Friday, December 26, 2008

For linguists (not linguist)

Posted by Brad Mills
From the National Weather Service:
I don't get it. Could someone kindly tell me when it was taught, or when it was decided, that English words ending in -IST do not need an S to become pluralized?

It's motorists. There were two motorists on the road - NOT two motorist. There has never been a precedent for this type of construction.

Quit hoarding your S... use it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

She is the King of Scrabble!

Posted by Deadpan Alley
After months of dedicated studying and traveling to tournaments, all of our Tina's hard work is paying off! At the Cleveland Classic this past weekend, she won 11 out of 15 games! She placed second in her division, gained a LOT of rating points, and walked away with prize money!! I suspect she's on her way out of the baby leagues. Remember me when you're up in the top division, Tina.

The other three club members who competed at Strongsville did not fare so well. Chris, Brad and I all landed in the bottom thirds of our divisions. But we were buoyed by Tina's success. Even the lake-effect snow driven by crazy-cold winds didn't bring us down.

Tina also got many compliments about the three Scrabble boards she recently made. She made me a beautiful board with a Monet background. Pictures just don't capture how marvelous it is.

The board that she made for herself has very soothing, subtle patterns with a gold border. How could you get stressed playing on that board?

She made another board for artist Joe Larson with a Van Gogh theme and an offset grid. Very very nice. (Speaking of Joe, he too was at the tournament and I finally got to purchase his Gemini sculpture. Yay!)

She's going to start selling boards that are tailored to the buyers' requests. I told her how much I love Monet, so she was able to design my board with that in mind.

We here at WVScrabble are so so proud of Ms. Tina! She has shown us what dedication is all about. Her 2008 Scrabble Whirlwind Tour may be at an end, but the player lives on. She is the King of Scrabble!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A sign!

Posted by Almost Famous

On Wednesday at Los Agaves, my Scrabble motto appeared on my rack:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Diamond Anniversary Scrabble commercial

Posted by Brad Mills
Here's a short video showing the Diamond Anniversary Edition Scrabble board in action. And here's the review posted here earlier for those who are interested or missed it.

(Edit: Video now must be started manually.)

This is such a nifty commercial. It's quirky and geeky, and it captures the spirit of the game perfectly. I actually saw this commercial on TV a couple of weeks ago, and it's the first time I've seen Scrabble advertised on TV since the late 80s when it was "America's good time game".

The only question I have is: Why didn't they play CRAZING for the bingo? I know RACING is an obvious connection to toys there, and the toy race cars get to zoom around, but they could have easily continued the sequence by having one of the toy figures dressed up in a straightjacket and chasing all the race cars, screaming, "The colors are all different!!! Why?!?!? Oh, the humanity!!!...."

Maybe it's a good thing I'm not in advertising.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Huntington results for November 15, 2008

Posted by Brad Mills
This was Marshall's homecoming weekend, so traffic was wild when we arrived in Huntington - and the worsening weather didn't help matters on the trip home. Sandwiched in between were the camraderie of friends, the comforts of food and coffee, and the clacking of tiles on Scrabble boards.

There were six people at Java Joint on Saturday for the inaugural meeting of NSA Club 767, including one of our newest club players and the usual merry band of wordsmiths and onlookers. Aaron McGuffin directed the session and handled us with aplomb and grace, kept things rolling along, and kept careful track of win-loss records, scores, and notable plays. He's provided his own write-up of the stats and his perspective on how things went.

I blew an endgame against Rob for 12 points, but given the near-perfect letters he had on his last rack (including both blanks and an S), I think the game may have been his despite my best efforts. I believe Rob is severely underrated - an opinion shared by others - and we need to get him to a tournament in the near future. (And the rest of you should tag along!) I was also happy to hear Shelley will likely be joining us at our next meeting in Charleston and may be bringing Rob along. Shelley has been jonesing for some Scrabble action - prior to Saturday, she'd only played one game since we got back from Lexington.

This was fun for me, and I'm looking forward to seeing Club 767 evolve and grow. I observed a couple unaffiliated with any of us playing Scrabble while the meeting was going on, and I pointed them out to Aaron. He went over and introduced himself to them and gave them his contact information. This is how it all begins... and it looks like a promising beginning.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Unnecessary Knowledge

Posted by Deadpan Alley

You can never have too much unnecessary knowledge.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

gettin' lucky in Kentucky... (the recap)

Posted by jedijawa
Six members of Club #620 ventured to Lexington, KY this weekend for the 3rd Annual Bluegrass Ironman Invitational Scrabble Tournament (that's a mouthful). Five of us piled into Tina's van and trekked to Kentucky Friday after work while our sixth joined us Saturday morning (halfway into her first game) having gotten turned around with her directions. Lisa had booked us some awesome hotel Suites at the Lexington Hilton using Hotwire and we got it for a steal of $55 per person. On the way in we talked about the tournament and how the price of gas dropped as we left West Virginia ($2.69/gal.) and approached Lexington ($1.99/gal.) and we had a pleasant rest at our hotel before heading out bright and early the next day for our first day of competition ... what would be the first 10 of 19 games for the weekend (which is why they call it The Ironman).

The facilities that the Lexington club had chosen were nice but hardwood floors and being next to the club house of an active golf course caused us to have some noise problems ... that and well ... some other things. Still, we got the first games started just about on time. A late drop out in my division and two no-shows caused two clocks to be started without a second player which was the first time that I had seen that happen. Our own Shelley Schiavone was one of those clocks and she was able to arrive with half her time in tact and finish her first game while the other clock was for Andy Wade who the tourney director forgot had told him he couldn't make it. His clock was next to me and so a new player, Katherine Rybak, watched as Margaret "Susie" Pozgay (another newbie) and I played our game while I tried to quietly explain the mechanics of club and tournament play as neither of them had ever been to a club or a tournament event and were only familiar with on-line play. Somehow I still managed to beat Susie (by 9 points) which would lead people asking me the rest of the day how I did it since she went on a tear after that beating everyone she played. Her total record by the end of the main event would be 12-3 with the only three people beating her being from Club #620 (Tina, Lisa, and yours truly).

After the first game I got to play Shelley and she quietly explained to me over our game how she got turned around and was late. She wasn't too rattled as she almost beat me. Shelley's NSA rating will probably be going up since she was projected to win about 4 games and she went 6-9. In fact, she was 2nd place in the day two standings of wins/losses/spread with a 4-1 record and +165 spread. Though Shelley wasn't happy that the Portland Swiss ranking method had her playing a new 16 year old player repeatedly on the second day (I think they played each other all 5 games the second day and 7 times over the 15 games of the main event). Several of us played the same person repeatedly the second day but I didn't much mind. I ended up playing John Spangler who had recently jumped up to an 860 rating at Durham, NC (but the results of that tourney weren't official yet for our tournament). Nevertheless, I had never beaten John before this weekend and of our 5 games I went 3-2 and feel great about that as I think that he and I are well matched.

I wish that I could speak more for the other members of our club. I only played Tina-Bo-Bina once and in that game we had to draw for first place. Both of us drew an "A" so we had to draw again and this time I drew an "A" and Tina drew an "E" (I've never had that happen before). Tina went on to place 4th where she was projected to end up with a record of 9-6 and a +468 spread (just 113 points out of 3rd place). Her rating should also increase considering that she was one of the others who beat the phenomenal Susie and that she was projected to win about 8 games and she won more as well as 2 wins in the late bird event.

Lisa didn't do as well as she had hoped but she still beat the snot out of me (see that demonic smile before our first game of the weekend). She only went 7-8 for the main event but she went 3-1 for the late bird and beat me 4 times over the course of the weekend! One of her wins was against Susie (who clinched the #1 finish in Division C) and she beat me and I finished #2 with a 10-5 in the main event and 1.5-2.5 in the late bird. In fact, Lisa may singlehandedly offset the gains I made, with my rating, against John Spangler with her repeated thumping of me (like I probably tanked John's rating). I've only beaten Lisa once in a tournament game and she is a very strong player. Tina is also a very strong player and I'm continually amazed anytime that I beat her in a tournament as she usually schools me in club play.

