Though an interesting game, scrabble hardly fits the bill as a sport that attracts
boisterous crowds yet the intense and cunning showdown between defending champion, Abigail McDonald and Leon Belony at the Bank of Guyana Sports Club for the National Scrabble title was indeed worth the exception to the rule, swaying like a pendulum, from one way to the other, before McDonald eventually prevailed by the slimmest of margins to retain the accolade she won some two years ago.
The face off was contested in a three best of five format on the roof garden of the Bank of Guyana Sports Club, Avenue of the Republic. Georgetown, Monday afternoon last.
For her efforts, McDonald carted off the crown, fifty thousand dollars and a trophy, while Belony took home thirty thousand dollars and a trophy. Moen Gafoor copped the third place prize and was awarded a trophy and the twenty thousand dollars that went with it, while William Woolford finished fourth and won twelve thousand dollars. He also copped the prize for amassing the most points in a single game. Orlando Michael finished fifth and Ulric Harris sixth to cart off eight thousand and five thousand dollars, respectively.
McDonald ended the preliminary sessions one week ago at the top of the rankings, retained her form to surge ahead in the first sitting, chalking up 441 points to Belony’s 371. She also managed to score two bingos, ‘tyrones’ and ‘mannite’ as against Belony’s lone bingo, ‘adrenals. ‘ The latter player rebounded with a victory in the second game by a spread of 44 but McDonald regained some control and tightened her grip on the trophy by taking the honours in the third sitting by a margin of 30 points. Belony kept his cool and responded by winning the fourth round to leave the championships wide open going into the final sitting for the day with both players winning 2 games apiece.
By then, nerves were on edge and both players knew that the one with the more disciplined approach would have taken the spoils. A ferocious battle ensued with both playing tight, creating little or no opportunities for bingos. Belony skillfully created an opening and registered the first such success, a triple pointer ‘deflator,’ and subsequently surged ahead while minimizing McDonald’s chances of emulating his play.
McDonald was patient and pounced upon the first available opportunity and eventually registered the bingo ‘retails’ which evened up the situation somewhat. Thereafter, fortunes sway with first one and then the other player seizing the initiative. Subsequently, both players remained locked in intense rivalry, both employing superb strategy to deny the other from forming any bingos. The situation then boiled down to one of wits.
It was then that the defending champion made a crucial move and with the bag exhausted and just one play to end the game with merely 5 points separating the players, she played out her four remaining tiles to form a combination ‘use’ and ‘elan’ which fell on the triple play spot and pushed her total to 371 while Belony had amassed a tally of 365. In desperation, the challenger opted for a review of the ply, lost out, and conceded an additional five penalty points which pushed McDonald total to 376, retaining her crown by a narrow 11 points. The defending champion also copped the award for forming the most bingos (37).
Delivering remarks shortly after receiving her prizes, McDonald admitted that Belony had tested her to the limit. She said that she was forced to resort to the many tricks of the trade coupled with hours of practice with another top seed, James Krakowsky, to pull off the win. She further admitted that the level of the tournament had indeed risen and she had to call on her reserves to retain the crown.
Meanwhile, Orlando Michael registered the highest single play (142) and was duly rewarded with a trophy for the feat. William Woolford scored a game high total of 575 points and also carted off a trophy while Delon Moffatt, who registered quite a few upsets against several top seeds during the preliminary stages, won the trophy for being the best emerging talent.
Later on, several stalwarts that had worked assiduously towards the development of the sport had their efforts acknowledged and received trophies for such commitment. Randolph Gibbons, the first player to represent this country at the World Scrabble Championships in the USA, led the awardees which also included Ulric Harris, R O Michael, Grace Hercules, Carlton Murray, Carmen Gonsalves and Nicholas Grant.
Chairman of the interim committee, Colin Chichester congratulated McDonald for retaining the crown even as he acknowledged the high standard of the tournament. He then urged the affiliates to engage in discussions to put the modalities in place for a successful elections process and the installation of an executive body.
The organizers are especially grateful for the corporate assistance rendered by AKBAR Auto Sales, Abdool and Abdool’s Insurance Brokers, Humphrey’s Bakery, Oasis Café and Next Link Communications. A former player, Devon Dublin, who is now pursuing studies in Japan, also contributed to the prizes.
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