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July 1, 2011 12:05 PM   Subscribe

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the lowest combined game score in a game of Scrabble, -22, played between Marlon Hill (−6) and Ben Schoenbrun (−16) on July 3, 2010, in Albany, NY. It also marks the anniversary of Edward De Guzman's record-setting final score (771) (PDF details, annotated gameboard), as well as Nigel Peltier's record seven bingos in a single game (picture of final board). Still more Scrabble records. posted by gerryblog (46 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
How do you get a negative score in Scrabble? (Penalty for using words that don't exist?)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:09 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The second link explains how: The game ended after six consecutive zero scores from challenged phonies and exchanges and both players got negative points from the tiles left on their racks. Marlon drew a blank and won with −6 points, while Ben got stuck with the Q and lost with −16 points. Congratulations to both! Indeed, congratulations.
posted by gerryblog at 12:11 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once got 101 points dropping QUERN with the Q going both ways on a triple letter and the N on a double word score. My life's been pretty much downhill from there.
posted by theodolite at 12:11 PM on July 1, 2011 [19 favorites]


Should we try to get a slot for our secret WordsWithFriends codenames in our profiles? Mine is just my first and last name smushed together, same as the URL for the personal website already listed in my profile.
posted by gerryblog at 12:21 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yowza. Yes, interesting game and all, but what amazes me is that something as sophisticated as the annotated game boards at cross-tables.com exists. For recording Scrabble results.
posted by anarch at 12:22 PM on July 1, 2011


I don't really understand how the negative scoring thing can happen without collusion. Is a 'phoney' a word that is successfully challenged and then rejected?

Also, I can't figure out why words with friends is so much more popular than scrabble. Is it just the first mover advantage, did the scrabble people take too long making a good iphone/android apps? I tried both a few months ago and they both seem fine.
posted by skewed at 12:23 PM on July 1, 2011


My best finished game was 694 points. I had 491 points (three plays over 100 points each!) with 48 tiles left in one game when the person I was beating (humiliating) walked out on me. I have never been so close to murder in my life.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:24 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well here's one reason: WWF is cross-compatible between iPhone/Android. As far as I can tell (from searchin the Android Marketplace) there's no Scrabble Android app anyway.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:25 PM on July 1, 2011


[makes note to never play Scrabble with dances_with_sneetches]
posted by echo target at 12:27 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


skewed, it wouldn't have to be collusion; it could have just been ignorance of a weird game-ending technicality, or else an accidental phoney.

On the other hand, if you're that close to greatness you really do just have to go for it.
posted by gerryblog at 12:27 PM on July 1, 2011


Obligatory.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:32 PM on July 1, 2011


Aren't there records for highest score where both players work together to create the ideal conditions for a triple-triple-triple word score ultra-word, etc? No reason why you couldn't go for the reverse.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:33 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


My best play in Words With Friends netted 115 points, just one round in a bizarrely one-sided game against a friend I play frequently, in which I kept getting optimal tiles at opportune moments. It was gratifying for a little while because my opponent is somebody I usually lose against (slightly over 50% of the time). But the game turned into such a shellacking that it wasn't fun any more; with a 250 points spread between us, the game had effectively ended days before and I lost the motivation to strategize. It became kind of embarrassing to follow through to the end.
posted by ardgedee at 12:33 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait what's a bingo? Oh god I've wasted my life.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on July 1, 2011


Though I love poker and a good bluff, I have absolutely no interest in Scrabble where phony words are a part of your strategy. I can't explain why but it just seems ick to me. he thing I like about Words with Friends is that it isn't allowed -- and that it checks my words in case I think one is something but am not sure. And all from the privacy of my own phone without having to look like an idiot.

Of course, this post just admits my idiocy.

And if this were a too twee indie movie -- think a cross between The Hustler/Color of Money and the episode of King of The Hill where Peggy goes to the Boggle championship -- I'd post that and then get you to challenge me in Words with Friends (handle in my profile here) for money. And then I'd wipe the floor with you.

Unfortunately, while I'd be for the set-up, I'm not sure I could pull off the sting.

Or could I?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:34 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bingo = where you use your entire hand (all 7 tiles) in one go.