As for how Brad and Martha did ... I know that Brad came into day 2 first in Division B and gradually slipped as the day went on in those last 5 games. His high point was winning against the overall winner of Division B. Martha won the games she needed to hold her rating and will probably improve. I know that she said the high point of her day was that she beat Steve Bush who had a 1390 rating and was the top seed in Division B. As I said earlier, I finished #2 in Division C and won $75 in prize money and Lisa finished second in our late bird group and won $20. I was the second seed before Andy was dropped out so I guess I should have finished first but I was happy just to win the number of games I needed to hold or improve my rating and hope to break 800 after this weekend. Brad, on the other hand, has climbed up to a new peak of 1267 for his rating and broke into the top 1000 players in North America after the Durham tournament. Way to go Brad!

So that was the weekend. It was a lot of fun and we all had a pretty good time. Sure, there were some snafus and some things could have gone better or worse but we all enjoyed the trip and I think that our personalities all mesh very well. We're a very supportive group and each one of us lends our own talents and ways of looking at things to helping the others. I really appreciate and admire that of my fellow club members. It makes me feel like we're not just all out for ourselves but that we're there as a unit to support each other and back each other up. When I was having a freak out moment at our interclub tournament a few weeks ago Martha was wonderful at calming me down. Similarly, I tried to do the same thing for Shelley and Lisa this weekend. Lisa was very concerned that I was feeling sick on Saturday with my sinuses bothering me (not concerned enough not to beat me 4 freakin' times) but it was sweet and appreciated. They're a great group of guys and I'm glad to have them as my friends.

I've done some blogging about this event on my blog here and so has Tina if anyone is interested in checking those posts out.

Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When NOT to Play a Bingo

Posted by Deadpan Alley

Sunday, October 26, 2008

2008 Triangle Tarheel Trifecta

Posted by Brad Mills
Tina, Martha, and I ventured down to my old stomping grounds - Durham, North Cackalacky - for the Triangle Tarheel Trifecta. This event is in its fourth year, and although attendance has taken a hit the last couple of years, it's fun for me because I get to visit the old neighborhood and see how quickly everything has changed.

The Triangle reminds me of playing SimCity when everything is clicking and you can basically lay down the infrastructure you need whenever and wherever you want, because every time I visit something is different. Likewise, the Trifecta is adapting to change as well. Since attendance at this event has fallen, the three planned divisions were consolidated into two. Also missing this year was the karaoke competition - in its place was a trivia contest.

This event is called the trifecta because in addition to Scrabble and the trivia contest, there is an after-hours poker tournament. If you manage to win all three events, you've won the trifecta and your entry fees and hotel bill are on the house. To date, no one has pulled off this feat.

So - on to the Scrabble action. I was rated high enough to qualify as the 8th seed in the consolidated top division and my traveling compadres were in the lower division. The players in the top division had ratings ranging from 1037 all the way up to 1575. I've won against a player rated 1740 before, so although I knew it was feasible for me to hold my own here, I really didn't expect to excel, and hoped instead to win the five or six games predicted by cross-tables and essentially break even.

Friday evening: Two wins put me at 2-1 with a positive spread. One of these wins was against a 1558. That gave me a lot of hope. I made a half-assed attempt at the trivia contest, followed by the realization that trivia just ain't my cup of tea anymore, followed by a late dinner with Martha and Tina.

Saturday morning: One win puts me at 3-4. Still hanging on at this point, and remaining cognizant that I just wanted to meet expectations. So all I needed to do was get this same record again for the rest of the tournament to stay even. No problem! Lunch with Martha, Tina, and Stan "the man" Angrist.

Saturday afternoon: Undefeated over four games, which made my record 7-4 and catapulted me into third place. I loved every single one of these games for different reasons, elucidated below.

Game 8: Marina Villena and I both ran our clocks down to exactly zero, which I've never heard of anyone doing before - and we each got a picture of this because of its rarity.

Game 9: Squeezed out a slim 5-point win against Liz Gottlin by finding AXON for 11 instead of settling for several other places to score only 4 points. I learned this lesson the hard way at the 2007 Players Championship against Will Scott, where he beat me by one point because I didn't look for the ever-elusive better spot. In fact, I have a picture of that board hanging up in my cube at work as a reminder to never give up.

Game 10: The first opponent I faced at the first Trifecta in 2005 was Cathy Poole, and it was a pleasure to see her again. In the 2005 Trifecta, we had a 457-440 game which netted me a high loss prize. I proposed that when we faced each other this time, we should just call it a tie and go have a beer. She seemed agreeable to the idea, but when the designated time arrived, she was ready to play. At first it looked like she was going to run away with it this time too, but I stayed within striking distance, got on the upswing when she challenged FRIGGED, then sealed the deal with ARMY for 42 and INTRANET for 77. Bruce Shuman was sitting next to us and he kibbitzed afterwards, saying these were both excellent plays. "Unfortunate for me, because we play next!" he kvetched.

Game 11: I visited Bruce in Wilmington when our club was quite young to see how things worked in other areas. I was fairly surprised that I was the only attendee that evening, so we got in a couple of games and made the best of it. I've been looking forward to playing him again since then, because I've arguably picked up a little bit of skill at this game over the last few years. Bruce informed me he was on a severe losing streak, and really didn't expect to win if I continued playing the way I had been this evening. I certainly didn't want to let him down, so I kept him below 300 points and kept the streak going.

In the after-hours, Robb Griffith stopped by to say hello and play a quick game with me, Tina ordered some pizza, wine, and bruschetta for us and got in a game with Jesse Inman, and Bruce turned his luck around by winning the poker tournament.

Sunday morning: I calculated my rating as of Saturday night and was pleased to find that not only had I broken 1200, but I was in the 1240s. I ran a worst-case scenario of me losing the rest of my games just to see where things ended up, and it looked like I was going to gain points regardless of what happened over the rest of the tourney. But the way things had shaken out, I was holding onto third, was in contention for a money spot, and had no intention of slacking.

I faced Marilyn Pomeroy in round 12 because she had a chance of knocking me out of contention. I could tell she was vowel-heavy based on the words she was playing, and halfway through the game I'd picked up a lead of almost 200 points. She turned it around a little bit with BEAUTIES for 63 and QUARE for 54, but it was too far gone at that point and I ended up +101 over her.

Round 13 put me against the top seed, Gerry Greenside. Gerry had given me a good and proper ass-beating when we'd faced each other earlier, but our brief post-mortem indicated he'd drawn the bag on me. So we figured out the firsts and seconds, and it was on. This is the part where I'm thankful to have studied the 4s, because I played LYCH for 36 and got a challenge out of him. Having previously played QUEAN for 34 and QINDAR for 32, his lost turn gave me an advantage. Playing aggressively paid off here too. QINDAR left an S-hook opening on the triple column, and I grabbed it after his challenge with JUS for 47. "Shit, that hurts," he said. And it turned out to be the game winner. We traded bingos before it was over and I ended it with a 75-point advantage.

In the penultimate round I faced Francis Anum, who was in first place and had stayed there throughout most of the tournament. If I knocked him down I could feasibly move into second or first place, but since I'd already played him, I knew from experience it would be a fight. I fought well but ended up losing by about 30 points.

Last round. Francis's win over me clinched first place for him, so he wasn't a factor in what was to follow. In second place, Gerry Greenside... and in third, me. Finishing out the top five were Susan Bertoni and Marilyn Pomeroy, who played each other. Susan had enough spread points to knock me out of third place if she won, and if I beat Gerry I could take second. So I played Gerry to see who would get second place, and I hoped that Marilyn could beat Susan and therefore keep her out of contention.

