Cambridge Scrabble Club [2012-11-09]

Since relocating to the Boston area, I haven’t had any time to play Scrabble. My initial plan was to attend the Lexington Scrabble Club, but given the location and my work schedule I just never was able to make it out. Fortunately, there is a new club (Cambridge Scrabble Club #881) that started recently that meets in Harvard Square.

GAME #1 vs. Leigh Bernstein

I was a bit nervous to play my first game in a long time especially with people who I don’t know. As I was playing this game, I could tell I was rusty and out of “Scrabble shape”. For example, I had a difficult time seeing a bingo with ACIRT?? even though there are 77 seven letter words. Additionally, I confused the spelling of OORARI* (CURARI, OURARI, WOORARI).

Final Score: 404-394 (win)
Bingos: Me – TRACIng, SWAMPED; Leigh – QINTARS

GAME #2 vs. Evans Clinchy

Not much to say about this game. Definitely got fortunate with the tiles and a late bingo that I wasn’t sure about. Evans was gracious in the loss and gave me a very good compliment which I appreciated.

Final Score: 392-350 (win)
Bingos: Me – SOOtIER, wEIGH(T)ER; Evans – RETRACES

GAME #3 vs. John O’Laughlin

Got crushed by John. The combo of good (but not necessarily great) tiles for John and him being better than me led to a predictable outcome. He had an early bingo that scored for big points and just kept pouring it on. I noticed that he was able to score consistently with relatively simple words (examples: WOT for 37, TOPH for 41, YE for 30). If this trend continues, John might replace Vijay as my “Scrabble daddy” 🙂

Final Score: 604-271 (loss)
Bingos: Me – INOSITE; John – MENORAH (122 points!), TRI(P)LING, STRIGIl(S) (that’s STRIGILS), LOCAtER

GAME #4 vs. Cathy

For some reason I started to play very conservatively in this game. Maybe it was because I got shell-shocked in the previous game. I had some tough tiles early on but that doesn’t really excuse things. I had a chance at the end of the game for a late bingo but didn’t manage to find an acceptable play.

My tiles were: EEIMRST and I had to play through an R that had to be either the last or second last letter. I saw MERRIEST and TRIREMES but those didn’t fit.

Final Score: 358-336 (loss)
Bingos: Me – ELOINeD; Cathy – ASsAILS

In all, I think I played reasonably well. More than anything else, I was happy to get connected to the Scrabble community in Boston and play a few games. I’m looking forward to getting back into playing more in the near future. With the players at the Cambridge club, I expect to lose the majority of the games as I’m probably the lowest rated player. But, looking forward to the learning and opportunity to improve my game. Was glad to meet the folks who made it out on Monday as everyone seems very friendly.

All quiet before the Nationals [2012-08-02]

I was fortunate to be in Mississauga this week and decided to join the club.

Game #1 vs. Shauna Petrie
Shauna is a good player. Give her some good tiles and she’s very dangerous. She started off quickly with GLOaTERS and AERIALS back to back and had me on the defensive early on. I did my part to try and keep the board open for a come-back, but high-scoring plays of AZOTE (72) and POKES (47) pretty much did me in. I struggled with rack balance so I wasn’t able to keep up. Nothing against Shauna as she played a very good game. Hopefully she’ll be in good position to win at the Nationals next week.

Final score: 477 – 296 (loss)
Bingos: Me – SNEEREd; Shauna – GLOaTER, AERIALS

Game #2 vs. Gene Tyska
Similar to last week, Gene wasn’t able to respond to my relatively conservative play. However, I did take some offence to his assertion that I was actively shutting the board down and that he was the only person trying to keep the board open. It’s not my fault if he doesn’t open up the board very well or that he isn’t aware of front/back hooks to words – I thought the board was wide open for most of the game. I only started shutting the board down at turn 10 when I knew he had the last blank and I was getting all vowels. Oh well, that’s just part of the game.

