Sam’s Take

Recollections and oddities that Club founder Sam Orbaum gathered for the Club’s first website in 2002

► Sam, losing 383-307 to Sara Schacter, and with five tiles on his rack, plays R,E,D to extend QUITE to REQUITED for 162 points to win 469-408. The same evening, he has a 111-pt non-bingo: MEZQUITS.

► Sara, just after Yom Kippur, plays PENITENT.

► Zelig has a 476, then in the next game, exactly half that — 238 points.

►In one week, Janette Waisbrod’s average falls by 63.8 points.

► Following a six-week attendance surge of 68, 50, 59, 59, 63, 65, inexplicably, the next week, attendance is 39.

► The evening our Club is featured on national television, we don’t get to see it — it was broadcast on a Club night.

► In one session, both High Scores are achieved by players in the lowest division .

► JJ, 14 years old, has his first 500 against a first-timer, Norman Berkowitz. The score is 505-82. Berkowitz never came back.

► Sam, playing simultaneously against Janette Waisbrod and Esther Gerber, wins 540-238 and 517-271.

► Zelig scores 334 in consecutive turns: 122 for AZOTISE (which drew a challenge), and then, off the E, SEXUALLY for 212.

► Bad day for Seymour Rosen: LLLL, including losses of 564-304 and 556-310.

► On the 16th week of Season 5, club director Sam is absent for the first time ever, after perfect attendance of 115 weeks. (He went to Boston to play in the 1985 North American Championships.) Nevertheless, when he would later come late to a session for the first time, Moshe K would chide: “Jeez, you don’t seem to be taking this club very seriously.”

► On the second-to-last week of Season 5, Division A leader Zev Kesselman is LLL while runner-up Aryeh Wetherhorn is WWW; Aryeh wins the League.

► Judy F scores 203 points in an entire game — and it’s a rout. She wins 203-76 over Bertram. It is Bertram’s only game, and he sets the Club record for lowest career average (076.0).

► There’s a three-way tie for High Loss — and Alice has two of them. Her scores that evening: 385, 385, 385 (LLW).

► The club’s greatest last-play comeback: After Zelig bingos on his last play for a 146-point lead, Dora plays out with QUAFFERS for 237 points, adding 24 from his rack.

► A session’s two highest-scoring games are almost identical: 525-303 and 524-302.

► Sam plays YTTRIUM and BIVINYL back-to-back.

► Zelig improves as the session progresses: his three scores are 446, 447, 448.

► The night Lionel Rose wins his games by margins of 175, 265 and 163, and loses his fourth by 221, Seymour loses three by margins of 7, 1, 1.

► Ron Lowenstein beats David Elkins 270-229. Two months later, David would win the first national championships, with Ron finishing second.

► Sam playing Eddie Levenston, the first four words are bingos, and the blanks haven’t come out yet. A fifth bingo comes later. Simultaneously, Sam is playing Randy Blindman, with five bingos in that game too.

► Brenda Cohen, losing 82-0, plays three bingos in a row on the way to her first 600, beating Sam 611-341.

► Mia Pincu starts a session with a 240, yet gets High Triple (1259:240-442-577).

► Brenda beats Richard Aron 520-421: it is the session’s High Score AND High Loss.

► Bill Blum plays oddly similar words in one session: HOGTIES and COWSLIPS.

► Rena plays IDEATION twice in the same game.

► Bela Gilbey, aiming for her first 300-average season, scores one point too few, ending up at 299.99.

► When the Club computerized the stats and standings, after five years, Sam entered all the previous 45,000 scores into the computer. And triple-checked them.

► Aubrey Lipman ends a game stuck with QUUUU.
► Aubrey Lipman ends a game stuck with JQXZ.

► Sam plays UBIETIES against a newcomer, Wendy Elliman. She is not impressed. “Takes a D,” she says. HE’S impressed. Two years later they would marry, the club’s first successful matchmaking (the club has also been held responsible for several breakups, but never mind).

