Wednesday, April 30, 2008
For me, it's the competition; but it's also because I'm a goal setter. In school, work and play, I've always set goals.
Whether it was convincing my brother--a computer/sci-fi person--to play basketball or throw baseball with me when he would rather play legos or read books, or trying to make 20 baskets in a row before I stopped shooting hoops for the night..., I always had goals to set.
In college, it was to get better grades than my best friend (only happened on a couple of occasions). Now that I'm in the working world, it's trying to bring more business--quality business--to my Agent's office.
So, that goal-setting, competitive streak... that's what drives me. It's more of a personal achievement thing, than a "well, I'm better than you, laugh laugh, smug smirk, chuckle thing. (well, in the case of my brother, I do try to rub it in when I get one over him from time-to-time)
Oh, and what makes scrabble 'geek chic'? is it the potential for such wicked puns? or the opportunity to actually utilize words like qwerty, teiids, laari, and trailside--specifically for jedijawa--on a day-to-day basis?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Does it matter how long someone has played the game? Is it asked to be conversational? Are people personally invested in your response, like saying an amount of time that is similar to how long the person asking the question has played would establish a sort of camaraderie? Do people tend to use the amount of time as a gauge for 'how much better or worse' an opponent might be?
For me, it's a distracting question because I never know if they mean how long have I been playing scrabble, or how long I've been playing scrabble competitively. I could just as easily say, "oh, this is my first time playing, I heard about this club--or competition from a friend and I figured I was fairly good with words and thought I'd give it a go". Not all together true, but it sort of answers the question, does it not?
As bloggers, are you truly interested in your opponent's response when that question comes up in conversation? If so, to what end?
I guess we each have our own kinds of reactions to that question.
I tend to try and brush it off. I kind of like NOT knowing how long someone has played, or not knowing the amount of tournaments the individual has played. I like the mystique of the initial meeting. The very first game with an opponent. We all know how this can go...: "Hi, I'm Raf... How are you?" And then the other person introduces herself or himself and it's kind of "Game On". But for me, it's more than that...
It's almost like a performance. How the person checks the board, how they pull their tiles and rearrange their rack. How quickly they make their plays, whether they lift all their tiles at once or place their tiles individually in place on the board.
That initial game is a battle of wits--before you really know where you stand with the person. Before you know what kind of game your opponent plays, you are forced to take guesses. I like that. I like not having an idea as to what I'm up against.
I don't like Losing, but Martha made a good point the other day about it not really being a huge deal if I incur a loss in a match, as long as I was pleased with my performance or I gained some new knowledge. The competitive side of me does feel that anything less than victory is unacceptable, but I honestly like scrabble for the reason that, unlike some athletic competitions, you can learn from each loss. Your opponent might lay new words that you can use in future games, or might have a different technique or see the board differently than you'd been used to.
Do they challenge words often, lay false bingos? In that initial meeting, it's all new. We don't know the mentality of the person. Appearances are definitely important in that first go...Your opponent could come off as aloof by showing up to club an hour late and wearing a college hoodie and tattered jeans. Or perhaps appear more serious in dress slacks and buttoned-down shirts?
There are so many different aspects to scrabble, and I guess that's why I like it so much.
When we have played one another multiple times, you grasp what your opponent might do. You have an understanding--or some might believe-- of where your opponent consistently will lay their tiles, and when they might challenge you or make a challenge-worthy play.
At the same time, knowing a person could be detrimental to your game strategy because we might psych ourselves out if we are playing someone we perceive as much better or if we play someone who consistently plays potentially invalid words.
I guess this rambling note is an open invitation to respond to how you each might take someone asking you, "So, how long have you been playing scrabble"; and what you might do in your initial game against a new opponent.
I'm personally looking forward to when I do go to my first tournament, and I am playing against people I've never met in a completely competitive setting. I wonder how I'll react to their question... perhaps with... "well, how long have YOU been playing?!" Or perhaps I'll smirk and reply simply, "Oh, you know... not that long."
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
We modified the rules somewhat back then, as our goal was word knowledge. We agreed that we could consult the dictionary in order to find the best possible play. At first we used our two ginormous* World Book dictionaries. There were two volumes, A-K and L-Z, each weighing approximately ten pounds. Later, when the Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary was published in 1978, we bought a hardcover copy, and reduced our load to about three pounds.
At some point in the early eighties, two wonderful things happened. First, my dad got a Deluxe set for Christmas. Hurray for the plastic grid designed to keep tiles in place! Second, my dad came up with the wonderful idea of using a Crown Royal bag to hold the tiles for us. What a luxury!
I continued playing Scrabble with Dad through the years. We didn't play competitively, although our rule was that the person who won had to put up the equipment. Instead we would add our final scores together. If the total was 600 or higher, we considered it a successful game.
When Brad started the club here, we had three members: Brad, me, and my dad. It was like that for the first year. For the past year and a half, Dad's vision hasn't been clear enough to play, but he had surgery last week to help correct the worst of his vision problems. I hope he'll be ready to play again soon.
(Note: This article was originally posted April 27, 2008 at the WV Scrabble website. It has been moved to our blog and backdated to that date as part of a site redesign.)
Hasbro has issued a press release promising new Scrabble boards this year in celebration of the game's 60th anniversary. Diligent research, hidden messages in advertisements, and some graphical manipulation clearly leads to this conclusion:
The new Scrabble boards are round.
