who puts her heart and soul into these parties.  So next time if you cannot commit to the entire day, then do not accept the invitation!!!

Now my dear friend Gretchen does not get off scot free!!!  I stayed for all 6 games and then left immediately afterwards.  I had no idea that there would be a full length motion picture shown with popcorn and candy.  It was not announced and that is on our hostess Gretchen…..  I missed out on the opportunity to watch a movie that was up for Best Picture of the Year 1962 starring our very own Najat who competed with Greta Garbo and Bette Davis for Best Performance by a Leading Actress that same year.   I only hope that I get a private showing at some later date.

But for the most part it was a wonderful day and our many thanks go out to Gretchen Kernkamp Cowan for giving us so many fun days and lots of memories to hold onto….


David Poder, Director



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