This was a fantastic game for me, and I held onto a slim lead until three turns from the end when Gerry played WHITEST for 81. I stayed close by responding with KINDLY for 48, so he wasn't out of the woods yet. Unfortunately I had a lot of junk on my rack, but I saw a primo spot where I could play GAZOO for 65 and possibly win. (A better play was GYOZA for 84, which I didn't see until afterwards.) Gerry picked up his tiles, and in his next to last turn, put down GREED for 40 in the spot I was eyeing (simultaneously blocking the GYOZA spot). I noticed, however, that he'd made HD* as one of his parallel 2-letter words. I tried to remain calm as he reached for the timer.... then, his hand stopped. And... he shifted all the letters in his play over one space, thereby lining everything up properly and completing the play.

I had a good ten minutes left on my clock at that point, but it was over, I knew it, and he knew it. After I let five minutes go by while I studied the board, I said, "Well shit." I looked up at Gerry and he nodded his head. After searching a little longer, I put down ZAG for 36, but it wasn't nearly enough for the win, and I really needed that win.

So I was in third place, maybe, depending on how the game between Marilyn and Susan ended. They were playing next to us, but since this was also a money game, I walked outside so as not to disturb them. After a bit Martha joined me. I filled her in on what was happening - that a third place finish for me was in the balance. Francis came out shortly thereafter, board in hand, taking it to his car. He saw us and came over to fill me in - "They're finishing up now... I believe you got third place."

Sure enough, Marilyn had beaten Susan, which got me third place, a prize of $150, and a shiny new estimated rating of 1267. That's not official yet, but tsh is pretty accurate, so that's probably about right. To put it in perspective, that's about 300 points higher than I was around this time last year.

One of the topics Stan, Tina, Martha and I discussed at lunch was the infeasibility of continuous growth. The context was the housing bubble and the credit crunch our country is facing, but it's got to apply to Scrabble ratings as well. Am I really 1267 good? That's "I could maybe beat Jeff Cook" good. Lexington is one week away... I guess we'll see if I stay there.

Now that my completely self-indulgent recap is finished - and I apologize profusely for that - I want to give public props to Tina, who has been galavanting all over the country and playing in tournaments weekend after weekend. Tina has played in 11 tournaments since March, which is about one every two or three weeks - and this was her fourth consecutive weekend. I just want to recognize this out here in front of the whole Internet and make sure everyone knows how proud we are of her for that.

So let's do this all over again next weekend, shall we?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Huntington club update

Posted by Brad Mills
Aaron McGuffin has passed the director's test!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brainteaser of the Day

Posted by Deadpan Alley
An anagram is a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. For example, rearrange "none" to get "neon".

It is not considered an anagram if you exchange a letter with the same letter. For example, switching the n's with each other in "noun" does not give an anagram.

Even though a word is not considered an anagram of itself, your task is to find a word that is an anagram of itself. If you can do the seemingly impossible once, you might as well find a second word that is an anagram of itself.

Are you up for the challenge? Answers/guesses in the comments, please.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Huntington results for October 18, 2008

Posted by Brad Mills
Five people showed up at Java Joint in Huntington to play Scrabble on Saturday. Here are the results of the games.

Brad Mills 3.5-0.5, +57
Aaron McGuffin 2-1, +170
Leah Gingerich 2-2, +69
Rob Stanton 0.5-1.5, -134
Shelley Schiavone 0-3, -162

And here is the bingo roll.

Brad Mills: MAESTROS (80), FIANCES (80), HERIOTS (75), RECOATS (69), GAZETTE (65)
Aaron McGuffin: PRICIEST (72), INDENTS (68), NUTTIER (58)
Shelley Schiavone: BARIUMS (74), RECOUPS (70)
Rob Stanton: IGNITES (74)
Leah Gingerich: IGNORED (72)

Rob insisted on sitting out a few games this time so Leah and I could maximize the number of games we played, since we'd driven from Charleston. I'd given Rob the same courtesy when he visited us here last week. We all played pretty quickly, so Leah and I got four games finished in three and a half hours.

Lots of enjoyable moments today. Autumn is definitely in full swing in the Metro Valley, and the sun shone upon the reds and golds on the mountainside as I sped up I-64. Shelley and Rob were reviewing some bingo stems when I got to Java Joint, and Shelley was dissing Rob's "deluxe" board, talking about how it didn't hold the tiles in place properly. I referred Rob to so he could see some other options. You know you're hooked when you start dissing the official Hasbro products.

Aaron showed up shortly after I arrived, and he informed us that he was taking a poetry class. Not only that, but he's been published... and his opus was about Scrabble! Aaron McGuffin... maverick, poet, doctor, legend. Who knew? If anyone can find me a copy of this work, I will offer you a rich bounty. (Well... a bounty of some sort, anyway.)

No word yet from the NSA on Aaron's directorship. Boo.... come on guys, we've got things to do.

GAZETTE was a fun play because the Z was a blank, and because I hooked a D on the end later. I'd played GAZETTED as an out play against Aaron on ISC one night, not sure if it was good or not and hoping it was, because it would give me the win if it was. I laid it down with more confidence against Rob today, and like his colleague, he challenged and lost. Rob kept me at bay with a tie, though... the second time we've done so. I was in serious time trouble and missed a winning play with only three seconds left on my clock.

FIANCES was interesting too. This was my opening against Aaron, and it took me a good five minutes to find it. Aaron called hold, and I sat there while he deliberated, realizing in a face-palm moment I had FANCIES as well in case it came off. He finally challenged, thinking the correct word was FIANCEES. Turns out FIANCE is a man engaged to be married, where FIANCEE is a woman... so FIANCES worked too. Whew! I mean... exactly as I thought!

Shelley really gave me a run for it in the last game. We stuck around and got this last game in after everyone else had left, and at one point, she had a 112-point lead on me. I managed to bingo on my next turn, but Shelley continued to outscore me until three turns from the end when I played QUIN for 55. She gave me a few choice curse words, part of which may have stemmed from me holding HOER and then accepting it because it gave me a choice spot to play QUIN. "How magnanimous of you! Of course you'll accept the play! #$@!&*!" (HOER is good either way, but it reminded me I probably should brush up on the fours a bit.)

The late great Neale Clark once told me that Scrabble's only purpose was so people could learn how to spell dirty words. I continue to be astounded at the friendships I've forged over the board, the great people I've met, and what an adventure this continues to be. Sorry, old friend... you may have been right about lots of things, but on this one, you were way off.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who Wants To Come Play Scrabble With Me?

Posted by Tina
1. Would you just love to travel around and play Scrabble with other cool people but just don't know how to get started?

2. Do you wish you could hang out for a while on a Saturday, drink some coffee, and throw down some tiles?

3. Do you think going to a Scrabble tournament would be the most boring thing you could ever imagine?

4. Are you a beginning player and afraid going to a tournament just wouldn't be worth your time?

5. Are you as obsessed as I am with the idea of a Whirlwind Scrabble Tour?


1. Ask me! Ask the other authors on this blog! Look at our club's site. If the tournament's within four hours of Charleston, WV, odds are one of us will be there to offer advice and support.

2. Wow! You've come to the right place!! We've got more club players than ever in West Virginia and now the opportunity to play in Charleston and Huntington!

3. Wrong! Scrabble tournaments are way fun!!

4. Playing in tournaments offers are a great challenge and the chance to improve your game.

5. Awesome! You can find out all you need to know here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Suggestions Needed

Posted by Deadpan Alley
Our 'first-Wednesday-of-the-month' meetings can no longer take place at the Summers Street Capitol Roasters. There has been a schedule change at the coffee shop, which now closes at 7pm. That doesn't jive with our 6pm to 8pm meeting time.

And so we need a new place to meet. Taylor Books is out, because their tables are too small. I think the food court at the mall is out since it's so noisy there.

Our club is full of smart people...ideas anyone?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Huntington results for September 20, 2008

Posted by Brad Mills
Just like two weeks ago, six brave souls came to Java Joint for the Huntington Scrabble club meeting on Saturday. Here are the results.

