Scrabble, as the experts play it.
September 19, 2002 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Scrabble, as the experts play it. Review various championship scrabble games -- play by play, word by word. The board at the end of the final game of the 2001 World Championship includes such oddities as GAJO, DARG, and VOZHD, but also WITTIEST and PADDLERS. (You can follow that game from the beginning. Looks like the 2002 tournament doesn't happen for another few months.)
posted by Tin Man (25 comments total)
(Actually, it looks like the 2002 tournament happened last month, but the games don't seem to be online yet.)
posted by Tin Man at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2002

I love scrabble. My friends don't.

What is aquae?
posted by ginz at 9:47 AM on September 19, 2002

An aqueous solution.
A light bluish green to light greenish blue.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:56 AM on September 19, 2002

For some reason, I'm envisioning a bunch of teenagers playing Scrabble and playing words like "rotfl" and "omg".

(Hey, they allowed "oof"... I guess it's in the official dictionary, but still...)
posted by wanderingmind at 9:57 AM on September 19, 2002

oh, thought it was aqua
posted by ginz at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2002

"Zo" is a word? Are you kidding? "De?" "OOF?" Come ON. My husband & I play tougher scrabble than these guys! The top score of a 2 person game when we've played is about 360. It could probably be better if we got to play with "Zo" and "oof!"
posted by aacheson at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2002

I will never strive to be more than a casual player, but this book is recommended if you have any remote interest in the game.
posted by byort at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2002

Word Freak is a very enjoyable book about the lives of Scrabble fanatics. Here's a little excerpt from a review I wrote:

It's clear that the best Scrabble players in the world are not just really good causal players -- like chess grandmasters, these folks are a breed apart. What do you make of people who, in thier free time, hang out in cafes and challenge each other with anagrams. ("What's TRANSMEDIA plus a V?" cries one. "MAIDSERVANTS!" a second replies a few moments later.) They play and discuss and analyse and ponder Scrabble to the exclusion of just about everything else, using their spare moments to reviews lists of five-letter words and recreate historical Scrabble matches on their computers. Indeed, it's unlikely that Fatsis could have found a more colorful cast of characters in any sport as he found here.

Good stuff.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2002

If you're in any way interested in Scrabble or in the people who play in Scrabble tournaments, I can't recommend Word Freak by Stephen Fatsis enough. I've been trying to find an excuse to post about it since I finished it a month ago, but never found a good link.

On preview: yeah, what byort and Shadowkeeper said.
posted by turaho at 10:02 AM on September 19, 2002

wanderingmind - you're probably right. check this story (from slashdot). (is this worthy of a FPP? probably not anymore)
posted by jozxyqk at 10:06 AM on September 19, 2002

"What's TRANSMEDIA plus a V?" cries one. "MAIDSERVANTS!"

Picky, picky: MAIDSERVANT. Not enough esses for the plural.

But Word Freak is indeed a lot of fun, even if the "freak" aspect is somewhat overplayed.
posted by Skot at 10:10 AM on September 19, 2002

Actually, Joz, that Slashdot story was what I'd been thinking of too...

We also need a l33t-sp34k edition of Scrabble. Just take normal Scrabble and add in a bunch of random digit and punctuation tiles.
posted by wanderingmind at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2002

I'm a big fan of "ae", myself.
posted by websavvy at 10:33 AM on September 19, 2002

my friends and i fluctuate in the 200-320 as high range. i once had 324 as our high... but we have a bunch of dictionaries around and resort to those little words. however, i can dream of playing in the tourney if not getting very far if the champions are getting like 400-500. my grandma actually should compete now that i think of it.
posted by the aloha at 10:37 AM on September 19, 2002

posted by drinkcoffee at 10:40 AM on September 19, 2002

hits Preview... Curse you, drinkcoffee! I was doing the same thing, except I with a table, which for some reason wasn't working. Ah well. You get a triple word score, in addition to the gold star.
posted by madprops at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2002

A few things to keep in mind when you say things like: "My husband & I play tougher scrabble than these guys!"

-Tournament games are timed, similar to chess matches. You have 25 minutes total to play all of your turns in a game.

-The great players know a huge percentage of the words on the official word list. At a minimum, to compete, you've got to know all the legal 2 and 3 letter words. You may think some of them are dumb words because they are never used or are archaic, but that's irrelevant. It would be like saying in chess, "I'm not going to use my knight because I think the way he moves is stupid." That player Brian Cappelletto whose game is shown above claims to know just about all of the 100,000+ words. and most players believe him. Word freak indeed.

-There's also a strong strategy element that most casual players don't think about much. Blocking your opponents possible plays, managing the tiles in your rack, etc.

If you want to test yourself, here's a list of upcoming tournaments around the country.
posted by pitchblende at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2002

aacheson, keep in mind that some words (like ZO) are accepted words in the UK version of Scrabble but not in the U.S. version. However, since this was a World Tournament players could use words found in both the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (used in North America and a few other places) and Official Scrabble Words (used in the UK). Some countries (and tournaments) use SOWPODS a word list comprised of words from both of those sources.

Another thing to keep in mind... Good players are often busy blocking their opponent from high-scoring plays. So lower scores for a game can simply mean that the players shut down the board and couldn't make any big plays.
posted by gluechunk at 11:40 AM on September 19, 2002

My dad's second wife looks through her Scrabble dictionary for possible plays (not to challenge one, but just to figure out what to do with her tiles). Also, by their rules, you can redeem all the bonus squares in an already played word by just adding an "S".

Both these conventions bugged me to no end. I had no choice about the "S", and took the points, but I refused to open that #$*&^ dictionary.

I guess I enjoy the vocabulary aspects over the raw gameplay.
posted by kurumi at 12:13 PM on September 19, 2002

I don't think you can redeem bonus squares more than once. Therefore, unless the "S" lands on a double- or triple-word score, you only get the face value of the letters already on the board.
posted by Tin Man at 12:22 PM on September 19, 2002

I think that was kurami's point. Non-standard rules.
posted by ceiriog at 12:36 PM on September 19, 2002

How about Metafilter rules. You have to come up with words like snarky or pancakes to get extra points. Then for big points you have to spell out some long user names.
posted by CJB at 1:17 PM on September 19, 2002

posted by keli at 2:07 PM on September 19, 2002

I'm most impressed by the not one, not two, but three 50-point bonuses in that 2001 championship game for using all seven tiles at once. I've only done that once or twice in all the time I've been playing.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:38 PM on September 19, 2002

I've recently become mildly addicted to the official Scrabble game on my Palm Pilot. However, playing it at the most competitive level I'm now beating it about 75% of the time, and in the last game beat it by more than 200 points (though a margin of 10 or 20 points no matter who wins is normal). Scores are usually near or above 300. My conclusion is that it's time I started playing humans...
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:55 PM on September 19, 2002

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