|Victoria • B.C. • Canada|
KNOW YOUR 2 LETTER WORDS
There are a 101 2 letter words. If you are willing to learn anything specifically for playing the Scrabble® Brand Crossword Game then these are the most important words to learn. They are useful to create parallel plays or for squeezing in a good play on a blocked board.
In fact you won't need to learn all of them, as many are everyday words like IT, IN etc. Then there are interjections, contracted forms, tonic sol-fa and letter sounds which you will know but might not think are acceptable plays in Scrabble.
You might even know some of these, for example OM (an intoned Hindu sacred symbol) or PI (mathematical symbol) but you'll probably just have to learn the rest. When you play with them regularly they will soon become second nature.
This two-page summary lists all of the TWOs and THREEs, some important vowel-dumps, some of the more common J,Q,X,Y words, and some common bingo stems. You should print it out and use it as a study guide and reference until you become familiar with these important scrabble plays.
DON'T ALWAYS GO FOR THE HIGHEST SCORE
A good starting point to decide where to play, is to ask yourself; what is the highest score I can get? However, it's not the only consideration. You need to think whether you are getting value for the tiles you play and consider what letters you are leaving on your rack.
The best tile is a blank. It vastly increases your chance of getting a 7 letter word and collecting a 50 point bonus. As a rule of thumb a blank should be held unless it increases your best play by upwards of 25 points. Think about setting target scores for the other letters such as S, J, Q, X, and Z.
Try to keep a balanced rack i.e. a rack that has similar number of vowels and consonants, and no duplicate tiles. Duplicate tiles greatly reduce the number of words available to you. Try to play duplicate letters (if you have 3 N's you may take a few points less in score in order to be able to play one or more of them.) Try to keep the letters from the word RETAINS on your rack as these are the letters most conducive to making 7 letter words and getting those elusive 50 point bonuses.
TRIPLE WORD SQUARES
Triple word squares can earn big points. So don't make them easily available to your opponent. However don't be so concerned about these squares that you ignore good plays that open up the triples. Try to weigh up how many you score against what your opponent is likely to get. A play which covers the double letter square which is to be found 3 or 4 spaces from each triple will considerably depress the scores available on a triple and make the likely score from your opponent much lower.
Always look at the board to see whether there are any opportunities to ''hook'' onto existing plays. A ''hook'' is a letter that can be placed on the front or rear of a word to make a new word. There are ''front hooks'' like P onto LATE to make PLATE or ''rear hooks'' like R onto LATE to make LATER. Some everyday ones which may not immediately come to mind are U onto PEND to make UPEND or Y onto GRAVEL to make GRAVELY. There are 100's more.
Some unusual ones include C on the front of REMAINS to make CREMAINS (the ashes of a cremated body) and S on the front of MEW to make SMEW (a Eurasian duck). Also, it follows that it's useful to know which words do not take any 'hooks'. Most words will take at least an S, but examples of common words that don't have any hooks include FRY and SUCH. These sorts of words can be used to block in a tight, defensive game.
Generally it's a bad idea to play 1 or 2 letters in the hope of picking up a specific letter to make a great play. The most common letter in Scrabble is E; there are 12 E's in the set out of a total of 100. This means on average that you only have a 1 in 8 chance of picking an E and that the chances of picking any other specific letters are lower.
Near the end of the game, however, fishing becomes more viable. Obviously you won't know precisely what letters your opponent holds. But you can see what letters have been played and take an educated guess at what's left in the bag.
The occasional player never changes letters, arguing that it is a waste of a turn. However if you can only make a low scoring play, and your rack leave would still be poor, then a change would probably be the best option.
There may be various reasons for a change:
One of the real skills in Scrabble is spotting the 7 letter word from an unlikely looking rack of letters. It's difficult to do this when you are shuffling all 7 letters so try to see whether you have any common prefixes or suffixes.
If you have UN, IN, RE etc. move these the left of the rack and then shuffle the remaining five letters. Likewise, if you have -S, -ED, -ER, or -ING move these to the right and play with the other tiles. You'll find it easier to find possible 7 letter words this way.
Study the top stems. Stems are letter combinations that are particularly bingo-prone. When you cannot hook your seven, look for an eight. Knowing the stems often helps here.
WINNING FROM BEHIND
In a game, don't get dispirited when you fall behind. It's possible to recover large deficits if you remain cool, keep the board reasonably open and don't try to recover all of the points in just one move. The snapbacks can get you back in the game quickly if your opponent plays a high-scoring opening five that can be extended to the triple.
