If you love reading about unusual Moneyball-esque strategies in sports, check out how a player on the Nigerian team won the Scrabble World Championship last year.
So while Scrabblers still fancy bingos, they increasingly hold off on other high-scoring moves, such as six-letter words, or seven-letter terms that only use six tiles from the rack. Instead, by spelling four- or five-letter words, a player can keep their most useful tiles — like E-D or I-N-G — for the next round, a strategy called rack management. The Nigerians rehearse it during dayslong scrimmage sessions.
Also, thanks to a design quirk, the board is oddly generous to short words. Most of the bonus squares are just four or five letters apart.
“The geometry of the Scrabble board rewards five-letter words,” said Mr. Mackay, who lost to Mr. Jighere in the world championship final, during which the Nigerian nabbed a triple word score with the antiquated adjective KATTI, meaning “spiteful.” “It’s a smart tactic.”
In an outtake from his 2001 book Word Freak, author Stefan Fatsis introduces us to Nigel Richards, perhaps the best Scrabble player in the world.
If Nigel has a weakness, it’s that his wide-open, high-scoring style often leaves him vulnerable to counterattack by opponents who also have prodigious word knowledge. And Nigel is regarded as having a less-than-proficient endgame, which is variously attributed to his lack of interest in strategic play or his reluctance to study board positions. Indeed, Nigel doesn’t record his racks, doesn’t review games, rarely kibitzes about particular plays. The other top experts, particularly the Americans, talk disdainfully about this gap in Nigel’s ability, how it makes him an incomplete player. Naturally, Nigel doesn’t care.
According to Wikipedia, Richards has continued his winning ways since 2001…he’s a two-time World Championship winner and has won the U.S. National Scrabble Championship three out of the last four years.
Scrabb.ly is a massively multiplayer game of Scrabble…everyone plays on one gigantic board. It’s insane how large the board is. (thx, zach)
So one day Mattel said, let’s piss a lot of people off. I know, we’ll change the Scrabble rules to allow proper nouns. Kids love branding!
A spokeswoman for the company said the use of proper nouns would “add a new dimension” to Scrabble and “introduce an element of popular culture into the game”. She said: “This is one of a number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved.”
I also like this part:
Mattel said there would be no hard and fast rule over whether a proper noun was correct or not.
So you can just make shit up! Or maybe you don’t have to…look at all these useful and real brand abbreviations: BMW, IEEE, XHTML, VW, SQL, QT, BBC, AAA, NAACP. No vowels, lots of vowels, more Q and X words…no more discards.
Update: Woo, that was fun but really there’s nothing to get bent out of shape about.
Here’s what’s actually happening. Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, is introducing a game this summer called Scrabble Trickster. The game will include cards that allow players to spell words backward, use proper nouns, and steal letters from opponents, among other nontraditional moves. The game will not be available in North America, where rival toy company Hasbro owns Scrabble. Hasbro, I’m told, has no plans for a similar variation.
How to win at Scrabble if you’re perhaps not that good at the words thing.
Scrabble isn’t a game of who can get the best 6 letter words. It’s a game of points and squeezing 2 letter terms into corners. Mehal Shah takes us through clean and sometimes dirty ways to win at Scrabble.
Recent additions to the official Scrabble dictionary — like za, qi, and zzz — have upset the letter distribution balance of the game, causing high scoring letters like z & q to become overvalued. The three-point line in college basketball and Monopoly’s Vermont Ave. are similarly mispriced.
There’s a big kerfuffle (how many points do I get for that?) over Hasbro, makers of Scrabble, suing Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla over their popular Facebook application, Scrabulous.
Non-profit writing organization 826NYC is holding a Scrabble for Cheaters competition on January 19th with the proceeds going to benefit their programs and students. The more money a team raises, the more they can cheat. Here are some of the cheats:
Flip a letter over and make it blank: $100
Add Q, Z, or X to any word, anywhere: $200
Passport: play a word in any language: $250
Reject another team’s word: $450
Invent a word (must have a definition): $500
Entry information and rules available on the web site. Oh, and you’ll be playing against John Hodgman.
There’s a new Scrabble world record: 830 points, including a play of quixotry on a triple-triple for a record score of 365. “Looking at the game as a whole, it’s clear that a lack of expertise created the conditions for the record.”
The competitive Scrabble world is starting to see some top-notch players for whom English is not their native language. At he highest level of competition, “Scrabble’s secret is that it’s a math game: board geometry, strategic decision making, probability and chance.” And sometimes it’s better not knowing English so the player can focus solely on the memorization of patterns and gameplay. Interesting stuff.