One weird thing about the WWF board is that the TL and TW are placed so that you can easily get them both in one word. Doing this with e.g. a Q or Z on the TL can lead to outrageous scores.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:35 PM on July 1, 2011


I found a neat web-based scrabble game called Wabble recently. I don't have an iphone, so seeing everyone playing words with friends had me a bit bummed out. Wabble's not bad, though it is realtime, and as I understand it, WWF is asynchronous and played over a longer time period.
posted by inedible at 12:36 PM on July 1, 2011


My WWF name is the comparative adjective version of my Mefi name.
posted by box at 12:39 PM on July 1, 2011


Legit, low-tech, avatar-free, properly-rated Scrabble here. Oh yeah, and KWIGYBO.
posted by obscurator at 12:40 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


KWYJIBO.

Nerd DWS.
posted by box at 12:41 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


[W]hat amazes me is that something as sophisticated as the annotated game boards at cross-tables.com exists. For recording Scrabble results.

Well, cross-tables is aimed at the competitive player, so annotating tournament games makes sense in that context. Players can go over them play by play to see if there were higher scoring plays to be made with the letters on the rack at the time, or better places to play the word.

Wait what's a bingo?

In competitive Scrabble, a bingo is a play using all 7 of your tiles, which gets you a bonus of 50 points on top of the score for the play. Good players make plays that not only score well, but also leave tiles on their rack that have a decent chance of combining with tiles still in the bag to make bingos. In tournaments, it's not all that unusual for good players to have 2 or 3 bingos per game.

I don't play, but my husband plays competitively, runs a Scrabble club, and is a tournament director. I speak fairly fluent competitive Scrabble.
posted by booksherpa at 12:45 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This has made me never want to play Words with Friends again. I got a 78-scoring word once and thought I was hot shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:47 PM on July 1, 2011


Is it me or is WWF a little freer with the points than "real" scrabble? My highest scoring moves have been from combining multiple word multipliers- ie Double Word and Triple Word makes 6x word. I always thought in Scrabble you just took the highest one?
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:54 PM on July 1, 2011


(My highest scoring word ever didn't even have any high-value letters in it- it was REDIVIDED with the V on triple-letter, hitting a double-word and triple-word, so the V alone was worth 5x3x2x3 = 90 points)
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:56 PM on July 1, 2011


drjimmy11, I always through you could stack multipliers in vanilla Scrabble too. I think it's more what was mentioned upthread -- the rearranged board allows for you to more commonly hit big multipliers each turn, commonly going in more than one direction.

I *feel* as though WWF is also pretty buggy, and sometimes counts "dead" multipliers a second or third time -- but I can't prove it using anything but my never-wrong gut.
posted by gerryblog at 12:58 PM on July 1, 2011


the one-year anniversary of the lowest combined game score in a game of Scrabble

That's now officially my favorite sequence of words ever.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:07 PM on July 1, 2011


When's the only time you're thrilled to tell everyone: "I've got diarrhea!"?

When you're playing Scrabble!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:08 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Probably the most interesting thing about Ed's record-setting 771 game was that he missed a relatively easy bingo (well, easy for players of his level (and really he only missed the way to hook it onto the board and not the word itself) early on, and his less than optimal play then set him up for such a great run later in the game.

As for Words with Friends, you won't see a lot of high-rated Scrabble players spending much time with that game since it uses a different lexicon, tile distribution, and board layout. But though the layout does tend to raise the average player's score, it actually tends to inhibit high scores among very good players, thus making it a bit more even and competitive. Also, the lower bonus for making a bingo also tends to even things out. (For instance, it would be an odd Scrabble tournament where I didn't score over 500 at least once during my games, but I tend to score that high only once every 25 or so games in WWF.) I think this leveling out of players' scoring abilities is one of the main reasons why you see WWF being so popular; lower-level players simply have more chance of winning and so they stick around longer as players, whereas the Scrabble setup can be somewhat discouraging for newbies as they lose much more regularly.
posted by zeugitai_guy at 1:45 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


If this interests you at all, you just should read Wordfreaks by Stefan Fatsis, the guy who is now the sports desk for NPR.

One of the dudes in this game is Marlon Hill, who has been playing a generally high level of tournament chess for years and years. He was one of the main characters in Wordfreaks and the movie that was basically the same as the book.

If he was putting bogus words down, he was trying to shark this guy. And vice versa, if Schoenburn had any idea who Marlon Hill was or what competitive Scrabble was about.

These guys study wordlists all goddamned day---go to your nearest bookstore and take a browse and the Complete Scrabble Book of Wordlists (probably not actual title). Just lists and lists of words in very tiny print. The goal of books like that is not to learn what words mean, you just learn what combinations of letters exist in the Scrabble dictionary.

