Round 15. Poker
Player Goldstein meets Security Super Armstrong. Two classic profiles facing
one another. Goldstein beats Armstrong. It is Security Super's first loss. He
is 14 and 1. He is also a real gent. He smiles at Goldstein, shakes hands, no
hard feelings. I talk to Gruber (no age listed, programmer. New York City).
After 15 rounds, she is 12 and 3. "A long time ago," she says, "I
compiled a lot of lists. But I didn't train for this match. I even miscount
tiles." Then how does she explain her success? "I'm a much better
tournament player than I am an everyday player. I do well under
After Round 16,
Nabutovsky is 9 and 7 and "sinking fast." He radiates dejection. His
mother and I sit down to play Scrabble at an unoccupied table, complete with
time clock. The clock is nerve-racking, and she beats me in the first game.
Then I beat her. I feel very good about that. Bubo, oogamete, goosier,
This is the last
day of the tournament and the top-ranked people after 17 rounds now sit at
tables nearest the stage. Tiekert looks good, as do Armstrong, Edley, Darrell
Day and several others. Tiekert and Armstrong are both 16 and 1. They are
locked in a titans' battle. Tiekert plays positron, a seven-letter bingo word
(the letter N having already been on the board) for a triple word score and
racks up 83 points. Armstrong plays bring for 39 points. They go back and forth
until, finally, Tiekert plays unbe. Armstrong challenges. After much suspense,
he loses the challenge. Unbe? I look it up in the OSPD. "To cease to have
During the final
games, the room with the closed-circuit TV screen is crowded, and there is much
kibbitzing. A woman says loudly, "Making a bingo is almost as good as
sex." Everyone laughs, but I sense many of them think this is the absolute
truth. Gaes, fordo, kop, duit.
By morning's end,
Tiekert is looking strong. I talk to Tiekert's good friend Merrill Kaitz (38,
writer, Bronx, N.Y.), and he tells me that Tiekert's main strength is
"tactical and strategic analysis." He also says, "Ron is very shy.
He told me he hoped he'd come in second so he wouldn't have to be interviewed
on the Today show."
Going into Round
21, Nabutovsky has climbed back up to 76th place after having dipped into the
Armstrong again. The words are really weird now: probang, pe, fidge, miry,
lignin, gooral, noo, tivy, acta, trona. Tiekert wins again. This clinches the
championship for him—$10,000 plus a trip for two to Hawaii. Someone grabs the
final winning board and rushes away with it. Each tile will be permanently
glued in its place on the board—a relic for generations of Scrabble addicts to
The No. 1 woman is
Carol Clarke (30, VP of client support, Bronx, N.Y.), who had a 16 and 6 record
and comes in 12th overall. Clarke says, "I feel like I'm getting a lot of
respect." There is, however, as with all women players, a sense of
frustration as well as urgency about finishing so far behind the men.
photographers and television men are swarming around Tiekert now. When asked
how he views his victory, the champion says without a trace of shyness, "I
don't feel I'm undeserving." Edley finishes in second place, with 17 and 4,
Security Super is fourth. Poker Player is 14th, ex-champ Wapnick 18th, Gruber
24th, Nabutovsky 45th, Wade 80th. Dead last—302nd out of 302—was LeMay, the
synchronized-swimming instructor who had to drop out due to illness.