Brad Mills 3-0, +253
Martha Mills 3-0, +215
Rafael Barker 2-1, +106
Shelley Schiavone 1-2, -78
Rob Stanton 0-3, -151
Brad Smith 0-3, -345

The bingo roll was as follows:

Brad Mills: LOWERED (80), INTRANET (77), TASTIER (73), WIRIEST (69), INTERNS (66)
Martha Mills: MOTORING (80), SPORADIC (76), EERIEST (68), RETAINED (61), SHEETING (60)
Rafael Barker: ROOFERS (88), EQUATOR (88)
Rob Stanton: ORBITER (64), LOUSIER (62)
Brad Smith: SHINTER* (72) - note, HINTERS is valid here
Shelley Schiavone: SOAPING (66)

A few notes... I opened with LOWERED at 8B to capitalize on the W hitting the double letter square, knowing it could easily be hooked with an F or a G on the triple word and hoping I'd get that opportunity. Brad Smith saw this as well, but he apparently didn't know the G hook, as he played a G elsewhere. I pressed on, playing fairly long words to maximize turnover in an attempt to get one of the remaining letters for the hook, but no luck. After a few more turns, Brad Smith picked it up with FLOWERED and FRY for 72 points.

We were entertained (?) throughout the meeting by a gentleman who was clearly quite intoxicated. He kibbitzed our plays and the games in general, mostly with comments like, "Damn, you guys are too serious," and, "I can't even fucking spell. What's that word mean?" He'd convinced himself that Shelley had become angry with him at some point and spent the rest of his time with us apologizing to her and trying to make nice. Drunk people are funny.

(Edit: Just want to clarify that this gentleman's drunken stupor did not occur at Java Joint. He was inebriated when he arrived.)

Martha had RESITES and was convinced there was a bingo in those letters, but couldn't find it. Oddly enough, the only bingo in those letters is - well, RESITES. Having two Ss at once can be a curse at times, a plethora of goodness.

Having phonied YEHU* to squeak out a win against Rob at our last meeting, he didn't quite trust my play of ENOW this time and challenged the word. Shelley, who is an English professor, advised him he should read more Shakespeare. (ENOW is a Middle English variant of enough.)

I also noticed Rob has redesigned my score sheet a bit, mixing my letter tracking chart with a tally sheet of his own design - a "large print edition," as he called it. Just yesterday, I rereleased my score sheets with a Creative Commons license so people can feel free to mix them up in any way they see fit. I suspect Rob's remix was coincidental and not directly related to my relicensing, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Club tournament... two weeks. Be there!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Huntington results for September 6, 2008

Posted by Brad Mills
Six people came out to Java Joint for the Huntington Scrabble club meeting held on Saturday. Here are the results....

Brad Mills 3-0, +172
Rob Stanton 2-1, +177
Shelley Schiavone 2-1, -18
Leah Gingerich 1-2, +9
Tina Totten King 1-2, -57
Mark Gingerich 0-3, -283

Bingos played were:

Tina Totten King: OUTDOES (70), FOLIAGE (63), RADIONS* (68), SCARIEST (86)
Brad Mills: ENTAILS (64), RECODES (79), LINTERS (63)
Rob Stanton: TRAUMAS (86), MOONING (78)
Leah Gingerich: STATION (68), RAINING (71)
Shelley Schiavone: QUIVERS (100)

Shelley was quite pleased with her QUIVERS bingo, as you can probably see by the picture above. She wanted to make sure it got a mention here, so not only am I going to mention it, I'll include a picture of the board it was played on.

I missed a fantastic out play in my game against Leah. It was one of those "There's my play, hit the clock, damn, I missed a bingo" situations. The board and position is shown below. Leah held AGIINR?, so she had several choices to go out - all using an -ING hook onto RAN to make GRAN - and she found one with ease. I had a significant lead at the end, so while Leah's play gave her some spread points, I still got the win.

My rack was AABELTU, and I ended up making BEL at C13. Can you find the play I should have made instead?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pontiac, Michigan results

Posted by Brad Mills
Breaking news... Tina went 7-13, -711 in the Pontiac, Michigan tournament held this holiday weekend. She finished in 8th place (one spot above her seed) and gained 60 rating points. Quite a healthy bump!

I have no doubt she'll have her own post about this with more complete commentary.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fall tourneys...

Posted by Almost Famous
This probably doesn't warrant a post, but just since I haven't done one in awhile...

I've decided to tag along with Tina for the Hudson, OH tourney, and I'm also a "probably" for Lexington. I'm hoping that having it/them on the calendar will get my butt in gear to study. I've been such a slacker lately and haven't had the attention span to do anything (not just Scrabble-related, but pretty much anything at all).

See you guys Saturday!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Speaking of Huntington...

Posted by Deadpan Alley
Thanks to Shelley Schiavone and her media contacts, our latest Huntington gathering attracted some attention from the Herald-Dispatch. The online version of the resulting article can be found here.

Another search result for "Scrabble" on the Herald-Dispatch site indicated even more interest in the area - across the border, in Boyd County, Kentucky:
Play Scrabble, 4-7 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the Main and Summit branch; 4-6 p.m. at Catlettsburg branch. Test your Scrabble skills at the Library's first Scrabble-thon. Players can stop in during the event times and play a game. Scores will be recorded and prizes awarded to the top three scores. The event is offered at all branches. Boyd County Public Library District, 1740 Central Ave., Ashland.
I'd love to know how that evening turned out!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Huntington Scrabble club results for August 16

Posted by Brad Mills
Twelve people showed up at the Huntington Scrabble Club meeting today, which was a new attendance record. Since we had three groups of four, players were sorted roughly by playing strength into pseudo-divisions of four and played three rounds of round robin. Here are the results.

Aaron McGuffin 3-0, +247
Brad Mills 2-1, +22
Martha Mills 1-2, +65
Leah Gingerich 0-3, -334

Rob Stanton 2-1, +206
Rafael Barker 1.5-1.5, -12
Chris Ross 1.5-1.5, -171
Shelley Schiavone 1-2, -23

Tina Totten King 2-0, +183
Mark Gingerich 2-1, -19
Brad Smith 0-2, -32
Lori McGuffin 0-1, -132

Bingos played were:

Martha Mills: CRAFTED (91), STRIVES (89), FEEBLER (82), BITTERS (70), CISTERN (68); average score: 80
Rob Stanton: STEMMED (107), MELDERS (75), LOITERS (66), SCOOPERS (65), INDENTED (62); average score: 75
Aaron McGuffin: HORIZON (77), IODATED (76), OUTINGS (71), REDOING (59); average score: 70.75
Brad Mills: ENTAILS (74), RANDIES (71), SERVING (67), SATIRES (63); average score: 68.75
Chris Ross: SINGLED (85), SUNIEST* (79), SIGNETS (64)
Tina Totten King: MONGERS (84), BLONDER (68)
Mark Gingerich: POTTING (67), GRASSIER (63)
Lori McGuffin: JITTERS (88)
Shelley Schiavone: CRINGING (86)
Leah Gingerich: RESIDUE (65)

A reporter from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch was present as well, interviewing us and taking pictures for an upcoming article about the growing Scrabble scene in Huntington and Charleston. This is the third time this year we've gotten local media coverage - the other two times were a pictorial in the Charleston Gazette-Mail and a story on WOWK. Many thanks to the members of the press who are helping us get the word out.

We're throwing around the possibility of a club tournament this fall to give people who've not yet been to a tournament a chance to get their feet wet and to encourage club members to join the NSA. The date that's looking best for this right now is October 4, based on upcoming regional tournaments and the logistics of our friends at the Lexington Club, who we hope will be able to make an appearance also. I distributed fliers for the upcoming Lexington Ironman III tournament today as well, and I believe we'll be able to get at least seven people to that event, if not more.

Thanks to everyone for participating today - with your help, we had the largest non-tournament gathering of West Virginia Scrabble players to date. Let's keep up the great work.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A review of Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition

Posted by Brad Mills
It's finally here!