Here are the items of evidence.
Item 1: Round racks
The aforementioned press release clearly states:
"The SCRABBLE Brand Crossword Game Diamond Anniversary Edition features a redesigned game board that keeps the letter tiles in place, a rotating base and curved tile holders - so players can keep their letters a secret. The new game board also folds for easy portability."
Rotating Scrabble boards are nothing new - in fact, they've been around almost since the game's commercial debut. A rotating board which also folds is a novelty, however, at least for Hasbro.
Since one of the goals is to fit everything snugly into the box at the end of a game, it's reasonable to conclude the curved racks would follow the contours of something to hold them in place. Since the board folds by Hasbro's own admission, the best place is inside the cavity formed inside the folding board. And since the racks are round, also by Hasbro's own admission, it's very likely they'll rest along a contour of the board - there may even be some sort of plastic retainer in place for this purpose.
Item 2: The Zapruder image
Recent advertisements across the country have included an image which reveals a section of the new board.
The image here shows an ellipse placed over what appears to be the new board. Note the perfect fit. Given the perspective of the image, an ellipse makes sense. Most likely, the image on the actual box features the board in a tilted position - an "action shot", if you will. If the board pictured on the box were flat, we'd be able to lay a circle over top of it instead.
This doesn't appear to a be a Scrabble box any of us have seen in a store, but again, quoting from the press release:
"Additionally, the classic game will be refreshed with a modern color palette and a new box design."
The different coloration and the different Scrabble logo (note the lowercase e) in this image match the press release perfectly.
Item 3: Modus operandi
It's important to note that Hasbro has been experimenting with its classic games quite a bit over the last decade. For example, in recent years, there have been "express" editions of Scrabble and Monopoly® - not to mention renamed Monopoly® streets. This year's release of the new Scrabble boards will be the third change in the last ten years. And finally, there have been unusually-shaped Scrabble boards commemorating everything from sports teams to Shrek. It's easy to imagine Hasbro would continue this trend by making a round board.
Conclusions and disclaimer
Based on the gathered evidence, Hasbro has created a folding, rotating, round board with a purple, red, and yellow color scheme. It has curved racks which fit inside the cavity of the folded board, and the Scrabble logo has been changed as well.
The preceding article is complete speculation. All trademarks mentioned here are the property of their owners - no harm or infringement is intended.
Update - April 27, 2008
Pictures of the new deluxe boards have been leaked, and we've got one on our shopping page. Here's how the predictions above fared.
- Round board: Not completely. Two of the four edges are round, very similar to the folding Ossie Mair boards.
- Curved racks: Yep.
- Folding board: Yep.
- Racks fit inside the folding board's cavity: Unknown so far, but still a fair assumption.
- Updated logo: Yes.
- Purple, red, and yellow color scheme: No, but the premium square colors have changed (again!), and the overall coloration is much brighter than before. The purple, yellow, and red is an update to the Scrabble logo. Here is a much better image of the new logo (as well as the new standard board), copied directly from Hasbro's website.
Overall accuracy of the speculation: Good. Changing the shape of the deluxe boards wasn't mentioned anywhere in the press release, and the jury is still out on whether or not the curved racks fit inside the board. Probably not worthy of an Oliver Stone film.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The planning took several months. Much of this was mentally working myself up to the procedure - and the rest was throwing around design ideas. I knew going into it that I wanted a Scrabble-themed design. Initially I planned to only have a Triple Word Score square, but that by itself seemed plain and I really wanted something more. After digging around, I found two images of owls I liked. The owl represents two things - an acronym for Official Word List, and a classic archetype of wisdom - so he fits in with the Scrabble theme very well.
About a week before committing to the design, I took it by DAAT to make sure it was workable and to fish for suggested improvements. Chatting with Kevin Adams yielded several tweaks and ideas - and a preference for the simpler of the two owls from a workability standpoint. I took these suggestions back to the drawing board and came up with the final design in both color and outline formats. I dropped off these final versions Thursday and left my phone number to set up the appointment. On Saturday afternoon I got the call - everything was ready to go and we confirmed the day and time.
Shortly before leaving work yesterday I took three acetaminophen - just to take the edge off what was to come.
I arrived at the studio a little before 6:00. I sat in the parking lot, ate a Subway sandwich (just something light), and around 6:15 I went in. A little bit of paperwork, a little bit of waiting. Chris showed up while I waited, camera in tow as usual, and we chatted a bit. Finally, Tommy came out and called me back to the workroom.
Probably the number one question asked of anyone who gets or gives a tattoo is: "Does it hurt?" Of course it does. The degree of pain varies based on what you're getting done, where on your body it is, the artist, and your tolerance for pain in general - which itself can vary from one hour to the next. Tommy told us when people ask him what it feels like getting a tattoo, his response is, "It feels like getting a tattoo. You forget what it feels like after it's done, but when you get another one you remember."
From my perspective, imagine putting your hand into a very large hornets' nest and leaving it there for an hour or two. You do get used to it, however, as your body's natural pain defenses take over. In my case this only took ten or fifteen minutes - at which point I felt little more than a rubbing on my arm and the vibrating buzz buzz buzz of the tattoo gun.
