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...