I picked up the Diamond Anniversary Edition Scrabble board right after lunch today at a local department store. Given some of the boards Hasbro has put out over the last decade or so, let's just say my hopes were not high... but I just had to buy one and see for myself.

Surprisingly, this is a rather good board. The new color scheme is horrid, of course... very disconcerting. But it's constructed well, the turning mechanism is both functional and unique, and the portability is a definite plus. And finally, they actually put something on the blank so it's not as easily braillable.

The grid is solid hard plastic, and it adequately holds tiles in place - I tried it with Protiles and the wooden tiles which came with the set, and they both sustained a good solid bump from the side without moving. I found that Protiles will fit in sideways, which opens the possibility of using this board in the same manner as an Ossie Mair board - that is, with the curved sections facing each player. (Yes, this is a blatant misorientation, but I believe if both players agree to play in this fashion from the beginning, it would probably be okay.)

It's made in China, but I expected this, since almost every mass-produced good in the country is anymore.

Here are a few pictures.
The case / board, all folded up and ready to go. The case is held together with some magnets hidden inside the plastic surface, so be careful with this board around credit cards, portable hard drives, and anything else sensitive to magnetic forces. The "turntable" is actually a series of small wheels on what becomes the bottom of the board. They just roll and the whole thing rotates. Very cool and innovative!

Here's the board unfolded with a couple of the curved racks on it. The racks are very cheaply made and probably should be replaced.

Blanks are your best friends, and in this case, so are diamonds.

A few of the included tiles scattered across the playing surface. (Yeah, I know... HaNDLES, HaNDSEL, and HoNDLES.)

This particular board has a small manufacturing defect, but it won't affect any games.

Some Protiles placed in the grid to see how they fit. And... they don't move!

A side view of the Protiles to show the depth at which they rest. The big brown thing at top left is a bag of dinner rolls.

Here are the drawers opened up, revealing the rules booklet and a place to put the racks and tile bag. The rules refer to the OSPD3, but the NSA does get a plug.

And finally, the board by itself, with nothing on it, to give a better view of the yucky new colors. Hopefully these make a rapid departure. Imagine if Coke changed their cans to green. It's just not right!

Overall, I think Hasbro is on the right track here from a manufacturing perspective. This board actually looks and feels like they put some effort into it. As for the color scheme, I can only attribute it to someone being on drugs who is hopefully now going through rehab.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fall forward

Posted by Brad Mills
It's official: our Tuesday meetings have been moved to Wednesdays. Our first Wednesday meeting will be from 6:00 to 8:00 on September 3, 2008 at Capitol Roasters. You're more than welcome to keep showing up on Tuesdays instead, but since you'll be the only player there, you'll feel sad, and nobody wants that. So come join us on Wednesdays!

Friday, August 1, 2008

A 563-pointer

Posted by Brad Mills
This evening I logged my second-highest Scrabble score to date and my highest scoring game under NSA rules by beating Tina in a friendly (that is, non-club) game. The final score was 563-362. I had four bingos by the fifth turn (DIFECTA*, SWAINED*, ADULTERY, and TRENAIL), and got in a fifth (MISTIER) before it was over. I had a sixth one on my last rack (PUTTIER) but it wouldn't play. Tina's score of 362 is very respectable, all things considered - and she scored two bingos herself within her first three turns (BILKERS and COVERING). The way things were going early in the game, I was hoping we'd trade bingos back and forth with a few 25-point plays here and there until the bag was empty... but it didn't work out that way.

I've got to confess, DIFECTA* was a calculated risk. Poorly calculated, as it turns out, since it isn't good. I knew PERFECTA and TRIFECTA, and I figured since TRI- is a prefix for three, and DI- is a prefix for two, I'd put it down and see if it stayed. I was really only about 65% sure there, and normally I like to have a higher level of confidence before putting down a questionable word... but at that moment, I thought my logic was unassailable. I was much more certain about SWAINED*, but SWAIN is a noun, not a verb.

As for my highest scoring game, that was a fluke which I'm sure I'll never see again. Let's just say if it had been an official club or tournament game, it would have broken the (at the time) North American record until Michael Cresta's 830-pointer a couple of years ago.

National Scrabble Championship, 2008

Posted by Tina
I thought and thought about whether to post on this blog or my personal blog about some of our regional Scrabble players who recently made the trip to Orlando to participate in the National Scrabble Championship. There were certainly more people from around this part of the country who played, but that I just don't know, so I decided to make the post on ScrabbleCrush. Nonetheless, the 662 people who competed in five straight days of Scrabble deserve a mention here.

Feeling up to it? There's a good chance several West Virginia players will travel to Dayton in August 2009 for the Players' Championship. Even if gas prices some day dip back below $3.00 (HEH...Heh...hehhhh....), carpooling will still be the way to go!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Visions of retirement

Posted by Brad Mills
One of the founding members of our club, Arnold Keaton, had a retirement reception today. The first game ever played at our club was between the two of us. Arnold's vision has degenerated over the last few years, and as a result, he's not been able to play with us recently as much as he did in the past. I understand that situation has improved somewhat, but with retirement right around the corner, I suspect he has other things in mind for now.

However, his soon-to-be former colleagues seem to think he needs to come back to Scrabble club. One of the gifts they presented to him was a low-vision Deluxe Scrabble set. Everything came in the same box as the non-glary "deluxe" board, but the board itself was quite different. For one thing, there was a complete absence of color - everything was black and white. (High-contrast color schemes are helpful for those with difficulty distinguishing colors.) For another, the tiles were plastic and silk-screened with a flush surface (non-braillable), much like Protiles, with thicker than normal characters on them. (I personally think Bob's version of these are better.) And finally, a real plastic grid, just like on the older boards, instead of the papery-thin grid Hasbro has subjected us to over the last several years.

This had every appearance of being a genuine Hasbro product, but I don't remember ever seeing it on Hasbro's website or on It is, however, available on Amazon and comes from Maxi-Aids. It's entirely possible Maxi-Aids bought a bunch of deluxe boards, disassembled them, inserted their own high-contrast playing field, repackaged them with the thick-fonted tiles, and is reselling them. (Hey Maxi-Aids people: seriously, check out Protiles!)

Arnold was pretty pleased with this gift, and announced to the group that I direct the club in Charleston - then turned to me and said, "Brad, go ahead and give a plug for the club." I didn't expect the guest of honor, at his own retirement reception, to yield the floor to me for the sole purpose of getting the word out to a roomful of people... but since arguing with him is often illogical, I did as he requested.

So, perhaps when he grows weary of fishing, tinkering in the garage, and watching the History channel... we'll see Arnold return to Scrabble. I told him with this new board he had no more excuses. My fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Studying Tips from a Beginner

Posted by Tina
Over on my personal blog, I blog a lot about Scrabble and, more specifically, my dedication this year to Scrabble tournaments (my Whirlwind Scrabble Tour). This was a decision I made after a tournament in Pittsburgh where I did so poorly that, to me, the event has simply become known as "Pittsburgh." The good thing about hitting the bottom, though (or coming real close to it), is that it's often a turning point. So I decided it was either time to let it go and just play casually or to buckle down and put in the work to do better. After giving it very little thought (because the decision was easy), I decided to go the buckling down route.

And by buckling down, I mean studying. For me, was time to get serious. If, by some chance, you're looking to get serious about Scrabble,'s what I've done so far and I've seen some good progress:

The first person I consulted was our club's director, Brad Mills. Brad helped me get past the block I had on the (now seemingly simple) task of memorizing my three-letter words beginning with K. (The trick was a mnemonic.) He also supplied me with my very first set of Scrabble flash cards. Flash cards can be based on any type of word list but they're commonly based on "bingo stems." (My first set is the most common stem called the "TISANE's.")

At the same time, this first level in studying for me meant not only memorizing other three-letter word lists (after moving past the mental block with K's), but using the awesome, free program called Zyzzyva. Within Zyzzyva, I could study my word lists (simple recall) and use the program's Cardbox function to learn to recognize words in their scrambled form. The Cardbox function retests you on words periodically based on whether or not you got them correct before. It's designed to help you gain long-term retention of the words and, on its face, it seems to do exactly that. (If you use Zyzzyva, click the donate button and slip a little cash to the designer, Michael Thelen.)

