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Compendia and putting an up and comer to school

It was practically a “reality bites” scenario for young and upcoming Ronron Mejia when he met Melvin Dalangin on day two of the Philippine Scrabble Caravan last Sunday at the SM Sucat in Paranaque City.

With less experience, and definitely less word ammunition, Mejia was basically at the mercy of Dalangin – with him, I guess, fervently praying to get the good tiles against one of the country’s top Scrabble players.

But the tile gods were stingy during that match as Mejia drew two U’s at the onset –the probability of drawing any of the U’s from a pristine bag is a measly 4:100.

He opened the game with a six point U dumper – UTU – and Dalangin responded with ENTERIC for 73 points, with the TER combining with UTU for the additional words UT, ET and UR.

Two good turns – JAB (34) and GRIP (30) – for the youngster saw him climbing to 70 points but Dalangin answered with a 35 pointer (THAW) and then dropped the 70 point RIOTISE, hooking the S with his earlier turn, and the veteran was up 178-70.

With Mejia changing tiles in the next turn, Dalangin attached his AIOCDMN with the open PE, which was formed when Mejia dropped GRIP, for COMPENDIA (plural of compendium or a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject) that was good for 87 points and the lead ballooned to 265 – 70.

It was one of the luckier draws for Dalangin in that match as he got the X in his draw which he used to the hilt by placing EXTRA on his next turn using the open T on his RIOTISE, the X hitting the double letter score square and triple word score for the A that was good for 60 points. The lead was an unassailable 325-97.

Mejia fought back with the 94 point CRESTING on his eighth turn to cut the lead to “only” 253-422 but Dalangin was already beyond the former’s reach. Dalangin cruised to a 517-411 victory, including the two points on the remaining R of Mejia, for a 104 winning margin or spread.

Dalangin in 13 moves scored 39.6 points per turn as against Mejia’s 29.36 points per turn. Although the youngster missed out on two turns when he exchanged for better tiles that could up his average to 34.25.

It was a great performance for the 19 year older from Dasmarinas, Cavite in his biggest Scrabble tournament ever as he landed 15th over-all with an 8.5 – 7.5 win-loss slate or a 53.13 winning percentage and a spread of 292.

Moreover, he was also the winner of the youth division.

Some 33 players turned in for the two day, 16-round event that was the first of three legs slated in the three major island groups of the country – the Visayas leg is eyed on January and the Mindanao stint on February. It was also the biggest Scrabble tournament in years and especially after the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was nice playing with you Sir Melvin, grabe po yung pagkatira ng COMpeNDIA,” replied Mejia to a post of Dalangin on said move which “made me feel more than happy and proud.  Dalangin wound up fourth in the event with an 11-5 card on top of a +418 spread. He was tied with three other players with that card but two – Geraldo Onate and Abdul Suma – got the higher positions due to higher spreads of 859 and 582, respectively. First day leader Chris Abordo settled for the fifth place with 11-5 slate and spread of 248.

Odette Rio won the event with a 13-3 win-loss card and a top spread of 1,285 for the PhP20,000 purse.

Post script: It has been a while since I wrote a column. It has been a while also since I wrote about Scrabble, a game or sport we started as early as 1998 here and its competitive side in 1999. We have staged several big Scrabble tournaments in the city including the National Scrabble Championship in 2004 where more than 60 players including the Philippines bests then that was staged at the SM City Baguio atrium. The event was won by Odette Rio as she claimed nearly 20 other titles here. In 2009, the Baguio Benguet Word Builders Club organized the Centennial Scrabble Tournament which had entries from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Two former world champions joined the event – Pakron Nemitrimansuk (his third here) and the Kiwi Nigel Richards, a three time world champion and also the one time world’s best in French Scrabble, although he can’t speak French. Richards won the event and the US$4000 dollar top purse with Cebuano Jay Martus and Rio placing second and third, respectively and PhP50,000 and PhP40,000 as purses.

PPS: At its peak, more than 20 regular Baguio and Benguet players turn in during tournaments but that has dwindled to less than 10 now. In the national scene, less tournaments are staged now compared to say 15 years ago and many have stopped playing. Last weekend’s competition saw many returning. Some of them after years from working abroad like former national champion Leo Capuno – who played several times in Baguio and Benguet during the early 2000s. The last competition in Baguio was in March 2019 during the Panagbenga Scrabble Tournament which was started in 2004. The event was cancelled in March 2020 due to the uncertainty at that time and officially crossed out when the country was declared under lockdown in March 17 of that year. It is hoped that this will be revived this March that will serve as an in “betweener” of the Visayas and Mindanao legs of the PSC or an early bird tournament for the last leg. With the PSC, former BBWBC president Huub Luyk and wife Becky made a return and hopefully they will be return to the Baguio Scrabble scene soon. Baguio’s top Scrabble player William Caluza has since then took over the leadership of the BBWBC and organized the PST with this writer in 2019. I do hope that a similar partnership will be made March next year.

PPPS: Melvin said after: “(T)his was really a crazy play… as I was reviewing my score sheet to reconcile with the board dami kung natuklasan: 1) JAB – scored 34 (dapat 32), GRIP (scored 30 (dapat 37), KAIE – scored 30 (dapat 31), KOALA – scored 32 (dapat 30), YO  scored 32 (dapat 29), VIDS – scored 29 (dapat 24). So si Ron when you account all theose scoring mistakes eh me 4 points pa syang utang sa akin… pero kasalanan ko yun. Di ako nagcheck for this game. Ang nakakatawa pa nito dahil talagang sobrang ecstatic ako sa saya eh pagkatira ko ng COMPENDIA ay luting na ako at di ako nakapaglista kaagad for two consecutive moves. Nung nireconstruct naming nabaligtad ko ang sequence sa score sheet pero tama ang scoring.”

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