inning at the MISO11th hour
At the end of an exhilarating week of World Scrabble in mid-spring, MISO 11 looked done and dusted. But somehow the 2018 edition of the annual multi-strand MISO Experience has come back to life for one last curtain call.
The protagonist called out on stage is Cecil Muscat (left in photo), the proud and worthy recipient of a cash prize for the most improved participating member of the Malta Scrabble Club, the organising body behind MISO.
Cecil flew from the UK to his native Malta with a WESPA rating of 1470. Over six days and fifty games, from the Early Bird through the Main Event to the Late Bird, Cecil’s rating went off on a journey of its own, advancing by 196 points, stopping at 1664 and earning its master an aggregate €150 in cash prizes. His ABSP rating was likewise dynamic, going up 8 points from 158 to 166.
With his characteristic self-deprecating modesty and instinctive style of play, Cecil does not attribute his success to some carefully thought-out strategy. In fact, going into the tournament, he says he "had no expectations at all, so it was doubly pleasing." The mental ease with which he approached MISO 11 seems to have favoured him with "little things going my way". These included "having a rack without vowels and my opponent playing the right vowel to dump 5 letters and score well; not fighting with combinations of V’s, W’s U’s and double letters; endgames going your way and opponents gifting you wins. (In a tight game one opponent suffering from jet lag played QO!!)".
Scrabble aside, you’d expect Cecil to enjoy a quiet stay in his homeland during MISO week. Cecil admits that on the contrary, his five gregarious guests from the UK at his apartment in the seaside village of St Julian's make sure he doesn’t: "We have a good laugh in the evenings, playing cards fuelled by drinking prodigious amounts of wine and beer. Unfortunately I can’t drink much and red wine causes me to faint. Don’t know how they manage to play Scrabble the next day!"
Like the occasional spark that ignites his games, Cecil recalls the spark which years ago ignited in him the resolve to combine Scrabble with Malta's "perfect weather, fantastic venues and blue sea" by "starting the (then) Malta Open Tournament", in 2008. It is that same spark which makes him one of a handful of players to have "attended (MISO) every year" without fail, and which, his "progressive medical condition" permitting, will see him set off on a Malta-bound plane in the last week of April 2019 to join many others in another ultimate and complete Scrabble experience, that is MISO12 (hyperlinked).
(penned by Cecil Muscat & Nicky Vella Laurenti, published by Nicky Vella Laurenti, photo credit John Chew)