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.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Basically, I'm complicated.. I have a hard time taking the easy way"

Posted by Raf
(That title doesn't really relate to anything in this blog, I just love the lyric...--from Gnarls Barkley's "Who Cares?")

But, I guess in regards to 'taking the easy way":
Apparently, I've slowly cultivated in my peers the perception that I'm 'consistent' with my scrabble scores--thus, making it easier to combat the large bingo scores others tend to get.

I know Chris had said quite a few times that I'm consistent, and now it seems that Tina and Lisa both think the same way.

I kind of hope they're right. It would mean I'm getting better! It's pretty exciting to get better in a given task. When that task is a hobby, like scrabble, it's also enjoyable!

Lately, I've been playing on a day-to-day basis (either on facebook's 'scrabulous', or during our club meetings. I wish i could play people face-to-face more often, that is my favorite thing about going to club. getting to hang with those new acquaintances. i want to be true friends with them, and hang out with them outside of that function. I hope it happens. I really enjoy it very much. I've enjoyed it from day one! That's so awesome for me.

As it is, I'm just glad that I've found a group to spend time with on weekends. It's nice to know that they are as interested (most are more interested) in scrabble as I am. I very much enjoy the competition, and the opportunity to learn new words. it's just a great deal of fun for me.

I like having the moniker of being consistent. if I can consistently compile scores of 20-33 points, I will be very happy. I don't know so many 'bingos', as my mind doesn't necessarily put characters together so quickly, which makes procuring bingos a more challenging thing.

Thus, I rely on tile placement and tile conservation. It's gotten me along well so far, and i hope that I can improve on my vowel usage and my recognition of 'the best possible play'. That will come as I know more words, though! The biggest thing, is figuring out whether I want to play a game defensively or be offensive-minded throughout, or being more aware of what my opponent's strategy is throughout a game. How they utilize the tiles they have.

But for now, I'm content in just knowing that my skill has improved. I played and lost to my good scrabble acquaintance Jeannette, and she mentioned that she is really proud of how much better I've become. She is the one person against whom I have most consistently lost. I've only beaten her twice in something like twelve matches. She is quite impressive, and I wish she didn't live in new england. It would be so awesome to play her in person.

I would like to read that scrabble book Chris read before he really started getting into scrabble again. I can't remember the name of it, but I'm certain that one of you guys might have it! I would love to borrow it soon, so I can go ahead and gain some knowledge.

Anyway, I'm very hopeful that we can have another impromptu scrabble meeting soon! It was really nice. I always miss the Tuesday Scrabble gatherings, and wish they were on Wednesdays, as wednesdays are much more manageable for me.

It would be cool if the scrabble club group could all gather together for the wine and jazz festival. i think that would be pretty awesome.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A record game.

Posted by Almost Famous
I had my highest score ever today, 455. It was a 3-bingo game: ZEALOTs, REVOKES, and DECEASED. Tina also had one bingo with NOISIER. I drew so well, and that never happens to me...what fun! (Not for Tina...)

The sad thing is that it wasn't a club game so my technical high score remains the same. Grr.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

custom SCRABBLE boards...

Posted by jedijawa
I've blogged about custom Scrabble boards before, but here is an exclusive glass Scrabble board coated with 30,000 Swarovski crystals exhibited at the American International Toy Fair in New York earlier this year. Designed by Hasbro, the board marks the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the game. Priced at $20,000, this board is anticipated to be auctioned this summer with all the proceedings donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. So, if you had that board ... what would you do with it?

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

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Huntington Scrabble results

Posted by Brad Mills
Here are the results from the second Huntington Scrabble club meeting held today at Java Joint.

Brad Mills 3-0, +144
Tina Totten King 2-1, +232
Chris Ross 2-1, +48 (t)
Rob Stanton 2-1, +48 (t)
Lisa Green 1-2, +115
Rafael Barker 1-2, +50
Shelley Schiavone 1-2, -57
Kirstie Trabert 0-3, -580

Notably absent: Aaron McGuffin.

Bingos played were as follows....
Brad Mills: STYMIES (103), TAURINE (85), DENTALS (74), GLISTEN (70), COGREET* (68).
Lisa Green: FILTERED (82), CARRIES (72).
Chris Ross: HEARTHS (76).
Tina Totten King: TEXTILES (75).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Huntington Scrabble this Saturday

Posted by Tina
Saturday is becoming the Holy Day for Scrabble around these parts! This Saturday, the second meeting of the new Scrabble club in Huntington will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Java Joint. Huntington's club will continue to meet on the first and third Saturdays of the month and the club here in Charleston meets on the second and fourth Saturdays (at Books-a-Million) and the first Tuesday of the month (at Capitol Roasters on Summers Street).

Now no one has to go a week without Scrabble. Oh, happy day...s!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More Scrabble Blogs

Posted by Deadpan Alley
I just stumbled upon this list of Scrabble blogs. While I haven't checked very many of them out, I recognize some of the names. I appreciate the way the list is set up, according to NSA Ratings.

By the way, I will not be adding all these links to the sidebar. Life is too short. (I will add the link to the list, though.)

Monday, May 5, 2008


Posted by Tina
My husband says I'm obsessed with work and with Scrabble. I'm definitely going to cut back on the work.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Huntington Scrabble club - first meeting

Posted by Brad Mills
The first meeting of the fledgling Huntington Scrabble club was today at Java Joint from 1:00 to 4:00. Two members from the Charleston club - namely, myself and Tina - were in attendance to give our support and to gently guide things in the right direction.

Quite a few people showed up, and I attribute this to two things - Marshall University, and Aaron McGuffin and his power of persuasion. Overall, there were 8 to 10 people present playing Scrabble. Aaron has ordered the Directors Test and, upon successful completion, will become the club's director. If today's turnout was any indication, he's going to have a very active club in short order.

The meeting was disorganized, people came and went at their leisure, and no one tracked wins and losses to my knowledge. The five tournament players present (myself, Tina, Shelley, Aaron, and Steve Wilson) instructed the new people on proper turn protocol and timer operation. One of the newbies - who, Aaron warned me beforehand, was "ready" - handed me a three-point loss and managed his timer with great efficiency.

All in all, not too bad for the first meeting of an unofficial club. The next step in my mind over the short term is a little more organization - and more people from the Charleston club lending their support to the cause. Hopefully, we can get some visits from the Huntington folks as well.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Memorization tips

Posted by Almost Famous
How did you guys go about learning the 3-letter words? Or, if you're still in the process, how are you doing it?

For the 2's, I just made flashcards, one card per letter. It took about a month to really get them committed, especially the vowels. But now they are second nature.

There are so many 3's, however, that I've kind of hit a wall. Tips...ideas?