► At a special wedding reception-club session, attended by a record 80 players, newlyweds Sam and Wendy beat the crap out of their formally-attired guests: Wendy, WWW, gets High Score, High Triple, High Game Total; Sam, WW, gets runner-up High Score, runner-up High Game Total, and extends his win streak to 20.

► Seymour has back-to-back games of 217 and 580. He is not known
for consistency.

► Siggy sets an all-time record for lowest scoring game, with a 72. But he improved: his next score was a 265 loss, followed by a 320 win.

► Adam Logan narrowly misses being the 1,000th player in club history. Susan Marcus gets the honor, and is given a hatful of gifts including 1,000-Island dressing M&M’s and mille feuilles.

► Sam, aiming for his 100th 500, scores a 498 and 499.

► Hillel Bar-Lev almost scores a huge upset over Hazel Haberer. He loses because of his final rack: OOOOOOR.

► The club scoring record of 652, held by both JJ and Sam, is bettered by Brenda — who winds up at 653. She is the first player with two 600s in one night. Her 1622 triple is second-best ever: 618-351-653.

► In a game between Hillel and Hilda Ben-Nun, all eight Triple Word Score squares are used — the only time that’s ever been noticed.

► Zelig needs a 369 in his final game of the season to end up with a 400 average. He bingos out — but winds up with 368, finishing at 399.99. All agree it is a classically Zeligian average.

► On the night of Saddam Hussein’s Doomsday Deadline — January 15, 1991 — 43 Jerusalemites say “take this!” and decline to stay home, attending the JSC instead. A week later, the session was interrupted by air-raid sirens, and all 27 players headed for the sealed room. The Civil Guard promptly closed down the club as “public menace” (too many people gathering in one place). We resumed three weeks later, with our game room now sealed against attack. The following week — by now we were used to this — a Scud-attack alert failed to move us. We stayed where we were, donned our gas masks, and resumed playing, though nobody could hear the calls of Challenge!

► Marganit Weinberger-Rotman sets a record for highest first score — a 554.

► Esther Gerber has an 1184 triple (401-393-390) but is LLL, registering the three highest losses of the session.

► Someone named Henry W sees The Simpsons on TV. The Simpsons are playing Scrabble. That gives Henry an idea: the next day, he attends the Jerusalem Scrabble Club for the first time (he never came back; presumably, he went back to watching The Simpsons).

► Last-place Eva Brodie beats first-place Esther, 369-353. Scrabble’s like that.

► News from the Herzliya Club: Evan Cohen breaks the national scoring record with a 738-211 win. His triple is 1681: 738-527-416.

► Randy plays bEADIEST, but Sam flips over the blank, and it’s not blank — it’s an R, so the word, now READIEST, stays on the board.

► Zelig plays ELECTION on Election Day.

► Aryeh loses a game because he wins a challenge. Bon Amah goes out with OUTRISK; it’s not enough to win, but Aryeh challenges it off the board. Aryeh can’t go out, and in the next turn, Bon sees it: OUTSKIRT on a triple-triple to win 448-434.

► Joan Berg beats Rena in the club’s highest one-point margin of victory, 457-456.

► Chani Katz plays GERMANIC. Oohs and aahs. Sam says he’s never seen the word played before. A couple of hours later Pamela unwittingly plays GERMANIC — against Sam.

► In what is believed to be an Intifada attack, 33 tires on 10 of our cars are slashed.

►Maria Blumfield loses consecutive games 393-392 and 393-391.

► Judy Lewin’s player number in the computer is 163; her son is 1163, which means he came to the club exactly 1,000 players after his mother (what took him so long?).

► On our 500th week, there were 14 players who were there from Week 1.

► Sam sets a club record for high differential (446) — in a playoff game, against League Champ JJ. Sam wins 653-207. A year and a half later, also in a playoff game, JJ would get revenge with the most lopsided win ever against Sam, 534-245.

► Alfred Butts dies — precisely on the 10th anniversary of the Jerusalem Scrabble Club (April 5, 1993).

► Sam ties the club record for longest winning streak, 26 games. Then, instead of breaking it, his next game is a 395-395 tie.

► As the session starts, Queene Parnes learns she has a new grandchild. She promptly plays her first word: NURSERY.