Look at the state of the game; perhaps there is only one S left and you have it on your rack. In this case you can play a word close to a triple word spot and then pluralise it and take the spot on the next move without worrying that your opponent can play there.
AT THE END OF THE GAME TRY TO PLAY OUT FIRST
In a game where the scores are close, it is often vital to play out first, catching your opponent with tiles on his rack and thus garnering extra points. To achieve this you need to plan ahead when there are just a few tiles in the bag, thinking out how you can finish before your opponent.
Towards the end of the game make sure you know how many tiles are left. More often than not, particularly when you are ahead, it is a good idea to leave at least one tile in the bag.
This means that: If you cannot go out in 1 move but can complete in 2, you will have 2 moves to your opponent's 1, giving you a much better chance of completing the game first. If your opponent plays a bonus word on his/her next play and takes the last tile you at least have 1 go to get rid of as many tiles as possible rather than giving your opponent the value of the 7 tiles on your rack as well as their bonus score.
Try to keep of which of the most useful letters (J, Q, X, Z, S and blank) have been played. In tournament Scrabble, it is permissible to write down the letters as they are played, and most tournament players will use a score sheet designed for tile tracking. It is then possible in a tight endgame to work out what your opponent has on his/her rack and to make your play taking this into account, perhaps blocking an opportunity for them or setting yourself up with a scoring place which you know they cannot block.
If you do track tiles during the game it will help you make decisions about which tiles to play and which to keep. For example, you can play CLEAN or CLEAR for the same score, so you consult your tracking sheet and discover there are 3 R's left to come and only 1 N.
Therefore, you are more likely to pick up another R than an N and the better move is to play CLEAR, lessening the chances of creating duplicate letters and unbalancing your rack.
The more tiles that pass through your hands the more chance you have of getting one of those really useful ones: S, blank, J, Q, X, Z. You will need to evaluate your rack. Sometimes a particularly good combination of five or six letters is worth keeping, but generally, where you can, try to play four or more tiles on each move.
Evaluating your rack is a real skill that you pick up if you play regularly. Try to judge which consonants fit together. An obvious example might be to retain C and H, or S, H and R.
Another example: N, L, and R are all good letters but if all are kept they need a hard consonant like a D, T or G to make them more usable.
The Q can sometimes be a difficult letter to play. You should learn the Q words which do not require a U. The words QI, QAT, QANAT, and TRANQ will come in useful in many games. If you cannot play the Q consider changing it, particularly at the end of the game when opportunities tend to be more restricted.
When they draw a U, some players put it aside in case they then draw the Q at a later stage. This is a bad idea, except in an end game where the Q is yet unseen.
Firstly you only have a 50-50 chance of drawing the Q anyway, secondly if you're trying to score with 6 letters rather than 7 you are greatly lessening your chances of getting good scores each move.
The double letter, triple letter, double word and triple word squares are referred to as the premium squares. Concentrate on using these squares to maximise your scores. With the letter premium squares a good tip is to find the highest scoring letter on your rack and try to land it on a double or triple letter square. Utilising the 2 letter words you can often play that high scoring letter in 2 words simultaneously scoring 4 times its worth on a double or 6 times on a triple.
Also try to combine the double and triple letter squares with the double and triple word squares in one move; this is where the really high non-bonus scores are made. If you can put the Q on a triple letter square, for example, and then play a 5 letter word down to a double word, you are looking at a 60 point + play. You can get the same sort of score by combining a high scoring letter on a double letter square at the edges of the board and playing a 4/5 letter word stretching onto a triple word.
CONSIDERING THE OPPONENT
If you have a regular opponent, try to work out his/her strengths and weaknesses. If they like a nice open board where they can make clever plays then try to keep the board tight. Conversely if your opponent likes a tight, defensive board then open the game up. Generally, if you are playing someone who has a superior word knowledge to you then try to keep the board confined and they will have less chance of utilising that knowledge.
When you're making a move consider how it might help your opponent. For instance: you have a choice of playing DEBUT or using the same letters as TUBED. If you play DEBUT, your opponent might have an S whereas TUBED cannot be extended and where the scores are close this may be the better move.
J, Q, X, Z
These are the highest scoring letters in the bag but they are not the only way of scoring. Don't waste them but try to play them as soon as you can. These letters have a high value because they are awkward; having them on your rack will cut down the variety of plays you make.
The X is the most flexible of the 4; you should aim to score around 30 with the X other than at the very end of the game where opportunities will be scarcer. Remember there are five 2 letter words containing the X - AX, EX, OX, XI and XU.
If you are looking to learn a few useful unusual words, the J, Q, X, Z words are good ones to concentrate on.