As Tommy did his magic and the endorphins ate away at my pain, I realized some similarities between tattooists and Scrabble players. We are both a niche market in society, first of all - and a misunderstood one. We players don't necessarily sit around and learn strange words all the time. Tattooists don't necessarily sit around listening to death metal all the time. The lesson to take away from this is a little understanding can go a long way.
Second, we both travel around quite a bit. Just as there are Scrabble tournaments all over the country, there are also tattoo conventions. Both are interesting places with lots of goodies to buy, interesting people to meet, and new friends to make.
Third, we are who we are and we're not ashamed of it. In fact, most of the time, we're damn proud of it. There are enough of us out there that we don't feel alone or "weird" for not always fitting in with mainstream society. Some of us actually do fit in with mainstream society, but really, we're most ourselves when we're doing what we love.
The tattoo was covered with a sterile dressing, which stayed on overnight. This morning I took the dressing off and found the expected red and black oozy mess. Cleaning it off revealed the tat in all its glory, and most of the residual surface ink and damaged skin washed down the drain. This will be an ongoing process as the tattoo goes through its healing phases.
- Think carefully before getting any tattoo - it will be a more or less permanent part of you. Give it the same consideration you would to an elective cosmetic medical procedure. In some respects, that's exactly what it is.
- Hell yes, it hurts.
- Never get a tattoo on an empty stomach, or under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. If you want to get tattoos about drugs or alcohol on your stomach, I guess that's up to you.
- Follow the aftercare procedure provided by your artist or the studio. If all else fails, read the tattoo faq for other suggestions.
- Your tattoo artist is a professional and deserves your respect. Most likely, he or she has spent many hours perfecting the art.
- Embracing your inner self - geeky or not - is both a good thing and a learning experience.
Monday, April 21, 2008
So what does this have to do with blogging or Scrabble? Well, I think it has a lot to do with the creative mind. Before I started blogging I had been writing some very descriptive emails about races that I was running to various friends and family and telling about other things. I got a lot of people telling me how much they liked my stories and my writing style and were trying to get me to write more either on a blog or in print. Eventually I gave it a try and my first blog posts were awkward and sort of rough. One of my blogger friends told me he looked forward to me developing my "blogger voice" and he was right. It took a few months but I did develop a voice for my blog and a tone for how to write and it gradually became very effortless. Another friend who blogs has told me on various occasions that he thinks that I'm "prolific" in my blogging and I have taken that to mean that writing his posts comes harder to him than mine do ... and I can see that. I literally find myself just furiously typing away at my keyboard for many posts trying to keep up with my thoughts and they just flow. I'm not going to lie and say that I don't go back and edit them ... but it isn't a difficult process for me.
So where does Scrabble come in? How about now? Scrabble is one of those things that I see new players struggle with. When my ex-wife and I started playing we did so slowly and gradually advanced at more or less the same rate. I beat her a lot in the beginning because she didn't use the bonus squares but when she learned to use them I lost more than she did. We progressed through various stages of play to a point where we were playing mostly 2, 3, and 4 letter words in a diagonal "granny game" (sort of like this one) where we locked the board down and milked every play for as many points as we could. Now I've progressed beyond that point and was starting to do so before leaving Ohio for good around this time last year. Now my games are much more expansive and utilize the board in a very different way (sort of like this). In these games the play opens more of the board rather than closing it down and bigger words are played in the hopes of setting up a bingo play ... which come now with a greater frequency than I ever could have imagined.
I have talked with our club director about this phenomenon and he agrees with me. As your skill level improves you start to see the game very differently and you manage both your rack and the board differently as well. While there will always be those killer 2 or 3 letter word plays there are bigger points to be made with the 50+ bonus points of a bingo or the 9 times multiplier of the elusive holy grail of Scrabble ... the triple triple. I manage so many things now in a competitive Scrabble game but each one has just come with time ... there is the clock, the score sheet, the tiles, the board, and so many other things that go on in the games and each one has to be learned and now some of them are starting to fall into the background (namely the clock). I can't say that I'm on autopilot when playing Scrabble but my brain certainly seems to be engaged in a completely different way when I am playing and I'm mixing the letters around both physically and mentally looking for the big word score. It's a good feeling and I feel that I can almost see and feel my progress. I'm certainly seeing progress in my girlfriend's 11 year old daughter, K-girl, who comes to many of our club meetings. She is starting to learn from my teaching about how to utilize the board, how to play in parallel, and how not to waste "s" tiles and blanks. Her word knowledge is increasing rapidly as well.
Anyway, this post is about how creativity spurs many things. I think that getting back into band helped my blogging and getting into blogging helped my musical talents in very different ways. Both activities, I have no doubt, have improved my thinking skills for Scrabble and I think that Scrabble has even had an effect on those things as well. It's a good place to be right now but I can't wait to see where it goes next. I don't profess to be a Scrabble guru yet, but I do think that I'm on the path ... and I like the view!
Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
With 178,691 valid words available in Scrabble®, learning them can be a daunting task. How do you go about it? Where do you begin?
An important thing to consider is not all of these words are useful in the game. While ZYZZYVA is a valid word, the likelihood of ever playing it is extremely low because it requires having both blanks, the Z, both Ys, and one of the two Vs at the same time. Because I'm lazy today, I'll leave calculating the odds of having those letters simultaneously as an exercise for the reader.
