It was to be my fourth consecutive year attending the King's cup, and I had decided to go again to better my previously mediocre finishes. What's more this year's competition would be held in the city central, in a new shopping mall so it was all the more reason to go. I was to leave at noon on Wednesday, just 1 day before the tourney. It was to be an interesting tourney with the new lexicon. After an early lunch at the Budget terminal, I was rather surprised to bump into Cheah who happened to be taking the same flight too. More conversation about previous King's Cups. The Singaporean contingent appeared to be scattered around thee venue, unlike previous years.
The flight got off smoothly and we reached Bangkok at 3 pm Bangkok time. After getting out of the airport, Cheah left with Han Ei to the Pathuwan Princess and we took a 45-minute cab ride to the Reno.
The Reno was a modest establishment, less than 10 minutes walk from the venue, equipped with a cafe and swimming pool but rather old. I also find out that Ricky, Tony, Henry, the Richards and some other Australians are staying at the same hotel. After a short rest, we ventured out to the nearby shopping centres- Siam Discovery center, the tournament venue which was mostly filled with upmarket fashion shops. Then we crossed over to Siam center, which was slightly larger, but still filled with trendy shops and nice cafes. Eventually we walked over to Siam Paragon which is a fantastic mall full of nice aesthetics. It boasts bookshops, a cineplex, numerous fashion shops, numerous restaurants and ice cream parlours, a huge improvement from the tournament venues of other years. Around dinner time, we bump into Nigel, Jocelyn, Dianne Ward and Henry in the Paragon basement who are also going for dinner. Eventually we don't join them and go to a Japanese restaurant where I have a tasty salmon fillet set for 235 Baht (S$11). I enjoy a stroll back to the hotel to retire for the night.
Thursday: We go over to the venue at 10.30 after a western breakfast. Soon the players start turning up, but we skip half of the opening ceremony for an early lunch as there was no lunch break later. Pairing style is Swiss for first 2 games followed by a RR for the last 3. I am matched against Chaiwat in the first round, with Ganapathy and a Thai also at the same table. I start with a shortage of vowels, TAX(20)/DNGS while he scores mediocrely. On turn 3 I get down OREIDES(82) to take the lead and follow up with QAID(34) and PENTIsE(75). He has DISPUTE(76) but steady scoring followed by a late bingo of GaRRONS(79) seals the game. An easy win by 130. I play Ganapathy next who has also won his first game. We start slow but he opens a B for BANDORES(74) and I get RETAILs(70) later to seal the game. He has no reply Another comfortable win by 109.
The players are being paired again now, and I get Simon, Gerry Carter and Chollpat at my table, 3 Thais which I have to play. Against Roongroj, he opens with AGUIzED(70), but I have AFHILRS and put down FLASHIER(65). He attempts a phony with AUDOMAn, but I promptly challenge it off. I spend several minutes trying to block his bingo reply and settle on SCALY(20), but he comes back with AlLODIUM(72). I keep up the scoring with BORAX(36), VIN(26) and REPRIEFE(69) which he challenges. The score is close until the end, where I get a lucky break in the form of WAID(49). However it is still not won as he could still have DRACAEN(A).He doesn't, instead playing SCAD allowing me to go out with ANTIATOM from the A. Win 487-394.
Gerry Carter, a multiple top 10 finisher, but not a terribly strong player, is next. I open with PENNONS(74), which is immediately challenged. It is good. Gerry scores with UGGED(16) and OE(16) and SOCIABLE(65) while I race ahead with FEZ(41) and STRAY/SOCIABLES (75) which he challenges and is surprised to find it acceptable. Later I get down RAISONNE(62) and draw the last blank to win big. Position below.
With this win I am vaulted to the top 5, but have to win the last game for a shot at the 1250 baht prize. I play Chollapat, another young Thai. I open with BLAND/PR, not having much choice. He immediately replies with FLAVI(N)ES (70). I try to stay close with AXE(35) and YAWPER(28) but he gets OUTEARNs(66) , JIG(44), HABIT(49) and a late CONSIDER(62) to win. Nevertheless, I am still ranked 8th after the first day.
After the first day, the only undefeated players are Thacha, Thien and Komol. After the games, we head to the Novotel for the Hall of Fame dinner. I sit at the table which is practically occupied by the S'porean contingent. The dinner starts late 7.30 after numerous long speeches and the food left much to be desired-the quality seemed compromised- only the pan-fried snapper was good. After more prize-giving and a short anagrams session with the Thai groupies, we leave for the hotel.
What would day 2 bring? Check back to find out.
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