After becoming comfortable with the words on my first set of flash cards, I added those words to my Cardbox. So, at that point, it had every three-letter word in it plus the TISANE's. I access my Cardbox every day (which right now displays about 70 anagrams a day as long as I don't skip) and, at the same time, I keep adding to my three-letter straight recall memorization (also using Zyzzyva).

The word list recall is mostly rote. Sometimes a word will stick with you, though, for some silly reason. When I see the letters BIO, the lyrics "Obie Trice, real name, no gimics!" go through my head and I remember that BIO is also OBI. Sometimes it backfires, though. For instance, the letters DHO do make the word HOD, but do not make Homer Simpson's "DOH!"...but I always think it anyway.

This three-pronged approach to studying really seems to be working. Using word list recall, anagram recognition, and flash card study of bingos, the process feels balanced but at the same time not too elementary. I've found that pacing myself is important (or it just gets too hectic and nothing sticks) but that also, sometimes a stroke of inspiration or motivation...or just curiosity...will lead to some special challenge. (Yesterday, for instance, I decided to go ahead and add my "Q without U" words to my Cardbox. It was like adding a little Tabasco to your french fries...and had the desired effect.)

Oh! And sometimes I throw a little Aerolith play into the mix. It's similar to the Cardbox function of Zyzzyva but adds a timing function and displays random words every day. You choose from daily word "challenges" that are 2 to 15 letters in length, based on your selection. This program is yet another angle to learn and test yourself on Scrabble words and I think it adds another dimension to how your brain stores and recalls them. (Thanks to Brendan for suggesting Aerolith to me at the last tournament. Again, if you use the program, maybe consider donating a little money to its designer.)

So, at this level...(a relative beginner's level)...just getting the words in your brain is a huge part of it. Of course, getting them back out is also important. In Scrabble's upper levels, people are able to take on much more complicated, strategic approaches or even a very Zen approach (like Joe Edley). Heh...maybe its easier to be Zen about it if you know a bazillion words. Maybe someday I'll be able to let you know.

In closing, I'll focus on something I'd mentioned earlier. If you're considering studying, or starting your Scrabble study, consult your director. It's highly likely that she or he has devoted a good deal of their life to the game. That level of dedication does not come without the knowledge of the tools that are available, good strategies, and the accumulation of some really good advice. And play in your director's (and other directors') tournaments! The experience you get there is the practical application of all this theory and will help you figure out what works for you.

The town of Scrabble, WV

Posted by Brad Mills
Lynne Crowley recently ventured up to Scrabble, WV and got pictures of some local signage. Oh yeah... check it out. Of note, the town of Fairplay is five miles northeast.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Huntington results for July 19, 2008

Posted by Brad Mills
Here are the results from the Huntington Scrabble Club meeting held on Saturday, July 19. Due to people having to leave early and take byes for various reasons, we had eight players in round 1, six in round 2, and four in round 3. It made for an interesting and varied session.

Aaron McGuffin 3-0, +207
Tina Totten King 2-1, +159
Brad Mills 1-1, +116
Brad Smith 1-0, +57
Shelley Schiavone 1-2, -74
Rob Stanton 1-1, -89
Martha Mills 0-2, -64
Amy Lilly 0-2, -312

Bingos played were as follows:
Tina Totten King: MESSAGER* (93), AIRATES* (81), EMBODIER (70)
Martha Mills: STUNNED (70), EATERIES (68)
Rob Stanton: VOYAGES (100)
Aaron McGuffin: DOTTERS (72)
Shelley Schiavone: STORIED (64)

There were also a few notable non-bingo plays, including EQUIPT* (70) and JOSHES (60) by myself and either JEANS or JEERS (90) by Shelley Schiavone. Shelley had the non-go MOLTINg / MoONLIT at one point as well.

I loved the EQUIPT* play because Aaron McGuffin and Rob Stanton had just finished a game where one of them played RUINT*, which prompted a discussion among the three of us about verbs which take an irregular -T suffix for past tense (VEXT, for example). I then got to play EQUIPT* against Aaron, and he held it for at least two minutes but eventually let it go.

Aaron reported he's on the verge of getting the Directors Test completed and submitted, and the Huntington club will likely have its own number and be fully NSA-sanctioned within a month or so. The great hope is that this new club will become another source for tournaments in the Mountain State and another "stepping stone" in the West Virginia / Kentucky / Ohio club and tourney circuit. We are, in fact, discussing venues for next year's tourneys - and I'm anticipating the club will grow quite a bit once classes are back in session at Marshall (the club's meeting site is right next to the campus).

Thanks to everyone who's been supporting the Huntington club thus far. Growing things properly takes time, patience, and a series of small steps. For those who've helped contribute any of these over the last few months, you deserve proper commendation - as our combined efforts are starting to bear fruit.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Posted by Deadpan Alley

*Disclaimer: I do not play Scrabulous at work.

Monday, June 30, 2008

the gizmoid

Posted by jedijawa
I don't know how many of you guys use Protiles ... I have a couple of sets of the double injection molded type. That is why I got an email yesterday for a new gadget called "the gizmoid" that will allow you to safely wash your double injection molded Protiles in a dishwasher. It hadn't occurred to me to wash my Protiles ... and the website clearly said not to wash the silk screened Protiles in the dishwasher ... but right now you can get one of these gadgets for $10 (incl. shipping) or you can buy two sets of Protiles and get one for free. I'm not sure why you would need to wash your Protiles ... but if this is something that appeals to you ... then there you are. :-)

Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sustaining the Scrabble ecosystem

Posted by Brad Mills
According to the US Chess Federation, there are at least 200 active rated chess players in West Virginia. "Active" in this sense means the player in question has participated in a tournament or rated event within the last year. (The queries I'm doing against the USCF's website are limited to 200 returned lines, so there could easily be more than that.) Overall, the USCF claims over 80,000 members and 2000 clubs, and sanctions thousands of tournaments each year - which include over half a million games and 25 National Championships. (!!!)

An occasional debate topic on CGP is Scrabble versus chess. Both games are played on a board with a grid, strategy is a factor in both, the rating systems are similar, and some of the equipment used is arguably similar. In the tournament scene of both games, there are discussions of pairing theory, protecting one's rating, computer simulations of optimal plays, endgames, and sacrifices.

Clearly there are several similarities, and inevitably, the question arises: "Why doesn't club and tournament Scrabble enjoy the same popularity as chess?"

It's easy to make this logical leap. Chess is a game of pure skill and intellect, whereas in Scrabble, luck becomes a factor - and the unclean masses enjoy games of luck as much as, if not more than, games of skill and intellect. Scrabble uses the lexical units of language - words - as playing pieces. Chess uses "castles" which move sideways, "horses" which move in an L shape and can jump over other pieces, and "the little ones" which can move one space, two spaces, or diagonally depending on where they are on the board at the time and relative to other pieces.

Basically, if you can read and occasionally get lucky, you can play Scrabble. If you can memorize the moves for each piece (including en passant and castling), learn a few basic openings, and take early control of the center, you can play chess... though not very well. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? So shouldn't there be a lot more Scrabble players? Everyone has played Scrabble at one time or another. The game is found in one out of three American homes. I'm not so sure that can be said of chess.

There is the time factor, of course. Scrabble has been around for only 60 years. Chess, in its current form, has existed since about 1475 - so keep in mind there have been over 530 years for chess to grow to the level where it is today. With roughly one-tenth the amount of time under its belt, Scrabble enjoys roughly one-tenth the membership, tournament participation, and so forth when compared with chess. So one could say we're right where we're supposed to be.