ANEROID, on the other hand, is very likely to appear on your rack - as are AILERON / ALIENOR, ELATION / TOENAIL, and ERASION. So an approach which has a quicker payoff is to learn words with a higher probability of occurring, and disregard those you will likely never see. More on this in a future post.
Another consideration is in-game dynamics. Many people playing Scrabble® for the first time tend to make all their words in an intersecting crossword pattern. It is often far more lucrative to play parallel to a word already on the board. For example, look at the CONDO-OX play shown to the left. The person who played OX picked up at least 16 points for the X instead of just 8, because it scores in two directions at once - horizontally as well as vertically. If that X happened to fall on a premium square, it would be worth even more points - and the premium would score in both directions as well.
If you could imagine the word OXYGEN were played in this scenario, you could see the value of knowing the short words DO and OX - because it gives you 1) a place to play, and 2) an opportunity to pick up at least 12 more points (3 for DO, and 9 for OX horizontally). Opportunities like this appear in the game over and over, so it's definitely to your advantage to learn all the 2-letter words.
This is nothing but good news. There are only 101 2-letter words, many of them are common (IT, IS, OF, OR, BE), memorizing all of them takes only a week or two, and your game will immediately improve when you're finished.
Here's a quick tip: All the musical notes (DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI) are valid 2-letter words. So there are 7 you can remember quickly and easily - only 94 to go! A list of all the 2-letter words is available at our club's website.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I did not keep a record of the games for blogging purposes because these were "fun games" and because I was feeling lazy (it was more the later than the former). The first games were Raf and Martha (the later of which managed a 132 pt. play that blew Raf just completely out of the game); Kay and Lisa's husband (our two resident teachers); and Lisa, Brad, and me. Yes, you heard that last part right. Borrowing a page from my college days where we would all team up against my college roommate for Trivial Pursuit Lisa and I both challenged Brad to a game and Brad eagerly accepted. Sadly, oh so very sadly ... Brad beat us ... badly ... as in by almost 100 points. Brad scored two bingos to our none and well ... it just wasn't pretty. My best contribution to the game was my suggestion to add PEA to the earlier play of BRAIN which extended it to the triple word score for 45pts. (we figured out later that, in my typical fashion, PEABRAIN* is a phoney that went unchallenged). As for how Kay did ... she did very well for herself. Not using any cheat sheets and not having played nearly as much as Lisa's husband does (since Lisa just beats up on him all the time) Kay managed to be within 20 points of him at the end and his last play was what really sealed the deal (it had been a close game).
The next game I played Raf and we just kept cracking each other up while Brad played Lisa's husband and Lisa played Kay ... sort of sounds like a Scrabble orgy doesn't it? Brad beat Lisa's husband, Lisa beat Kay, and I beat Raf (by a narrow margin ... and aided by the bingo FANTASy). Lisa told me that Kay played a good game and that she was impressed with her level of play for not really doing it. Later they would ask why Kay doesn't play more often and I said that she just seems intimidated since she feels her thing is more math and less words. Brad, like many of the other people I met at the tournament, said that math people actually do better at Scrabble because they think in terms of patterns and maximizing their score better than a word freak. I can believe it too. Lisa's husband brought his "A" game and seemed to play on a higher level than he said that he usually does and Lisa noticed it too. Maybe he'll beat her sometime soon and demoralize her for our next meet-up ... wish.
Kay had to leave and collected K-girl, who had been playing with the other 11 year old in the house. Martha then decided to take me on again since we had only played once and I managed to beat her. She schooled me hard by beating me by well over 100 points (actually I think it was over 150 points). Her first bingo really was descriptive of our game with HUsTLED and she later played another bingo and I can't even recall what it was. Ouch. I'm not sure how the games in the other room went except that Lisa's hubby was doing very well and Raf was getting schooled by Brad. I really enjoyed how comfortable that the environment was and how we were able to laugh and be obnoxious, in our own Scrabbley way, without getting thrown out of a bookstore or a tournament. It was funny how someone would think of some fanciful word and we would all run off to one of Brad's computers or an OWL2 book to check it out. Brad brought out The Long List from the NSA and Lisa found an awesome ... if not improbable ... word with CARPETBAGGERIES which had us in stitches for a good 10 minutes and became a theme of the night.
After that last round of games Lisa went home and that left Raf, our Scrabble hosts, and me to discuss philosophy, Scrabble, religion and politics, Scrabble, media influence, Scrabble, and some more Scrabble on an even geekier level. I think that I came out of there late last night with at least a dozen ideas for future blog posts based upon the various subjects that we talked about. Something that I'm starting to realize about Brad and Martha is that they are eerily like me and I guess that explains why they read my blog. I have been getting to know them lately and I've found it interesting how many times that our thoughts are on the same wavelength about something, or we've read the same books, or we're making the same obscure references and getting each other at the same time. It's funny and wonderful all at the same time. At one point last night Brad trotted out his Homestar Runner action figures (which BTW ... Trogdor and I share a birthday); at another point Martha, Raf and I were talking about comparative religious perspectives; and at another point we were all talking about our favorite old tv shows and their greater social impact on our culture.
All in all it was an awesome evening and I can't wait to do that again. I hope that Kay will now see that she can play Scrabble too and will both play me when we're just sitting around and will come to club or other club events and play others as well. We'll see...
Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Last year, our membership at meetings dropped sharply. We lost more than half of our regular members. Though some of the losses could not be avoided, we felt diminished. We felt defeated. We seriously considered quitting altogether. Our thinking was that we had tapped the local market, and the very few of us who kept showing up were the only Scrabble lovers around.
Thankfully, we were proven wrong about that. Thankfully, we endured. We've seen amazing growth over the past few months. People who have recently gotten involved tell me that they didn't even know our club existed. This tells me that there are more of us out there, they just don't know about us.
How can we raise awareness? We have a website. We hold regular tournaments. An ad runs in the weekly Metro, under the 'Clubs' section. We're going to be involved in the upcoming Charcon convention.
Do you think a literacy fundraiser or something similar might get our club some exposure? Is there somewhere in town to meet besides Books-A-Million, wherein more folks might stumble upon us? What are your thoughts about starting School Scrabble in this area?
I'll wrap up with just two more questions. First, how did you hear about us? And secondly, what could we have done last year so that you would have learned about us sooner?
We are Scrabble nuts and we are not shy about it. I documented several cool t-shirts, bumper stickers, and license plates that I saw around the tournament the first day when I had a bye. I've gone around the web since then looking for other interesting t-shirts with the thought of possibly buying one for myself to further express my inner Scrabble uber-nerd. Our fearless club director has talked about getting a tattoo but that's just too much for this Scrabble fanatic. I'm gonna go with something that I can take off at the end of the day. The question is ... which one? Most of these designs can be found on cafepress under Scrabble (click any image to make it somewhat larger).
These two seemed appropriate for me ... too bad they don't have one that says JINXY* or KWYJIBO*.
These two seemed very literary and were funny in their own ways.
Then you have the shirts that play off of actual game elements like the starting square of the much sought after triple word score space.
These two were very artsy and highbrow which really drew me to them. I really liked the top one, "The Last Word", except that the t-shirt that had that design had it printed on both the front and the back which seems a bit like overkill. Then there were the low brow entries.
What better shirts than these to have your opponent stare at during your competitive Scrabble game? Well, those are the best shirts that I could find. What do you guys think of them? Do you have any others? If so include the links to them in the comments and I'll try to update this post with the new pictures.
Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Today we broke out the board for a little game. We don't own a timer, but I am trying to get him to play faster. (Sometimes he is unreeeeasonably slow, but it is getting better.)
For the first few plays we were pretty close, and then he just took off! He drew a blank, the Q, the Z, and three S's in the first half of our game. Later he would also draw the X.
I did have one bingo ("strudel") to his no bingos, and in my defense I was drawing "Old MacDonald," but he still beat me. OUCH! 298-267. I must say this is a first in at least a year. Hopefully I can get him to come back to club soon.
Monday, April 14, 2008
- A possible second tournament this year. Discussions with club members, interested players, and at least one other director in the area indicate there is good support for the idea - so it's at least open for discussion.
- Possibly a second club starting in Huntington, WV. The Charleston club is more than willing to facilitate this until it gets off the ground, and by "get off the ground", I mean someone in Huntington taking the director's test. (Incidentally, this is directly related to the first item - the second tournament, if it happens, will likely be in Huntington as well.)
- CharCon. The CharCon organizers were impressed with the turnout we had at our tourney and feel we'd be a valuable addition to the overall gaming community in Charleston. We need to take part in this in some capacity - if anything, to represent. I'm leaning toward a "play the experts for a dollar" booth where people throw a dollar in a jar and try to beat one of us - in the meantime, we can pitch the club and otherwise try to woo them. Other ideas are highly encouraged - that was the first thing that came to my mind. The CharCon folks want to have something firmed up by the first of June.
- Discussions about upcoming area tournaments, which include Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham, and Lexington. RDU and Lexington aren't on the NSA calendar or cross-tables yet, but I have no reason to think they won't be listed by July or August. I've got an email out to David Klionsky to see what his thoughts are on dates, even tentative ones. Ken's is probably going to be the first weekend of November, based on past experience.
- A few feedback items from our tourney, 22 unread CGP posts, and the usual bevy of spam (52 today, 1398 total).
Sunday, April 13, 2008
So Saturday 5:30 a.m. found my husband and I on the road to Ohio. Shortly before 9:00 in the morning, I was enjoying my free, tournament-provided breakfast buffet (including fresh fruit, muffins, juices, yogurt, and more!). Did I mention the view? The tournament was held in Furnace Run Metro Park in a well-appointed, indoor shelter with walls of windows and nothing but a view of the woods and a lake. Though the morning was somewhat overcast, the view was, by far, the most beautiful I've had during a Scrabble tournament.
By shortly after 9:00 a.m., I was getting my first game started against a tall young man that I thought for sure might be graduating college soon. Turns out, Christopher was a 15-year-old who already had a rating of 998 going into the tournament. That first game resulted in my first mark in the “L” column and a pretty sizable negative point spread (his 419 points to my 249). He did, however, have a shiny new board from CustomScrabbleBoards.com and I was able to spend a few minutes examining it in an attempt to discover its maker's secrets. (I just made my first board and, although I learned a few lessons, I was pretty happy with the results.) Here's the game...and the board:
Aside from the severe ass-whoopin I received, about the only notable things about the game was the board and Christopher's 4th move...a 79-point bingo for SOOTIER. I enjoyed the game, though, and the chance to check out the board. Christopher was polite and good-natured so there was no touchdown dance after his win. Maybe he experienced some of the same guilt Chris does with beating a petite, friendly person like myself.
