Five Moments from Malta

Highlights from 11th Malta International Scrabble Open

We are now into year eleven of the Malta International Scrabble Open (MISO) - a triple tournament festival we previewed earlier in the year.

Fifty games over one week, with time off to tour - there's a lot to get through, and this five point summary just scratches the surface.

1. What a great place for a tournament!
The MISO festival is one that attracts many players from around the globe and, with the ever growing presence of social media, it is not really difficult to see why.

Not only do you get around 50 games of Scrabble in a week against a competitive field, the photo we include here offers a tantalising snapshot of the views on offer from the venue. This year the “rest day” between the Main Event and the Late Bird featured a tour where players could experience Malta’s sights as well as games, offering a complete package for people interested in Scrabble tourism.

This year was the 11th MISO Festival, with players from 17 countries in attendance. This is a tournament that attracts players and, when they do come, make the effort to come back. John Chew reported that 8 players have played every MISO and 13 have only missed one. A massive 32 first timers attended, including a contingent from South Australia who joined regular Aussies like John Barker and Karen and Paul Richards.

MISO 2018 featured the second highest attendance in the Main Event with 82 players in 2 Divisions.

2. 600s and 1000s.
When you have a week of Scrabble, thoughts often turn to what heights games can reach, and with effectively 50 rounds over a three tournament festival, instances of 600+ individual scores or 1000+ combineds are to be expected at this level.

The Early Bird featured 3 600 games (with a tournament high 654 from Hungary’s Ferenc Gerlits) and no combined scores above 1000. Fast forward to the Main Event, and it featured 5 individual scores over 600 with the highest a massive 679 by Alastair Richards that occurred in a live stream game (a still of the completed board is featured with the full stream included here).

Alastair emerged victorious in that game, but his 458-586 loss to Tony Sim early in the tournament provided the festival high combined record of 1044. There were 5 1000+ point games all up in the Main Event, not forgetting a 999 in Round 21.

It was not to be beaten in the Late Bird, although Keiichiro Hirai’s 519-508 win over Elie Dangoor came in a close enough second.

3rd placed Goutham Jayaraman’s 624 in Round 4 was an equal high score with Theresa Brousson’s 624 nine rounds later.

3. Victory for Alastair
Alastair Richards’ last WESPA rated tournament was at the start of 2017, where he finished 3rd at the City of Sydney International Masters and this was his first WESPA rated tournament since moving to New Zealand.

Three straight wins to open the tournament gave him a Round 4 game against Tony Sim, a game which provided the week high combined accolade; a next round loss to Rafal Dominiczak left him 9th with a 3-2 +117 record.

From that point on, aside from a Round 8 loss to Goutham Jayaraman, the only way was up. In the subsequent 17 games, Alastair went 14-3 and led the tournament from his Round 15 win over Elie Dangoor right the way through to the tournament conclusion.

A second loss to Goutham in the final game was not enough to change positions for either of the top 2, and meant Alastair ended the tournament with an average score of 468 against an opponent average of 400 and the tournament high game of 679.

And a winner.

4. Stefan Rau goes back to back
Last year’s MISO saw Stefan Rau emerge victorious in the Late Bird whilst topping the high game scores in the Main Event; this year he was one of the many players who would return, this time to take part in all three events.

A last round loss in Round 9 saw him finish a creditable 6th in the Early Bird (going 7-2, averaging 437 for and 391 against) and a shaky start in the Main Event left him 28th after Game 6.

From there, he won 11 of his next 13 games, including wins against eventual runner up Goutham Jayaraman, 3rd place David Webb and 5th place Elie Dangoor before coming up against eventual winner Alastair Richards in Round 20.

An unfortunate run toward the end saw him finish 10th - but the chance to defend his title in the final event remained.

In the Late Bird, an early lead (after Round 3) was surrendered in Round 4 and from Rounds 6-13, he sat in second place behind Goutham Jayaraman. Round 14 was pivotal with a win over Marlon Prudencio whilst Goutham lost to Japan’s Keiichiro Hirai on the live stream.

A close victory over Keiichiro Hirai in Round 15 (440-424) and Goutham slipping up to Bob Violett meant that Stefan Rau could not lose the tournament and so would succeed in going back to back! A last round loss to local Charles Micallef could not change the result.

5. Coverage is King.
None of this piece could really have been done if it were not for the excellent web and social media reporting coming from MISO.

From a website perspective, John Chew’s web coverage from MISO has been nothing short of sensational. Those following from afar would be used to the quality round by round commentary, supported by photos and the continual (and mid round) updating on the leaderboard - and, in recent times, the advent of video streaming via the Poslfit Facebook page has allowed more and more people to see quality Scrabble on display.

Not only that, Scrabble Malta have backed this up with articles about each tournament posted within 12 hours of conclusion of each previous event and sent the necessary files to have the WESPA ratings updated within a day of completion of this festival of Scrabble!

We are already looking forward to 2019.

Malta Early Bird Tournament Link
Malta Main Event Tournament Link
Malta Late Bird Tournament Link
Scrabble Malta Early Bird Report
Scrabble Malta Main Event Report
Scrabble Malta Late Bird Report

Photos: John Chew