Final score: 331 – 313 (win)
Bingos: Me – SOOThER; Gene – none

Game #3 vs. Steve Ozorio
It’s funny, but I think I lost this game pretty early on. Steve played WICANS* and I held it and reluctantly accepted it. I recognized WICCANS but wasn’t sure if Steve knew an alternate form of the word. After that play, I felt like I was a turn behind the rest of the game. Steve made a good play of setting himself up with a bingo along the TWS lane. I didn’t realize there is a front hook to LATCH other than K and he punished me with a bingo plus the challenge. Still, the game was closer than I expected.

Final score: 403 – 306 (loss)
Bingos: Me – none; Steve – sILTIER, UpDATES

I’m back to the regular travel schedule for work so my ability to attend the club is greatly decreased. Good luck to everyone who is attending this year’s National Championships in Orlando, FL. I wonder if Nigel Richards will further cement his status as the world’s best Scrabble player by winning yet another championship. Hope everyone has a great time playing.

Unfortunately I can’t attend as I used up all my vacation earlier this year exploring the Rockies, Hawaii, and Vancouver. I’ve heard that next year’s Nationals will be in Las Vegas – I’m definitely planning to attend.

Vijay is my Scrabble daddy [2012-07-26]

Was able to head out to the club and get in some games. As always, I enjoyed the night very much even though the results weren’t all positive. Playing the games, I could tell I am rusty in terms of the mechanics of playing games but also in terms of seeing words.

Game #1 vs. Gene Tyzska
The thing I’ve noticed about Gene is that he absolutely hates when people shut the board down. I don’t think this is a secret as he admits this himself. Knowing this about Gene, I decided to play a relatively defensive game. Fortunately for me, I was able to build a small lead early on and was fairly fortunate with the tiles. This led to Gene becoming increasingly agitated throughout the game. I can sympathize with Gene as I don’t like closed boards, but I’ve learned to accept this style of play and deal with it. Not really much to say about this game except that when Gene tried to open up the board, I punished him for it. Actually, I think Gene didn’t open up the board successfully.

Final score: 431 – 315 (win)
Bingos: Me – ARSINES, UNDRApE; Gene – none

Game #2 vs. Priya Fernando
I’ve always enjoyed the games with Priya as they are close. Priya is a solid, solid player. I can’t really describe this game except to say that Priya does a great job of making solid plays each turn – she had a string of 30+ point plays (8 of 1o turns) that was impressive. Nothing flashy, but really consistent plays.

Final score: 364 – 312 (loss)
Bingos: Me – DEWIeST; Priya – CINEAsT

Game #3 vs. Vijay
I requested to play Vijay as I wanted to test myself. My goal was to make the game competitive and give him a “run for his money”. The short story is that Vijay is much better than me. Give him some good tiles and the result is not surprising. Vijay had this strong of turns that absolutely killed me: REALISE(D) for 72, NaZI for 45, YANQUIs for 100, and PORGIES for 94. I am not taking anything away from Vijay’s play and he deserves all of the accolades for his play. I just wish I could have given him more of a challenge.

Final score: 592 – 226 (loss – ouch!)
Bingos: Me – none; Vijay – RETUNED, REALISE(D), YANQUIs, PORGIES

The thing I noticed about my play is that I’m not able to put together a string of high scoring turns. Shaun Goatcher told me that I should be trying to average 30 points per turn to give myself a chance at winning. I find that my plays vary too much in terms of score and that I have too many sub-optimal turns.

Club night in Mississauga [2012-07-12]

I had a rare night in Mississauga on a Thursday so I visited the Mississauga Scrabble Club to play some games and see familiar faces. Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late and missed the first game. The room seemed packed with players which was great to see. I had no expectations of winning games given how rusty I am, but I still enjoy playing the game.

Game #1 vs. Andy Saunders
First, Andy has lost considerable weight – it’s great to see people lose weight and get more healthy. I guess I have no excuses to remain chubby…

As for the actual game, I had to exchange on my first turn as I had vowel soup. My tiles on turn #2 were: ACEENST. I recognized that there was a bingo in there but couldn’t see it (there are two actually). Fortunately for me, I saw an R on the board and made CENTA(R)ES. It probably wasn’t the best or highest scoring play, but I was relieved to find a bingo. The rest of the game was tight as Andy kept making really good plays. He seemed to get the Ses but didn’t seem to have the best tile synergy. I pulled with a sequence of plays : EbONITE (68), AMINE (43), and (F)ORKER (42), but Andy kept up with a late bingo SC(E)NArIO (not sure I would have seen that one). At the end, I was fortunate to get the X and score 39 points with it, otherwise, my final tiles of EILLNUU wasn’t going to win me the game.