My next opponent, Dennis, was a man with a quiet nature and, thus far, no rating (and a bye in the first round). When he sat down, since he didn't have a rating, I asked what he did for a living (which would give me some idea about what to expect). He said, “I'm an accountant” and I offered him some support on his first tournament game saying, “Well, then, you'll come out of this with a nice rating. People think Scrabble is about knowing how to spell but it's really a math person's game.” He obviously didn't need my ego boosting on his Scrabble skills but his face brightened a little at our common thinking. He agreed with me and we started a very pleasant game. Since I'm a creature of habit, I decided to get my arse kicked here, too.
After my fourth turn, I had racked up an amazing 35 points with GAP, NOR, a 2-tile exchange, and RITES. Dennis had started off slowly, as well, but had 76 points. Still unable to get a good rack (heh, heh, hehahhhh...) I maxed out my scoring ability with FAXED on a corner square. Dennis had steadily accumulated 30-point words, not to mention a bingo with TINIEST on the 6th play, and came out with a debut score of 397 to my 317. Of course, Dennis was a good sport and we parted ways with friendly words.
In the third round, I had a bye...then, lunch! Linda, Mary Kay, and Diane, all of whom I had met in the recent Elyria tournament, sat with me during lunch and we had a great time talking about Scrabble and pets and kids. They're all such nice women, I was glad to see (and play Scrabble with) them again. Lunch was also provided with the cost of the tournament. Dallas' wife had prepared a wonderful buffet for us (and she had prepared the breakfast one) including beef barbeque, pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, chips...and a whole table of cookies, fudge, cake, and other treats!!! Lunch was so awesome and it was really convenient not to have to venture out into a strange town and find someplace decent to eat.
The 4th round was my game against Joyce, a strong player who came into the tournament with a rating of 869. As usual, I like to start my games off real slow, you know...lull my opponent into a false sense of security. I stuck to that M.O. with Joyce but did manage to accumulate 64 points by the end of my 4th turn. Finally, I made my first bingo of the day with RESALER* for 74 points. Joyce sais, "hold," and thought for a minute before telling me to go ahead and draw my tiles. The next turn, I added a “P” for 43 points. A few turns later, she played TRIAGED for 62 points. Toward the end of the game, I managed SHELVING on a red square for 89 points. In the end, I had finally secured my first victory with 392 points to Joyce's 350.
Second-guessing not challenging RESALER* and PRESALER*, Joyce checked them on her Franklin and found out they were phonies. I really, really thought they were good. In fact, I could have sworn that I had seen them both on a word list or in a dictionary before and thought, “huh...those look odd.” Guess not. (Joyce has also taken, and passed, NSA's director's test, so she was nice enough to answer several questions I had as we went along about certain rules of play.)
In the 7th game, though, Linda beat me like a rented mule (that cliche's for you, J-Si) with PUNIEST (72 points), QUAY (48 points), and SHELTER (77 points). Linda's 471 points made for a bit of a tough closing for me and my 306 points.
I ended the tournament with a 3-4 record and a -315 point spread. But I am...NAHT...sorry I went. Dallas put on a great tourney and I love talking to the people I've met at other Scrabble events and meeting new people.
After the tournament, most of the group relocated to the local Dairy Queen for the awards ceremony. The park's rules against exchanging money on the premises required it. Well, it required no money changing hands on the premises, not necessarily that the money then be exchanged at the DQ. Anyway, I didn't place in the tournament but I did win some prizes! I won one of the door prizes, an original piece of art with a...well...”artistic” Scrabble theme:
I also managed to win both special “tournament words” competitions by playing SHELVING. The prizes were for the words including the most letters in “Spring” and “Fling” with the highest score breaking a tie. Shelving had scored me 89 points and $40 which was the exact cost of the tournament entry fee!
After the awards, about seven of us stuck around the DQ to play Taxes Hold Me, a Scrabble board variation of Texas Hold 'Em poker. In what I hear is the usual outcome, Dallas won the game...but was probably slightly less thrilled than usual since the public game had to be played with poker chips as opposed to real cashola. I have to say, I gave him an early run for his “money” even though it was my first time playing. It was a very un-serious end to a day of concentration and I was able to make the statement that I am a “feminist so I'll go on top.” I guess sometimes your subconscious will break through no matter what. My subconscious is funny.
Here's how everyone fared overall:
5.5-1.5 +446 Dan Stock - $200
5.0-2.0 -28 Jeff Clark - $120
4.0-3.0 +295 George Viebranz - $60
4.0-3.0 +127 Linda Hoggatt
4.0-3.0 +88 Pete Zeigler
3.0-4.0 +149 Eileen Popick
3.0-4.0 -207 Connie Breitbeil
3.0-4.0 -344 Frank Lee
2.5-4.5 -34 Karen Smith
1.0- 6.0 -492 Walter Konicki
7.0-0.0 +464 Diane Joseph - $200
5.0-2.0 +535 Christopher Walleck - $120
5.0-2.0 +223 Pat Hardwick - $60
4.0-3.0 +49 Tim Smith
4.0-3.0 +44 Cecelia Huber
3.0-4.0 +135 Linda Robinson
3.0-4.0 -4 Joseph Reiben
3.0-4.0 -165 Joyce Stock
3.0-4.0 -224 Dennis Tomlinson
3.0-4.0 -315 Tina Totten King
2.0-5.0 -392 Mary Kay Quinn
Low Probability 7-letter natural, valid bingo - HEARTHS - Mary Kay Quinn - $20
Low Probability 8-letter natural, valid bingo - WITCHING - Jeff Clark - $20
In the end, a bit of a frustrating task turned into a really awesome day. Since Cross-Tables estimated I'd win 1.8 games, I felt okay with my three wins. Dallas was a great host and obviously put a ton of work into the day. I can't wait to get to NEO-Scrabble land again.