Both of the guys in this game probably new better, and could have scored some points if they wanted to. Call it disingenuous if you will, but there is an element of poker mentality in Scrabble because if, no matter how good you are, you draw all vowels you're at a disadvantage.

So this behavior is not the same as chess players making stupid moves on purpose to gut out an opponent---that would lose every time.

The luck of the draw in Scrabble allows for a little bravado, which explains in some part the popularity of competitive Scrabble.

Bottom line, if you had an idea of what was going on as far as what their racks were allowing (not saying I do) you probably would've thought the game was a riot if you watched it. I would like to see a video.
posted by TheRedArmy at 1:59 PM on July 1, 2011


Oops. Marlon Hill plays tournament SCRABBLE not chess. Sorry. Fuck you, Freud.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:00 PM on July 1, 2011


To clarify, a successful phony word is basically like stealing a base. If you challenge unsuccessfully, you lose YOUR turn. Instead of testing your footspeed, you're testing whether your opponent has a strong word knowledge. Conceivably, a thoughtful phony world can really make your opponent sweat, as well as get you illicit (but real) points and an extra turn for nothing at all but the dignity of your opponent. Once it's on the board and you decline to challenge it, it stays no matter what revelations about it you have later on.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:08 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have a house rule for Scrabble and Boggle. When a word is challenged, the player who played it must give a definition for it before it's looked up--and we look up in a proper dictionary.
posted by Hogshead at 2:35 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can learn quite a lot about your opponent's skill level by playing low-stakes, bogus words early in the game. Especially two-letter words (ka, jo, xu, etc.(not a valid word)). No challenge=free rein over the board. Isc.ro is great in that it offers both a "single" option, where there's no consequence to a wrong challege, and a "double" game, where you lose your turn after a wrong challenge.
posted by obscurator at 2:56 PM on July 1, 2011


> We have a house rule for Scrabble and Boggle. When a word is challenged, the player who played it must give a definition for it before it's looked up--and we look up in a proper dictionary.

That's the house rule at my parents' when I was growing up.

We used a three-volume unabridged dictionary.
posted by ardgedee at 3:03 PM on July 1, 2011


You can learn quite a lot about your opponent's skill level by playing low-stakes, bogus words early in the game. Especially two-letter words (ka, jo, xu, etc.(not a valid word)).

What? Ka, jo and xu are all valid (in the US at least), so not bogus at all.
posted by w0mbat at 3:12 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marlon is also a hysterical, somewhat damaged character who -- in both Word Freak and Word Wars -- comes across as both detestable and loveable. He's a pretty damn good player, so I have a hard time believing that he could finish with a negative score. Maybe there was collusion, as previously mentioned?

Then again, there was a scene in the movie where, playing Joel Sherman and having a rack of junk letters, he exchanges a bunch of garbage and pulls out ... the exact same garbage. He curses and walks out.

So, maybe having a few of these in a row isn't too-too unthinkable ... but for both players?
posted by jpolchlopek at 4:29 PM on July 1, 2011


Recent highlights of what an addiction on Internet Scrabble Club (isc.ro) can do, such as, 194 for a triple-triple playing typhoOns, >500 scores, etc.etc. are shown in a gallery of some 18 of my recent 3-4 minute per side games.
posted by lalochezia at 4:32 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


the V on triple-letter, hitting a double-word and triple-word,

That's wasn't Scrabble. The only double word that can be hit with a triple word is the center square, and the requirement to play there at the start, and the 8 space distance, makes a double-triple word impossible to play.

You can get double-double words (closest is 7 spaces), triple letter-double-word (5 spaces), double-letter, triple-word (4) and the holy grail, Triple-Triple word (8 spaces, so you need a letter already in place and build around it.) The DL on the edge makes a Triple-Triple Word/Double Letter play possible, drop a Z or Q on there, and it's 180 points for that one tile. Theoretically, you could play BEZIQUES (say, if someone left an E just off the triple word) and score a lovely (3+1+10+1+(2x10)+1+1+1)x3x3=342 points.

A quick glance at the Words with Friends board shows logs of shots at triple-letter/triple-word and Double-letter/Double-word, but no obvious double-word/triple-word plays. The double-double word is shorter (5 spaces) and while the triple-triple is just as hard (8), there are two triple letters in between, rather than one double letter. In general, I've found the Words With Friend board scores higher (never mind the higher letter values on things like B and M.)

The best I ever pulled was ENQUIrED as a triple-triple word.
posted by eriko at 4:57 PM on July 1, 2011


I'm not a WWF player, but isn't there an IPhone app where you can plug in your letters and see all the possible words?
posted by TheShadowKnows at 5:18 PM on July 1, 2011


I'm not a WWF player, but isn't there an IPhone app where you can plug in your letters and see all the possible words?