► After finishing Season 21 a combined 120-30, three weeks into the new season, Zelig is 2-7 and Sam is 1-7. Sam’s only win is against Zelig.

► Queene plays DREIDLS and DIRNDLS in the same session.

► After 532 weeks, no one named Abby had ever played in the JSC. By Week 534, we had two.

► One short of tying the record for most 500s in a session, the last score of the session is a 499.

► David Litke steals the title of Mr. Almost for one evening from Zelig: David’s three scores are 299, 399, 499.

► Etta Margalit, the high winner after the first round (541), is accidentally paired against the low winner, Vera Walden (241). And Vera wins, 345-344, her best score ever. At the same time, Hilda, last place in B, beats Aryeh, #1 in A, 389-285.

► David L wins two straight by margins of 200: 488-288 and 511-311.

► The pairing announcement “Avi-Maria” elicits general laughter.

► Yehuda Meroz bumps wife Tzilla out of a playoff spot in C. They are still married.

► Rena scores the club’s 30,000,000th point, appropriately winning a copy of the Guinness Book of Records.

► Sam plays KADDISH and MAFTIR on consecutive turns.

► Steve Goldberg hooks up the Club to the Internet for the first time, and Sam beats JJ Chew (Toronto) 465-340 in the first ever international game at the JSC.

► On the 10th anniversary of our first 600, JJ breaks the club record with a 672. Ironically, that same evening, Don Wilk visits the club for the first time in eight years. Don was the victim of that first 600.

► After the director announces JJ’s 672 (to sustained applause), and again, in the next round, a 605 by JJ, sweet little old Shirley Covlentz reports her score, a 412. She quips: “I think it’s worth an announcement, don’t you?”

► JJ averages 501.5 over a 10-game span.

► In a show of great sportsmanship, JJ, two wins short of the win-streak record, is paired against a B player, Peggy Friedlander. But he asks to play National Champion Evan Cohen instead. Evan gets both blanks, the four S’s and the J,Q,Z, and a two-bingo lead, but JJ pulls it out, 414-412. The next week, JJ did set the win streak, but fell one short of the longest undefeated streak — ironically, losing to Peggy.

► Alice wins the first Etiquette Poll, followed by Madeline Wetherhorn, Brenda, Aubrey Lipman, Etta Sklar. B C comes in dead last.

► An oddity: in E, a division for new players, the #10,11,12 players are named Esther, Mia and Sarah. Division A also has an Esther, Mia, Sarah.

► Zelig doesn’t challenge Sam’s 101-point play SQUIFF — it’s not good — but later DOES challenge SQUIFFED, which is good.

► It has only happened once so far: two weeks into Season 25, the last-place player, Henry Jacobs, had the highest average (304) in a division (D). The first-place player, Vera, very nearly had the lowest (284).

► Sam starts a session with a 441 average. His first score is a 284, but follows that with a 463 and 577 — ending the session with a 441 average.

► After playing 19 bingos in a five-game stretch, Sam, in his next five games, has only one.

► Miriam Blumberg needs an O for ORDINATE. Yaakov Homnick promptly
complies — by playing ORDINATE.

► Hazel, about to become the first 1,000-win player without a 600-pt game, scores a 615 for her 999th win.

► Liron Loval, age eight, is our youngest player ever. She is our first player born after the club was formed.
► B C becomes the first (so far, only) player ever banished from the club, for threatening behavior to another player.

► JJ is 91-6 against non-A players. His last loss outside A was 14 months earlier — to his mother, Alice.

► The three highest losses in one session all came against the same player (Sam), who won 460-418, 444-421, 444-422.

► Ami Tzubery, in his last game before he moves to Germany, needs a win to leave in first place. He asks to play Sam, whom he’d never beaten in 16 games. Ami wins.

► Quite a day for Dora Munzberg. Bidding adieu to her dear friend Ami, she arranges a party at the club — but arrives with a newly broken wrist… and it’s her birthday too.

► JJ finally loses to a non-A player, Ruth Ogdan. JJ had been 101-6 against players outside of A in the previous five and a half years, while Ruth had been 6-51.