This reminds me of playing Trivial Pursuit in college with my college roommate and some of our friends. We would all team up and force him to be on his own solitary team. As an additional hurdle, when he finished getting all of his pie pieces (which he always did before the rest of us), he would be required to answer every question on the card to win the game (where the rest of us would only have to answer one). Despite this, he usually still would win the game! Similarly, when I would want someone to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with me I would have to allow them to get a pie piece for every question that they answered correctly vs. me playing the normal way and I usually still won as well. It made it hard to find folks who wanted to play and I eventually gave up.
So how do we get those folks to Scrabble with us without making them feel like chumps? I haven't had anyone to play Scrabble with until getting into this club and now I have an even harder time - what with my press celebrity and all. When I play with K-girl I usually do it without keeping score which takes some of the sting away ... though she plays club games too. Dad wasn't sure that he wanted to take the free challenges till I laid down the bingo TUESDAY* in our first game and found out later that it is not a good bingo. I routinely tell him what two letter words will and won't play which I hope he doesn't find too frustrating but he seems to understand the OWL2 (and he doesn't lose his turn). How do you do that with someone who doesn't understand OWL and OSPD rules? How do you get folks to play you without worrying about being prone to losing? Is there some other handicap that you should consider taking or just keep asking till they play you to shut you up?
As a final note, I found it amusing that when our new member came to the club yesterday how she and her husband kept talking about their games. Her husband seemed glad to have someone else for his wife to beat up on as some of their comments seemed to suggest some real thrashings in their home. Interestingly, her husband seemed to want no part in our club ... except as a chance to get some relieve from the whips and chains of playing his wife ... who seemed to have a pretty good knowledge of the game from what I could see.
Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.
My first round of the main event, I was paired with someone that I didn't know and had never played. It was early and my head was clear and confident. I did end up losing, but it was a very close game. It seems that there comes a point toward the end of every game where you realize whether you are going to win or lose. I was slightly ahead, and started to celebrate in my head the win of my first real tournament game. Then she pulled it ahead and beat me. It is games like these where I would almost rather be slaughtered sometimes!
I went into my second round with this loss on the brain, and was paired with the person who was ranked first in my division. I should have shaken it off, but I was intimidated by this person and came out with another loss. *Could* I have beaten them with a different frame of mind? Maybe not. But I at least think it gives you a much better chance. I have been beaten many times in games that I shouldn't have, and I have also won against people I most definitely should have lost to. Sometimes I really think it's all about confidence.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
This device has some other cool features. You can input a pattern on the board (including bonus squares) and the letters that you have in your rack and it will tell you the best word that you can play there. Perfect for analyzing those challenged bingos later and seeing if you could have played something better. There are also three game modes for building your word knowledge. My favorite is "jumble" where you get a 5, 6, or 7 letter word (depending on the skill level you select) all jumbled up and you get three tries to find the correct word (sort of like Scrabble Grams). There is also a game called "mystery word" that works sort of like hangman. And lastly there is a guessing game called "word deduction" that works on a 12 question guess telling you when you have right letters and you have to figure out where they go.
The features that I think that I would use most would be the word lookup and the pattern lookup features. I need to try to track my racks better so that I can go back and analyze what my potential plays were at the time that I played them. I sometimes take a picture of an inviting rack or a tough rack so that I can try to figure this sort of thing out later and now I have an even better way to do this. For example, check out some of the sample racks that actually occurred to me over the two days of my first Scrabble tournament (blogged about here, here, and here). I put these patterns into my Franklin and it came up with a lot of great words that I could have played. Not all of them are bingos but they are interesting. I've included some of the more interesting or odd words here as examples of how this device can be helpful for improving your game.
QUiNsY, YaNQUi, FiQUe, QUaFf, QUakY, QUaY, QUerY, QUeY, QUiFf, QUaNt, QUeaN, QUeeN, QUerN, FlUNkY, FUNkY, FUnNY, sNUfFY, UNiFY, bUFfY, FaNcY, FAnNY, FawNY, FeNnY, FlUkY, FlUtY, FUbsY, FUggY, FUmY, gULFY, FaNUm, FoNdU
EPEE, NEEP, PEEN, PEG, GENE, ENG, NEE
STYLIST, SLITTY, LYSIS, SILTY, STYLI, SYLIS, SYLI, STILT, SLIT, TILT, TIL, TIT
[screwed] No suggestions ... pretty much how I was at that point in my game.
OIDIA, AIDE, IDEA, ODEA, ADO, ODA, ODE
ErUGO, GEEsE, GElEE, GEOdE, GOUgE, OGEE, rOGUE, rOUGE, sEGUE, tOGUE, vOGUE, yOGEE, aGEE, aGUE, dOGE, EGEr, GEE, mEOU, mOUE
Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.