Final Score: 396 – 390 (WIN)
Bingos: Me – CENTA(R)ES, EbONITE; Andy – SC(E)NArIO

Game #2 vs. Dave Krook
This game was very interesting and enjoyable. I don’t want to sound condescending, but every time I play Dave, I am impressed by how much his game keeps improving. Here is the most interesting play (at least for me) of the game. It is my turn to play (turn #9) and the score is 195-141 (my turn to play). What would you play?

[update] My tiles were:  EITUXZ? – thanks go to Steven Karp for pointing out that I didn’t list my tiles.


I saw the following possibilities:

  1. EX at 12D for 38 points (I don’t know how I completely missed XI right beside this play!);
  2. TZU(R)Is at C8 for 48 points;
  3. TUI at 6C for 9 points – this is only to get rid of the U and the I;
  4. (L)UTZ at E11 for 13 points (alternatively LUX or LUXE for a couple points less); and,
  5. ZI(T) at 3I for 22 points.

I *wanted* to play TZURIS as it would clean-up my tiles and score decent points (the word itself is pretty cool too). But, I was worried about burning my blank and also opening up a juicy bingo lane through the S. Given the score, I was concerned about keeping pace with Dave. Therefore, I wanted to try for a 30+ point play while trying to balance my rack without opening things up too much for Dave.

Any thoughts on what to play and why? Is the blank worth playing here?

I was doing my best to keep up but got some tough tile combinations. I got both the blanks, but Dave bingoed before me and I just couldn’t catch him. Good game Dave!

Final Score: 387 – 373 (loss)
Bingos: Me – eTOILEs; Dave: STRINGS, SERIATE

It was good to see all the familiar (and new faces) at the club. I hope to attend next week as I’m still on vacation. Hopefully I will be around more during the summer so I can play more games.

A dose of reality – Calgary Scrabble Tournament [2012-03-25]

Sorry for the delay in posting this recap but it was a busy week at work. I haven’t had a chance to review every game, but I hope to post some interesting board positions (however few they are) once I’ve had a chance to review the games in greater detail.

I had a fun weekend of playing Scrabble as I haven’t had much opportunity to play in quite some time. My main goal was to get a sense of the state of my game so I can spend the next few months studying and preparing for the nationals later this year in Orlando, FL as I want to have realistic expectations.

Some background info about the tournament. I was seeded #11 in the top division (>1100) and entering the weekend, I was expected to win 5.2 games to maintain my rating (based on the statistics average of the players).

Here are the quick recaps of the games. I’ll try and include the boards whenever possible. The number beside the player name is their seed.

Game 1 vs. Matthew Larocque (#4)
I started off with mostly consonants and the tiles didn’t get better even with an early exchange. I could tell my instincts were a bit off as I too easily accepted FI(N)ITY*. When I did get a bingo on my rack, I didn’t see any open spots to it (e.g., STROLLS and DIREFUL). In the end, Matthew made good plays and I didn’t.

Final score: 443 – 315 (LOSS)
Record: 0 – 1 (-128)

Game 2 vs. Wayne Clifford (#2)
This game got off to an auspicious start. I challenged Wayne’s first play: BITTIER and then he came back with another bingo. It went downhill from there as Wayne began to shut down scoring lanes. I tried my best to keep things open and score too, but I wasn’t successful.

Here’s an example of me being very rusty. I had an opportunity to may MOW/(JO)W but I couldn’t remember if JOW was acceptable. I knew JOWL was good, but for some reason I doubted that JOW was acceptable. That was worth 42 points. Another was when I missed the obvious WALlETS (that’s WALLETS) as I got fixated on whether WATTLES was good or not. I chickened out because I thought I was confusing it for WADDLES. Ugh.

