I’ve been playing competitive Scrabble for almost 25 years now, and I often meet people who say “I’m really good at Scrabble”.
I ask them one simple question “Do you know all your twos?” And invariably I get a glazed look coming back at me. I know instantly they are not serious Scrabble players.
2 letter words are the glue that holds the game together.
If you know all the two letter words you can then work this simple formula:
1. Hang onto letters from the word ‘retains’ (which has 11 anagrams!)
2. Play off any duplicates or tricky letters in your rack like U V W G Q and draw fresh letters from the bag, until
3. You come up with a seven or eight letter word to play (instantly scoring you an additional 50 points), and preferably hitting at least one of the “premium” squares – and so grabbing a high score.
Play like this and you’re likely to beat any casual player this Christmas!
Additionally, try to use the rule of thumb that says you should only use an S in a word that will score you 30+, and a blank for a word that will score you 40+.
It’s not a case of just glancing at a dictionary, but studying high probability words especially seven and eight letter words – “7s and 8s”.
Another trick is to know your “hooks”:
The word “ant” has many single letters that go before and after it and these are called, respectively, front and rear “hooks”.
Finally – “vowel dumps” are very valuable to know for getting you out of trouble – “euoi” is a particularly common one and means “a Bacchic cry”, although strangely it doesn’t take an S rear hook.
The UK Scrabble scene is vast and varied. At the more serious end you can find a Scrabble tournament pretty much every weekend somewhere in the country; sometimes they’re single days, sometimes two or three days, and even sometimes a whole week of Scrabble. There is also a multitude of clubs, and a particularly good one I’ve been a member of and I’m rejoining soon again is the London Scrabble League where one plays in peoples homes. This is where I cut my teeth. Of course there are many ways to play online also, but in my opinion nothing compares to the excitement of a live game.
This week I am playing in my first ever World Scrabble Championships here in London (that’s me yesterday in the middle of the photo!). This year is the first time they’ve opened it up to “non-elite” players. I am a strong club player, not world class by any means, but this week I’ll be battling with many of the world’s finest. I made a big pot of minestrone soup to get me through it, and am getting a lot of early nights to stay fresh.
Wish me luck!
Hat-tip: Thanks to Gareth Cattermole for the photo