The NSA is expanding via a School Scrabble program and reportedly doing so with some degree of success. Apple pulled this same stunt when I was in grade school and also had some success with it, at least until other parties took notice and did so with even greater success, no doubt by having much deeper pockets. Today's kids have various means of distraction at their disposal to compete with the NSA, also with deeper pockets. So while Scrabble as part of a school (or after-school) curriculum is definitely a good thing, it's questionable whether or not it will make the transition into a kid's chosen leisure activity.

A gentleman observing our most recent club meeting quipped to me that he enjoyed playing Scrabble until he read Word Freak. I replied that I didn't truly enjoy or appreciate it until I read Word Freak. Once you make that jump from the kitchen table to the club table, it truly becomes a different game. So perhaps that is the problem - we are playing a fundamentally different game than the one Hasbro is marketing. And we all know Hasbro has deep pockets.

So overall, is the Scrabble club and tournament ecosystem sustainable, and if not, what can we do - collectively - to make it that way?

Friday, June 27, 2008

My New OWL

Posted by Tina
I got a new owl for my office...picked it up at the book store.

Of course, it's a paperweight...AND IT'S SO COOL! I have to run a fan in my office because, for some reason, I don't seem to get enough air circulation and it stays really, really hot. Instead of laying my stapler, tape dispenser, and other heavy things (like my head) on my papers, I actually use the nearly-forgotten decorative paperweight.

When I was choosing a new one recently, I saw this one with the owl and knew that it was exactly right for me!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

0MG D00D! L33T T1L35!!

Posted by Deadpan Alley
If I didn't believe it before, I surely do now - there's a market for EVERYTHING, and you can always find it on the web. I ran across this site, which sells LEET Scrabble tiles.

I'm not interested, but these may one day get my daughter interested in the game. Maybe we need to buy several sets of them, and get some L33T School Scrabble started up. A L33T dictionary already exists!

Huntington results for June 21, 2008

Posted by Brad Mills

Here are the results from the Huntington Scrabble club meeting held today, June 21, at Java Joint.

Aaron McGuffin 3-0, +262
Tina Totten King 2-1, +229
Rob Stanton 1.5-1.5, -5
Brad Mills 0.5-1.5, -107
Shelley Schiavone 0-2, -158
Todd Osborne 0-1, -221

Here is the infamous bingo list. I neglected to capture the scores for some of these, but I am listing the ones I did get. If anyone happened to get the others please leave them in the comments.

Tina Totten King: STONIER (69), DIALERS (72), REBANDED*, WONDERS (86)
Rob Stanton: AVERAGES (86), RETRAINS (85)
Brad Mills: ISOLATE (65), ENTAILED (60)

We discussed the possibility of having an informal, unsanctioned tournament at Java Joint in the near future to 1) increase club visibility and 2) motivate some of the wallflowers to step forward and try to win some cash. Entry fees would be on the low side (probably in the $5 range), and likewise, the prize pool (probably in the $50 range). Watch this space for more information.

Aaron told me he'd delved a bit more deeply into the Directors Test since I saw him last, and has realized it's a little more of an arduous undertaking than he'd originally anticipated. Though he's still plowing through it, he doesn't believe he'll be ready to jump in and hold a sanctioned tournament this year after all - but I'm sure we'll revisit the idea sometime in 2009.

I took a bye during the second round and found an old Scrabble Sentence Cubes game on a shelf. This game was probably my first exposure to Scrabble as a child - my aunt had it and we'd string together nonsense sentences and giggle like kids (which essentially is what we both were at the time). I remember one of the cubes had the word "but" on it, and that one in particular would send me into hysterics. You've got to admit, when you're five years old, the word "but" is pretty funny even if it doesn't refer to one's posterior. And, when you're five years old, that word always refers to one's posterior, even if it isn't spelled the same. It was interesting to see that game today, being more involved in the Scrabble community than I'd ever dreamed, and remember these early seeds being planted in my young mind.

Next Huntington meeting is July 19 - Aaron and I felt having a meeting on July 4th weekend would be an exercise in futility. Thanks to our friends at Java Joint for hosting our meetings, and thanks to Amber for making me a BLT with a salmonella-free tomato and a kick-ass milkshake!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We should all move...

Posted by Almost Famous England.

Lately my hand has been a total u magnet. In a game against Martha on Saturday, I had three u's on the same rack! If we all lived in England, we could play words like "colour" and "flavour" and this problem would go away...or would it? Do you think British Scrabble contains more than four u's in the bag? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Posted by Tina
Amazingly, West Virginia Scrabble has been mentioned on I can't imagine how that happened.

I think West Virginia is pretty great already. But better is, well...even better.

Group Therapy

Posted by Deadpan Alley

Monday, June 16, 2008

Special Thanks!

Posted by Tina
I just completed a 2-day run through of my Zyzzyva cardbox to which I've added all the three-letter words. It's my three-pronged approach to Scrabble study...anagram recognition, word list recall, and flash card study of bigger words.

So I have to send out a special thanks to Brad, our club director, for his help. Last week I was stuck on the three-letter K words which was more of a mental block than an inability to learn them by rote. Brad supplied me with mnemonics for my three-letters Ks and also those flash cards I mentioned earlier (my very first set!). It was a huge help.

But these mental blocks aren't new. When I was in high school and played softball, I went through a time when I was terrified to swing at the ball, because I had developed some kind of fear that any given pitch wasn't in the strike zone and, if I swung, it'd be a bad hit. Finally, after many weeks, I told the coach...who had the perfect solution. He threw pitch after pitch, instructing me to swing at each and every one, no matter if it looked like it was coming through the strike zone or not. Turned out I could get a pretty good hit off of almost every one and starting swinging again during games. (What a good coach. He died in an accident a few years later and they renamed the baseball/softball complex after him.)

So thank you, Brad! I feel a lot better now that I've gotten back into studying. In the end, I think this particular mental block is gone. Now, I'd say the only thing standing between me and memorizing a great, big, giant word list, if procrasti

Friday, June 13, 2008


Posted by Deadpan Alley
I just created a Wordle using text from the blog entries on this page.
Click to enlarge...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

XX v. XY: The Gender Factor

Posted by Deadpan Alley
If you look at a roster of all the top Scrabble players, you'll notice that there are some who are women, but that they are few and far between. I have some crazy theories as to why there aren't more top women players, and I would love to get some feedback on it.

1. A lot of women have a LOT on their plates. A full-time job, a household to keep, kids to care for. That doesn't leave a lot of time for studying. Trust me.

2. Women, generally speaking, are just not as competitive as men. Women don't have that "go for the jugular" gene that is necessary to climb up the ranks. I've been thinking about this since my first tourney win, which was in Pittsburgh this past weekend. I really forced myself to focus on winning each game, rather than enjoying the ride...and whadd'ya know? It worked. But it was work. And oddly, not as enjoyable.

There have been games where I pulled way ahead, early on, and I could sense the stress and discomfort emanating from my opponents. My natural response was to slack back, take it easy, try to ease the tension. Taking that approach will never get you ahead in Scrabble, or any other competitive endeavor!!

3. Scrabble truly is a math game. And let's face it ladies, Barbie will back me up here, "Math is hard." Women are wired for communication, and while Scrabble may use words, the only thing those words communicate is points.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Bring 'em on!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pirate Scrabble?

Posted by jedijawa
This weekend the crew of Club #620 journeyed up to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Revival Scrabble Tournament. It was very cool and my review of the weekend can be found on my blog linked here.

Between the first and second days I went over to Barnes and Noble for a bit and I always look through the games section (plus I'm watching out for the new Deluxe Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition). Anyway, they had a Pirates of the Caribbean edition of Scrabble out that just looks so wrong on so many levels. Yes, those are round tiles you see in the picture! What are your thoughts gang?

Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pittsburgh tournament weekend

Posted by Brad Mills
Last weekend, the Pittsburgh Scrabble Club had its first tournament in eight years. 48 players were in attendance and played in three divisions. Four of those players were from our club, and three of those four finished in the money - while the fourth had a strong showing in an afterhours poker tournament.

