2014 European Open Scrabble Championship: May 22–25, Malta

May 22–25, 2014

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Commentary: Round 14

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Go to: Before the Tournament, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 6, Round 7, Round 8, Round 9, Round 10, Round 11, Round 12, Round 13, Round 14, Round 15, Round 16, Round 17, Round 18, Round 19, Round 20, Round 21, Round 22, Round 23, Round 24, Round 25, Round 26, Round 27, Round 28, Round 29, Round 30, Round 31, Round 32, After the Tournament.

There has been some discussion online during this event as to whether or not an open format is a worthwhile one, with some arguing that it makes a mockery of a competitive activity to permit inexperienced players to compete directly with experts.

There are certainly valid arguments to be made on both sides. On the one hand, in some open tournament formats, winning an event can depend on being fortunate enough to be paired with very weak opponents early on. Players dislike this, because they would like to be in greater control of their destiny in tournaments; this opposition comes from the same place as the dislike of automatically assigned starts and replies. Inexperienced players may also disrupt the smooth running of an event by requiring more tournament resources devoted to monitoring them and ensuring their compliance with what is expected of them. They may even drop out of a tournament unexpectedly, leaving the director to try to make alternate arrangements to prevent byes.

On the other hand, I believe strongly in the need to keep the bar to entry into our community as low as possible, and am proud of being involved in an activity where a first-time player can if they so choose challenge a world champion just by entering the right event. The data accumulated during the upswing of open tournaments in recent years also shows that expert players are not as certain to defeat novices as they might have thought they were; rating upsets of up to 1000 points are not unheard of, and we have had two of more than 900 points at this event already. So it's hard to justify excluding anyone from an open event just on the basis of skill. At this event so far, the higher-rated player averages 1 spread point for every 5.6 rating points of difference against their lower-rated opponent; so (overoptimistically assuming linearity) a player rated 560 points below their opponent only needs to hope to get lucky enough to score 100 more points than they usually would.

At my home club in Toronto, for instance, if a parent asks me if their child is ready to play at the club, the only thing that I ask them is whether or not they can play and lose three games without crying or losing their temper. I figure if they can do that, then they'll ready to learn how to be a slightly better player each week, appreciate being part of an inclusive, welcoming, competitive community, and eventually be able to contribute positively to it themselves.

Now back to the results.

This is the eighth and penultimate round of the day. Howard Warner (NZL) has trounced Mbeleokpo Mathew Aganaba (NGA) 591-283 and moved temporarily into first place. If Helen Gipson (Sco) wins her game by even a point, she'll reclaim the lead on spread; if not, she will drop to second for the first time. Possibly even third if she loses by more than 66.

Helen does in fact lose 440-399 to Mario Seychell (MLT), the winner of the second division at last week's Malta International Scrabble Open. It's enough for her to stay ahead of Theresa Brousson (MLT), but just.

Warner is 13-1 +1746, Gipson 12-2 +1753, Brousson +1728, then John Barker (AUS) 11-3 +1224 and Nicky Huitson (Eng) +621.

As top seed, Helen is playing the rest of the field in increasing order of strength. There is some question as to whether or not this is to her advantage. She certainly can and did open a wide early lead, but will have a tougher field to play tomorrow than anyone else in the room.

Round 14 Auto-Commentary

High Win: Howard Warner (NZL) 591-283 vs. Mbeleokpo Mathew Aganaba (NGA). Low Win: Mary Doyle (IRL) 353-345 vs. Nicky Vella-Laurenti (MLT). High Loss: Janet Bonham (Eng) 426-433 vs. Graham Bonham (Eng). Low Loss: Marion Loewenstein (ISR) 253-531 vs. Chris Lipe (USA).

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