► Sara Friedman scores more than half a game’s points in a single turn. She gets 212 for CROUCHED, beating Hillel 422-404.

► Playing in the best-of-five for the club championship, Zelig has his lowest-ever score in a 471-200 loss, then in the next game exactly doubles it for a 400-327 win.

► Sam plays HANDSOME exactly a decade to the day after the word was last played — also by Sam.

► Two scores reported almost simultaneously were wins by Sam, 561-195 (366 differential) and by Peggy, 565-200 (365 differential).

► For the first time since the Gulf war, the club cancels a session, on March 5, 1996, when Gail Geshen and her mother, who play in the Herzliya club, are killed in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

► Quite a night for David C. First, he beats Dora in the club’s 50,000th game. Then, he beats Rena 522-481, which tied the record for High Loss. He wins his third, 427-426.

► Henry Pacifico attends a session. We’ve had many visitors from clubs around the world, but this is special: Henry’s from the Riyadh club, in Saudi Arabia.

► Dora plays her own name, and then some: BANDORAS.

► It’s the War of the Merozes: Yehuda and Tzilla Meroz square off in the first husband-and-wife divisional C) championship series. Tzilla, a South African who taught Yehuda, an Israeli, to play (and beats him regularly), loses the best-of-5. They are STILL married.

► Sam has runner-up High Triple, but with three losing scores: 405-432-415 (1252).

► Rena Blumenthal has a 96-point four-letter word, JEEZ — yet the J is a blank!

► Hazel wins the A League in Season 28. Remarkably, it is the first time a woman has finished #1 in A, though women make up about 70% of the club. Hazel also won the Club Championship, only the second time a woman has done so.

► Bela, a lovely lady but not a strong player (299 career average), stages one of our greatest late-season comebacks. She wins her last 12 games, including a WWW on the final week (while #1 Shirley loses all 3), to finish first in D by 1 point.

► Rookie Rena B wins the B playoffs with a record-smashing 6-0 +798, and enters the elite Division A after less than one full season. At Week 4 of the new season, after less than half a year at the club, Rena B is #1 in A.

► Claire Rose sets one of the few records available to her: most losses at the start of a season (0-18). After one more loss, she finally wins, 185-184.

► A six-year-old child (ok, MY six-year-old child), Odelia Orbaum, shows she’s almost ready. At home one afternoon, trying to unscramble Scrabble tiles selected by her Daddy, she can’t find anything (not even her favorite color) with IKNP. However, she says: “Daddy, can you give me a D and an A?” and promptly comes up with KIDNAP. Is she a budding genius or what?

► After 16 weeks of Season 29, JJ is 14-2 against men, but only 21-11 against women. No one can figure out why, except maybe that JJ is young.

► Season 29 was the season nobody wanted to finish first. On the final week, in a close three-way race, the three, Pamela, David C and Steve, were a combined 2-10. Pamela, who rode a 19-3 streak to surge from nowhere to #1, ended up 0-4 to lose the League title.

► There is no Player of the Week selection for C, as only one player shows up — and she loses all three. Oddly, the previous week, only two C players were present, and in their best result, one of them had a tie.

► This is a typical Israeli story: Dahlia Friedman leaves us for a visit to New York. She attends the Manhattan club, and naturally, sees fellow Clubnik Zev there.

► JJ breaks the record for high average in a season, in Season 28…and again in Season 29 … and AGAIN in Season 30.

► With other C players watching breathlessly, Tamara Rose plays Jared Goldfarb in the last game of the season. Tamara needs to win to finish #1 (which gains her promotion to B); Jared needs to win to finish in the playoffs in his rookie season. Charles Cohen, who will finish #1 if Tamara loses, turns away, confident in Jared’s big, late-game lead. But Tamara bingos out for 95 points to win 342-329.


HAROLD BLUM’S PRIAPISM…After the first season of Club play, a popular vote took place to decide which of the 25 Words of the Week would be declared the Word of the Season. Harold Blum’s entry won: PRIAPISM.  As Harold stepped up to claim his prize, Alice Jonah’s voice was heard amidst the applause: “Hey, what about me?” We all quieted down, looked toward Alice as if to say “Huh?” at which point she explained. “He was playing me at the time; I inspired it!” The laughter subsided long after.