Word Sandwich challenges you to find a specific five-letter word. It's the verbal equivalent of Hi-Lo.
The creators of the game describe it thusly:
How to play:
|The object is to guess the mystery five letter word. Your guesses will float to the top if they are too “high” alphabetically, and they will float to the bottom if they are too “low” alphabetically. (You can hit the enter key after each guess.) A bonus multiplier is applied to your score if you solve the word quickly. There are five words to guess in a game, and there are no proper words.|
Friday, April 11, 2008
Almost Famous is a relative newbie at competitive Scrabble but she's tearing it UP!!! By day, she's an arts and sciences educator and, by night, a singer. She's young and energetic and just as sweet as she can be. At Scrabble, she seems like a very intuitive player and sometimes she just makes it look effortless!! What does she do in her other spare time? According to her blog, she likes to take pictures of her cats' tattoos while she sings to them...and tells them jokes to make them LOL.
Jedi Jawa is a public interest attorney here in Charleston who also loves to blog about life in general. He's been playing Scrabble for quite a while but just played his first tournament recently. How did I do against him? He kicked me around like an ugly puppy. ;-) He's not going to like that statement but -- I KID, I kid. JediJawa claims that he felt bad about beating me with all those phonies because I'm all...how did he put it?...cute and sweet and nice and smart and just all-around awesome...or something like that. Nonetheless, he straight-up, legit beat me and, if I want to hold my own with him, I better get to studying. Did I mention he dressed like a Mormon to throw us all off at the tournament?
You know what? Here's the rest of us, too...
Like I've already said, Brad dedicates most, if not all, of his free time to the development of West Virginia's number one Scrabble club. His efforts have resulted in a tournament that had twice the attendance this year as last. When he's not playing Scrabble, thinking about Scrabble, or memorizing low-probability bingo stems, he's doing computer stuff. That's the job description I apply to all persons who work in the computer/IT biz...because I don't understand the inner workings of computers or how to get them to do what I want anymore. Obviously, I do have the Intrawebz at home.
Deadpan Alley is the quiet strength of our club. When she nonchalantly lays down those seven tiles, and keeps counting up that score higher and higher until you're like, "OH, MY GOD, WOMAN...STOP!!" she maintains her perfected look of serenity and modesty. I wonder if she's laughing her arse off on the inside. When SHE'S not playing Scrabble, she's working as a paralegal, taking care of her kids, and saying funny things.
And, as for me, I work, I have about a dozen kids (they move fast so it's hard to keep count) and I overuse parentheses (a lot). In my spare time, I enjoy Scrabble, my book club, photography, fireworks, and roller coasters!! I'm not only obsessed with Scrabble, but with meeting up with other Scrabblers...so I'm managing to squeeze in several tournaments this year. I hope to blog about moving up, up, up the Scrabble rating system. If not, I just love to play.
So help us spread the word about this fun, family game and Scrabble clubs in general. Even if someone isn't close enough to join us at our club, there's probably one near them. Scrabble on!!
Scrabble was invented by Alfred M. Butts in the 1930s. Butts, an unemployed architect and presumably a victim of the Great Depression, spent long hours combing over The New York Times studying letter frequencies. The distributions he unearthed eventually made their way into the game we all know and love. (With the exception of the letter S, which had its distribution skewed slightly due to its versatility.)
Though I'm sure Butts was eventually looking to sell the rights to his game (he was unemployed, after all), I'm fairly certain it was also, at some level, a labor of love. He tried several iterations of the game, he rearranged the premium squares, he tried moving the starting square to different places. The trial and error of alchemy until he found gold, perhaps figuratively rather than literally.
The game eventually passed into the hands of James Brunot, who grew it into a marketable property. It was licensed to Selchow and Righter, and in 1972, Selchow and Righter acquired the trademark outright. Selchow and Righter was purchased by Coleco, which was then purchased by Hasbro. And that is where Scrabble is today, and has been for almost twenty years.
Like most large manufacturers, Hasbro has a legal department to defend its intellectual property rights. Scrabble falls into that category. Uttering the word Scrabble in the board game sense without the little ® symbol next to it is blasphemy. (Even though that ® is very difficult to pronounce.)
We, as players, are passionate about this game. We form clubs, attend tournaments large and small, discuss strategy and word lists, debate etymology and the validity of words. Scrabble appeals to us naturally, as we are language-using creatures who search for patterns in chaos. A consequence of this passion is we form bonds with our fellow man over the board, and regard other players as brethren. Essentially, therefore, we regard the game as ours.
Our passion combines with Hasbro's hand-wringing to form a strange marriage. Hasbro has stockholders to satisfy, a bottom line to maintain, and Scrabble is an easy moneymaker.
We just want to play, and we love to do so.
My name is Tina Totten King and I am just now considering myself less of a newcomer to the Scrabble world. I've stepped up my competitive-play schedule as much as possible but, win-or-lose, any day with Scrabble for me is better than a day without!!!
One of my co-authors, Deadpan Alley, is one heck of a competitive Scrabble player and will sneak up on you with her quiet, calm style of play. I can't wait to get her perspective on the subject. If she wants, she can identify herself online.
So...feel free to comment, remembering that the subject is Scrabble and that we treat each other with complete respect round hya.