Hallie Bergwall makes a move in a Scrabble game at Resurrect Art Coffee House in Seward, Alaska. Bergwall took home the win. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Hallie Bergwall makes a move in a Scrabble game at Resurrect Art Coffee House in Seward, Alaska. Bergwall took home the win. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Tangled Up in Blue: Piecing together a win

My friend Joseph is a Scrabble savant by my standards and, I would think, by many other’s standards too.

He excels at anagrams, staring at tiles placing different ratings on the variations of letters while arranging and rearranging on the rack.

He has a mastery of the two letter words, with mnemonics to remember from AA to ZA and all the HE, HI, HO, HMs in the middle.

How many times have you used all of the tiles in a Scrabble game, known lovingly as a BINGO?

Joseph is disappointed if he doesn’t get at least two each game.

I love the word scrabbling, time game, have even written about it in this column but had never met a foe like Joseph.

He recently celebrated his highest scoring game, ever, against me after an afternoon board that I doused in words like “LIEU” to dump some vowels while he played a high-scoring bingo, “STOWAGE,” across a triple word score.

He finished the game at above 500 points, with a QUEEN and a ZARFS behind him. I won’t ever forget the name for a coffee cup sleeve. It makes for wonderful bar trivia fodder, too.

I’m always impressed by the words he pulls out of the bag, they’re a good combination of everyday words that we’d all be able to pick out of a lineup and those that only a practiced Scrabble player would know not to challenge.

I’m still reeling from PORTENTES, a word that sounded so perfectly fake that it had to be acceptable. Turns out, it wasn’t, and Joseph has a great poker face too.

With time, though, I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade. I’m playing JO against my dear friend more frequently and learning how to manage the tiles in my rack. Have an S or a blank tile? An illustrious BINGO is in my sights, or at least a high-scoring play.

Scrabble is mostly skill, knowing the tricks of the trade like Joseph does will rocket you past a closed board or some misdrawn tiles.

There are the other times, though, when everything seems to go your way and you land the Z, Q, X, J and both blanks over the course of the game. That’s like drawing the Scrabble lottery, which I’ve done … but I still lost to Joseph.

This past weekend, the first move was mine. I drew my tiles and with a bit of rearranging I settled on “SETTLED,” and started the game strong with a bingo and hope that this, after dozens of games, could be the one.

I took my time, a RISQUÉ maneuver since we play tournament rules with just 25 minutes total playing time each. I knew, though, that I had started with a home run, and I didn’t want to deal a death blow to my lead.

We played back and forth, Joseph’s score climbing and mine attempting to stay ahead.

He played the dreaded PORTENTES with such brevity and confidence I didn’t dare challenge him and miss a turn and instead gave him 50 extra points to catch up with.

It was a rough go, but I held him off.

No amount of PORTENTES could stop me, it was SETTLED. I was ready to SING it loud, the culmination of months of Scrabble was this OPUS of a game. I was playing a SAGE opponent but, OH, I was a channeling my inner anagram VIXEN. It wasn’t EVEN a question, NOW was my chance.

And I won.

I’ve let that victory sink in and decided instead of winning with grace and humility, I’ve decided to detail my victory for all to see.


For the Clarion

More in Sports

Refuge Notebook: Migration is not canceled

A friend told me recently that March is her favorite month. What?… Continue reading

Out of the Office: Nature in a time of pandemic can heal

As I write this I am in my third day of working… Continue reading

Bears forward Ritchie commits to St. Lawrence

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Logan Ritchie has earned a commitment to… Continue reading

Soldotna’s Ituau Tuisaula powers up against Nikiski’s Kaycee Bostic on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi’s Tuisaula nabs MVP of NLC

Soldotna senior Ituau Tuisaula was named most valuable player of the Northern… Continue reading

SoHi’s Truesdell commits to UAF basketball

Soldotna High School senior Jersey Truesdell capped a decorated prep career by… Continue reading

The Peninsula Oilers play the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks on Sunday, June 16, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Oilers cancel 2020 season

The Peninsula Oilers have canceled their 2020 season, stopping the string of… Continue reading

Crested auklets are just one of 30 species of seabirds that we study, but theyղe one of the strangest with their otherworldy eyes, showgirl plumes and tangerine odor. The citrus odor may be important for repelling pests. (Photo by Michael Johns/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Introducing Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

We’ve probably already met, but you didn’t realize it. We’re the other… Continue reading

During this time of uncertainty, the author vacillates between being outdoors and binge watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (Photo courtesy of Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: Lonely among us

I set daily goals to accomplish during this universal pandemic, a different kind of frontier.

ACS sweeps Southcentral titles

The Anchorage Christian Schools girls basketball team defeated Nikiski 88-38 on Saturday… Continue reading

Nikiski-ACS girls, ACS-Grace boys to play for Southcentral titles

The Nikiski girls earned a fourth straight trip to the Class 3A… Continue reading

The author and a friend ski the hayfield loop on Feb. 24, 2020 at the Lookout Mountain Trails near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Out of the Office: Back to basics

What do column writing and cross-country skiing have in common? Sometimes, they’re… Continue reading