A LEVEL ABOVE US… A losing Seymour Rosen, in an act of desperation on his last full rack, tries the phony bingo, AVIATER. His opponent challenges, and Dr. Eddie Levenston, a “proper” professor of English at Hebrew University, is called upon to do the lookup. He approaches the board, OSPD in hand, and the players point to the challenged word. Eddie smiles, and begins leafing through the OSPD. (Leaf, leaf..) “Oh, really?”, (Leaf, leaf…) “ that?..” (Leaf, leaf…), “..without a U?”.

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLER… Spotted by Zev Kesselman, personally. Two little old ladies from the non-competitive D league have just begun a game. With a virgin board, one of them is frantically shuffling her rack. Zev goes behind to observe, and she says, “It’s so promising, but I just don’t see anything…” You guessed it: She held SATINE and a blank.

INSOUCIANT KEN… It’s 11:15pm. Zev Kesselman has finished his last (3rd) game. Three other players are waiting for him for their ride home. He begins to look for his board, clock, tiles, etc. and spots them on Kenny’s table — with Kenny innocently using them for a fourth game. Zev approaches him and tells him it’s late, and they wanna go home. “Oh, is this your board?” he replies cherubically. “Yes,” frowns Zev, “and it’s really unfair of you to do this” With the other three riders looking on, Kenny replies: “Not really. You have to wait anyways, since my car is blocking yours in the parking lot.”

OH, ‘ELL! Zev mistracked a game. OK, it happens. But he mistracked the next game too, and the one after that. This became alarming when he realized that he mistracked every game for five weeks. After one playoff, it turned from annoying to absurd: according to his track, his opponent should have had seven Is, plus other letters — yet the opponent only had six tiles, and the bag was empty. Finally, Zev investigated ¬ and found his new homemade tracking sheets listed 12 Is! And it took that long to notice.

ALL’S FAIR… Zev relates to the club director, how he shmeered a new B player: pulled off two phonies BARETTAS* and VENOMAL*, plus drew her into a challenge by bingoing with RUSTICA(l) instead of the higher scoring ACqUITS.

Club director: That’s not how you treat a low intermediate player!
Zev: But she was neck-and-neck with me until then…(2 moves).
Club director: Oh, well, that’s different then!

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING NUGATORY… Zev and Sam are locked in Scrabble battle, Zev lays down the bingo NUGATOrY. (English Professor) Eddie is looking on.

Sam : Yes, I know the word.
Zev : Maybe Eddie can give us a definition – after the game is over.
Eddie: Yes, it’s not that important…

As the smoke clears half-an-hour later…

Zev : Well, Eddie, what does NUGATORY mean?
Eddie: I told you already!

OySPD Corner
One of the quirks of playing Scrabble in a non-English-speaking country is what one may call the ‘foreign language interference’ syndrome. How does this manifest?
In almost any non-English language today, there are many words derived from the English. They are easily identified because of their ‘foreign ring’ in the local language. Also, the original English word is usually slightly modified (such as adding a local-language suffix) to make it fit.

In the majority of cases, there is no confusion as to exactly what the original English word was. For example, any Scrabble player in Israel would easily identify the Hebrew BIOLOGGIA as a modification of the English BIOLOGY and would never allow anyone to get away with playing the Hebrew version. But, as usual with most things of this kind, there is a small gray area where things aren’t so clear-cut. This has led to plays of phonies (Hebrew words) which weren’t challenged. Here are just such words which have remained on the Scrabble board:

 PLAYER                     OPPONENT         WORD                    HEBREW MEANING
J.J. Jonah                   Zev Kesselman     TANKIST               tank crew member
Steve Goldberg          Lionel Rose           MOSAICA              mosaic
Zev Kesselman          Esther Gerber       VITRINA                show window, vitrine
Aryeh Wetherhorn   Alice Jonah            MODA                    fashion, mode