In Division C, Chris Ross picked up second place (8.5-3.5, +399) and a cash prize of $215. Martha grabbed first place (8.5-3.5, +498) and brought home $300. This was Martha's first tourney win and her first finish in the money. Huzzah! This was also Chris's first finish in the money. Double huzzah! And in case you were wondering, the tie game in Chris's record and Martha's record is from when they played each other... and they didn't do a recount.

Up in Division B, strange miracles were unfolding as I won my first five games and moved into the top spot after the third round. I managed to stay there through the rest of the tournament, and I was Gibsonized after round 11, which has never happened to me before. My final record was 10-2, +448 and I pocketed $400. Terry has estimated (with a little help from tsh) that I gained 190 rating points from this, putting me just short of 1200. Wow! I'd hoped to break 1000 again at this tournament and saw 1100 as a very remote possibility - I certainly didn't expect to get near 1200.

Overall, West Virginia brought home $915 from this event, which represented 30% of the cash prize pool - and the state had a net gain of about 165 rating points over the weekend. (Some of this also depends on how Jeff Cook did in the Annapolis tourney, but from what I've heard, he finished 3-4, -111 - so it doesn't look like he's going to make any huge changes to these numbers.)

Tina played in the Texas Hold-Em tournament hosted by Mr. Lucky, Jeff Clark - and finished in third place, making a profit of $10. Tina was also kind enough to drive us up and down I-79 on the journey in her van and put up with Star Trek: Insurrection on the trip up and my snoring on the trip back.

Stan Angrist, the director of the Pittsburgh Club, is perhaps most aptly placed in the Steel City - for he is a man of steel. We're all looking forward to our next big road trip and to returning to Pittsburgh's next event.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Soak up the sun...

Posted by Almost Famous
My brilliant husband left our Scrabble board, the newer deluxe edition, in his car for about a week (I didn't know it was there!) and when we got it out to play today, the grid was wavy and warped from heat. In certain areas, the letters would not stay in place. GRRRRRRRR. Then on top of that, he won the game! What nerve.

We have weighted it down with books, but if that does not work, I told him he owes me a custom for Christmas if not earlier. This could be a win-win...well, except that I keep LOSING to him lately...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scrabble Drought

Posted by Tina
There was no Scrabble today. At all. I'm not kidding...believe me now and hear me later and talk about it last Monday. Scheduling issues for our director kept us from scheduling regular club games last Saturday and today, but last Saturday we had a casual, non-official get-together anyway.

So now we look forward to the Pittsburgh tournament next weekend. It sounds like Stan and Terry have really got things organized and ready to go. As far as I know, Brad, Martha, Chris, and me are going and carpooling up in my van. All day Saturday and half of Sunday we'll be engaged in 12 games of official, ratings make-it-or-break-it, nationally-sanctioned Scrabble. Part of the fun of tournaments, though, is the laid-back games with your friends when the tournament's not in progress, breakfast, lunch, and dinner with old and new friends, and Taxes Hold Me after hours (a Scrabble version of Texas Hold 'Em poker played with

As for me, I can't wait to get another tournament under my belt and to see my Pittsburgh friends again (not to mention other Scrabble friends also traveling to Pittsburgh from places other than West Virginia). Last time I visited Pittsburgh, Stan's wife packed me a lunch bag with Babybel cheeses, wheat crackers, and an apple just so I wouldn't starve to death waiting for the delivery of Chinese food. Of course, the Chinese food arrived quickly...and I smiled to myself as I enjoyed my delicious fruit and cheese breakfast on my drive home the next day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

scrabble as a relationship metaphor

Posted by jedijawa
Raf brings up some very interesting points in his most recent Scrabble blog post. Reading what Raf wrote, I have to say that I've noticed some interesting changes in the way that I play Scrabble over the last 5 years. I guess that I have recently become acutely aware of this during a series of events including the informal meeting at our club director's home last month. See, when I first started playing a lot of Scrabble it was with my ex-wife and we played whenever we could find a few minutes since we had it on our Palm Pilots. It was easy, fast, and fun. In the beginning I thumped her a lot because I knew how to use the special extra point squares, but the ex soon learned how to use those spots too and our games became fierce as we each tried to play the game of cat and mouse as we did battle for those special squares. She played what I like to call "scorched earth Scrabble" because if she couldn't use one of the red triple word score squares she would block it so that I couldn't use it either. Thus, over time, our boards became locked down and clumped together much like this Scrabble board below. Usually a good half of the board was unusable with this method as our two and three letter word plays would be designed to extract maximum points without opening much for the next player.

I have come to think of this practice as Scrabble jujitsu as what each turn meant was that any inch I gave up would be capitalized upon by my opponent. Yet, without opening up the board the chance to gain points would be diminished as there are only so many plays that you can make using the three letter ladder pattern. There were games where we had a very hard time using all of our tiles because of the peculiar way that the board locks up with this style of play. Increasingly, I found myself trying to make sacrifice plays of little points to open the board so that more plays could be made. It would always frustrate me when I would make such a play and have her immediately lock the board down again by playing a play that blocked the opening that I had just made for us to expand to a new part of the board. In many ways I've come to see this as a metaphor for my relationship with her. The more that I tried to evolve our level of play the more she stubbornly tried to lock it down and keep it contained. It became increasingly frustrating and the play became more tense, quieter, and much less fun in those late days of our relationship.

When I first read Word Freak by Stephan Fatsis about 3 years ago I started to see new ways that I could play the game and new ways to open up my level of play. However, I had to be careful about doing this. My ex had told me that she didn't want me studying Scrabble strategies because if I started to win more than she did it would no longer be fun for her. Yet, the game, much like our relationship, was already not as fun for me. I started looking for places to play words that were larger than 3 or 4 letters. As I started dropping 5 and 6 letter words it did change my game play and it made her uncomfortable. She could sense the change in my style and continued to exploit my plays by milking points and punishing my new open style. When I would boldly open a red triple word score she would continue to grab it or block it while I looked for larger plays which sometimes payed off and sometimes didn't. When the gambit did pay off and I scored a bingo it incensed her and she would often exclaim that she should just give up the game. In the end ... it was me that gave up. I gave up trying to contain myself within the confines of our relationship which she struggled to lock down and control much like our Scrabble games. In that last year she tried to block just about everything that I did ... whether it was Scrabble, running in races and triathlons, playing in a local band, or even trying to push me into a different job away from my cherished co-worker friends.

Then I moved back to WV and for a year my Scrabble game sat dormant as I rarely played. However, when I picked up with the WV Scrabble club my style of play was allowed to flourish and I never went back to the old way that I had played with the three letter ladders to nowhere. Instead, I find myself enjoying the more open style of play. In many ways my new play style is a metaphor for my new life which is more open and carefree than it had been in Ohio. Now my boards look more like the one on the left and most of our club games look this way. Sometimes I will play someone who is still playing for the 2 and 4 letter words and I am reminded of the example from my prior life. Yes, it is still frustrating when I play Raf and he thumps me by playing a tough and defensive Scrabble game. Yet, I'm okay with that because I like my new style. I like laying down 5 or 6 tiles even if it isn't going to net me a lot of points because when I get to lay a bingo down hooking it onto one of those previous plays I know that I'm breaking through to a new level of play and that I'm seeing the board in a completely different way.

Brad, my club director, once referred to this new style of play as "aggressive" but I think that it's just me flexing my mental muscle and taking the chances of my gambit backfiring on me. In that particular game I ended up thumping Brad ... not that he didn't come back and thump me worse ... but it still felt good and it felt like I had made real progress in my game. I'm not consistent anymore ... but over time I may end up getting there again. But when I watch Brad play he isn't consistent either. His turn scores are all over the place since he is looking for the big scores. He is much better situated for that than I am but I will continue to improve by baby steps until I get to yet another new place over time. For now, I like where I am and where I think that I'm headed. I have tried to explain this new way of thinking to people and this is about the best way that I can think of to describe it. It may not work for everyone, but it seems to work for me.