Yep, Check Word. It can serve as a word judge as well. If you play competitive Scrabble, and have an iThing, it's the best 99 cents you ever spent.
posted by booksherpa at 5:32 PM on July 1, 2011


Marlon is also a hysterical, somewhat damaged character who -- in both Word Freak and Word Wars -- comes across as both detestable and loveable.

Marlon is indeed a polarizing presence. And it's worth noting that he was recently suspended from tourney play for a few months because of his antics. I believe the suspension centered around his threat to punch his opponent in the face....

He's a pretty damn good player, so I have a hard time believing that he could finish with a negative score. Maybe there was collusion, as previously mentioned?

I don't remember for sure whether Marlon went first or second, but I do remember that his win in this game was purely the result of strategy and I think he was second. After four plays in which zero points were scored, Marlon knew that two more plays of zero would end the game, they would count how many points they had on their respective racks, and deduct them from their scores of zero. So in that case whoever had the fewest points on their rack would win. Marlon was sitting with six one-point tiles and a blank. Even if his opponent also held a blank, the worst Marlon could do was tie. So with his opponent not scoring on that turn (I think because he played a phoney that got pulled off), Marlon simply passed and won the game when one of his opponent's tiles was the Q.
posted by zeugitai_guy at 5:58 PM on July 1, 2011


My best WWF play was "JAPE", with triple letter on the J, triple word for the entire word, and then the E (on the triple word square) created the word HE, so that was tripled, too. Total points for "JAPE" = 120.
posted by misha at 5:58 PM on July 1, 2011


(I just can not get my brain to read WWF in the context-appropriate way. Upside: imagining that y'all are in some sort of pro wrestling spelling bee crossover league turns out to be lots of fun.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:54 PM on July 1, 2011


I believe the suspension centered around his threat to punch his opponent in the face....

Funny, I was just talking to a tournament player about this last night at my local club. There are some crazy characters in Scrabble and also some silly politics that are inhibiting the growth of the game. I recently joined NASPA (North American Scrabble Players Assoc.) and the word is that the head of it is a bit of a self-important dictator who has POed a lot of the top players. Makes me sad because it's a great game and tournament Scrabble is fun.

As to WWF, I play it a bit but I've sort of lost interest for the following reasons:

1) Only 35 points for a bingo instead of 50. This completely changes the strategy, which in real Scrabble centers around balancing your rack with 1-point tiles to try to get bingoes (use all 7 tiles).
2) Different values for many of the letters.
3) Goofy placement of bonus squares leads to me emptying my rack for a total of 50 and then the opponent doing something like MAST for 75.
4) The auto-validation ruins the game because people just sit there and try dozens of words until something works. The risk of playing a fake word by accident or on purpose is a bit part of the game of Scrabble.
5) A lot of people cheat. They use various assistant programs that kill the fun of it.
6) Waiting a zillion years for the next move takes you out of the head space of the game.
7) Random additions to/removals from the official US word list. Examples: "DA" is legal in WWF but not US Scrabble; "APO" is legal in Scrabble but not WWF. So it's basically useless or even dangerous as a training tool.

Several expert-level Scrabble players near me told me not to play as it would ruin my Scrabble skills. I may bail on it completely.

Mostly now I play on ISC (Internet Scrabble Club) with people who sign Fair Play (no cheats). But the best is club + tournament play. Nothing like the sweat of deciding whether to challenge a dubious word. Recently I failed to challenge BUSTLIKE which was total b.s.

I'm off to study my word lists! Tonight is ORATES + ?

ORATES + A = AEROSAT

Great post!!
posted by freecellwizard at 7:29 PM on July 1, 2011


w0mbat:

> (ka, jo, xu, etc.(not a valid word)).

This is quite correct. Ka, jo and xu are valid words - etc. is not, it's an abbrev.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 PM on July 1, 2011


I recently joined NASPA (North American Scrabble Players Assoc.) and the word is that the head of it is a bit of a self-important dictator who has POed a lot of the top players.

And middling players, like myself. Chris Cree's an ass. I won't join NASPA, and sadly the Word Game Players Association (WGPO), formed recently as a kind of 'non-profit, lower entry fee' organization, has not yet caught on widely. It's been several years since my last tourney, and I'm getting the itch again, but the state of the hobby is depressing.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 1:24 AM on July 2, 2011


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