The final day of the King's Cup 07 is finally here. After a quick breakfast, we make for the venue which is again extremely crowded.
At 9.15 am, the games start and I am paired against Leonora Labog, a middle-aged top Phillipino lady who has a rather defensive style. Another player not to be underestimated. I start with AHIOTT? and play THO(12), missing no bingo. She plays AY(17) atop. I hold ABDIIT? and play ADhIBIT(75) with hesitation, as it left the I below the TWS for a potential comeback. Fortunately she has jsut AGATE(35). I play JOT(26), DANCE(36) and reply her C(A)VILLER (80) with ENVISaGE(86) to lead 235-144. 2 turns later, she bingoes again with SOURNESS(68), but again I reply with PEREIRA(72), maintaining a healthy lead. Strong scoring at the end, AX(52), ZAG(26), DEFRAY(43) to her small plays give me a good win. W 534-355
This win now earns me a matchup with the extremely fast Alastair Richards whom I haven't played before. I open with DEFT/KNG (16) while he changes 5. I have no vowels next and have to change also, only to see him put down QUO(T)IENt (70), followed by OVINE(42). But I have drawn GISTYZ? and play ZYG(O)SITy (98) to catch up, the nicest word all tournament. Alastair keeps up the scoring with GAZER(48), BROMINE(44) and VUM(24), while I play AIDE(7), EMBAIL(39) and TROPE(36) Nearing the endgame, I eschew playing a 63- point bingo, preferring DUNCH(33). I am rewarded with CUESTAS/BROMINES (86) next turn to lead by 47. I empty the bag drawing AFSTX while he has AEILOPN and win narrowly. W 432-403
After 2 straight wins, I am up against Chaiwat, whom I beat by 130 in the first game. Again, having a shortage of vowels, I start with GJU(22)/CHNT. Chaiwat plays HOE(14) and EPEE(28) followed by ROSEOLA(73) to which I reply with RAINB(O)WS (64). The score is close until the end, until he plays pAWNING(67) to open the board, but I play RELEaRNT (64) and TEAROOM(85) in succession to take the game. W 497-353. This win brings my spread above 1000 for the first time, an important milestone indeed.
Tony is next. I open with VAIRE/AO (24) to his FRONTAL(20). My rack matures into PAN(N)AGES (69) on turn 3, followed by some vowel-heavy racks. I get down VErITIES (74) a few turns later to lead by 70. However his REdUCING (89) soon gives him the lead. At the end, he sets up a AD-Z with QI/ID/AD which I couldn't block, without any vowels. Instead I play PHT(36) only to see him lay down ADZ/ZORRO for 71, sealing the game. L 380-417
Time for a lunch break- a satisfying lunch of fish noodles is what I have. The soup is extremely tasty and flavourful.
I am quite pleased to be in 9th, with a 15-8 +1031 record. After lunch, I face Apirat, another Thai who has good bingo knowledge whom I have played several times in Bangkok before with mixed results. Apirat starts with HILI(14), while I hold AIIMPZ? and play ZIP/PH (27). The last chance to play PH!! I am rewarded with AtOMI(Z)ES (86) next turn. His OUTEARN(69) on Turn 3 followed by ORGANIST (68) 2 turns later keep the scores close. later, I unfortunately phony with SETTED*, while I could have played SETTER for less. With the blank unseen, this could have cost me the game. But fortunately I get down RADULATE(74) later , which he regretted not blocking. I draw AEEEOS? to his CINNRV and win narrowly again. W 454-429
Now with 16 wins, I have to win at least 1 of the next 2 to make the top 10.......
For the next game, I play Cheah/ I dump FENT/BBN at the start , not sure whether to change, followed by QAT(32) and EBB(13). The scores are close until I play SERENITY(86) to the triple to go ahead. I reply his NEURINES(60) with RETURNED(72), followed by JUDS(60) to lead by 120. Cheah tries desperately to open lines, which I block with COZ(45) and KI(22). I have a late CONGaING(76) to increase the lead. Eventually he gets down ERECtION(76) but the game is lost. W 523-373
The last round is KOTH and I am indeed thrilled to be playing Panupol at table 1, a formidable player indeed. I was fairly confident at the start having beaten him 2 years ago in the King's Cup too. At this point, the crowds are gathering around table 1. Nigel and Jakkrit, both on 18 wins, are playing each other for a berth in the finals while I stand a chance of bettering by 5th position so far.
A close game ensues. Panupol opens with AWE(12). I hold AADLLNR but there is no I for my bingo.. So I play LAND(18). I draw the blank next turn but with unfavourable tiles. Meanwhile, he plays (R)OADSTER (62) to which I have the easy ZA/ZO (65), scoring more than his bingo!
A few turns later, the scores are still close until Panupol opens up a TWS with uNCINUS (67). I hold ALOORT? and immediately play ALumROOT (113), much to his dismay. The scores are now 309-290 in my favor.Vowel- heavy racks see me play AUTO(20), BOP(29) and INTI(12), to block a potential QUICHE 62, while he has XI (38), GIF(26) and YENTE(16). At the end, I play the correct endgame sequence to out in 2 and win narrowly by 14, from behind. W 418-404
The winning board
I quickly check on Jakkrit's game- if he loses by more than 20, then I am third. Sure enough, he loses and Nigel makes the finals with Komol.
At 4.30, the 2 finalists begin playing on the stage to a large audience.Komol wins the first game 459-345. In the second, the score is close till the end. Komol missed a winning endgame move (AXLED) and lost by 5.. In the last game Nigel won big, despite the 109 pt deficit and won the tournament. The finals was generally well-played, although I didn't agree on some of the moves - in the first game, Nigel was turning over too many tiles for too few points, even blocking his bingo on one occasion. Also prefered FUERO/EW instead of FEWER/OU for Nigel's opening move, game 3
So I finished 3rd overall, by virtue of spread. Overall my opponents weren't that tough, as it was fortunate to not meet Nigel. The S'porean contingent had its best finish overall, with 3 in the top 10 for the first time, and Gan and Michael finished well in 18th and 23th respectively. Pakorn surprisingly had a bad day, dropping all the way from 2nd to 11th.
Congrats to Komol and Nigel who has defended his title numerous times. Before the prize presentation, Nigel was joking to me that I would win it next year- sure, man. So I won 40000 baht (US$1100), a hamper of chicken essence and a nice unique trophy. Anyway I hope to return next year and improve on the 3rd placing. The King's Cup is truly an event that one should not miss- the excitement, pomp and chance to play opponents from different countries.
S'pore's top 10 finishers -