Final score: 472 – 303 (loss)
Bingos: me – REUNITE(D); Wayne – BITTIER, ROTA(R)IES
Record: 0 – 2 (-297)

Game 3 vs. Roland Simon (#13)
Honestly, I don’t remember this game. I do, however, remember that Roland played a good game and made a very nice bingo against me (PERMIAN). He seems to like keeping the board wide-open. Looking over my tiles, I don’t think I missed any obvious bingos (7s or 8s).

Final score: 391 – 316 (loss)
Bingos: me – IN(T)ERNED; Roland – PERMIAN, OUtAGES
Record: 0 – 3 (-372)

Game 4 vs. Juraj Pivovarov (#01)
Not much to say about this game other than to say that I got thrashed. Juraj is a very good player. Give him a slight advantage in tiles and the result was pretty obvious. I didn’t help myself by playing defensively and making a spelling mistake of thinking AIOLI has a third I (AIOLII*) and then me challenging TROUPIAL. He seemed surprised that I didn’t challenge RUNAB(OUT) as that was a word he recently learned. I believe people have different word knowledge and this was probably an example of me being familiar with the word.

Final score: 497 – 291 (loss – ouch!)
Bingos: me – none; Roland – SIDEWAy, TROu(P)IAL
Record: 0 – 4 (-578)

Game 5 vs. Danny Panganiban (#09)
This was one of those games when my rustiness really showed. I had reasonable tiles but I just couldn’t make scoring plays. As a result, I fell behind and then started fishing to try and get bingos to catch-up. Danny just pounced on the openings I kept created and the game quickly got out of hand.

Final score: 479 – 275 (loss)
Bingos: me – none; Danny – PrOCTOR, VISI(O)NED
Record: 0 – 5 (-782)

Game 6 vs. Noella Ward (#07)
The first thing that you will notice about Noella is that she plays *very* quickly and decisively. Not much to say except that I got good tiles while Noella struggled with hers. I’m not sure that there was much she could have done.

Final score: 421 – 287 (win – finally!)
Bingos: me – rELATES, NAsTIER; Noella – none
Record: 1 – 5 (-648)

Game 7 vs. Siri Tillerkeratne (#05)
Not sure how to describe this game. Looking over my game notes, a late bingo pretty much sealed the win.

Final score: 450 – 340 (win)
Bingos: me – DESIRES, RANTERS; Siri – BLAsTIE
Record: 2 – 5 (-538)

Game 8 vs. Mike Ebanks (#03)
I was behind coming down the stretch with the last blank. I had ABEINR? with a bingo lane to hook SARSNET. Obviously I have to have an S at either the terminal or second last position. I tried BARNIEs* and that got challenged off. We played out the final few turns and I eked out a win because Mike went over by 5 seconds.

Looking back, I am kicking myself for accepting EARLIES* when obviously the only play is REALISE with those tiles. The worst part is that I got so fixated on how he blocked my bingo lane that I forgot to even consider that the word wasn’t acceptable. Another sign of me being completely rusty and that my instincts are a bit off.

Final score: 395 – 392 (win)
Bingos: me – ENDITES, SARSNET; Mike – EARLIES* (ugh – I’m ashamed to admit I let this one go)
Record: 3 – 5 (-535)

Game 9 vs. Maureen Morris (#14)
An enjoyable game with Maureen. Instead of trying to bingo every round and give up point equity, I decided to focus on making the best scoring play possible. Not sure if I was successful, but I need to focus on making the best play possible rather than trying to fish and bingo.

Final score: 399 – 351 (win)
Bingos: me – (I)NTREATS; Maureen – DeGRADE, STAINEd
Record: 4 – 5 (-487)

Game 10 vs. Wendy McGrath (#12)
This was the second game I’ve played against Wendy and I’ve lost both. For whatever reason, her style of play just frustrates me and I don’t know why. She doesn’t play overly defensively and she seems to make solid plays.

I think I lost this game at turn #3. I was tracking tiles and thinking about my next play when Wendy played her bingo. I looked-up quickly and saw BRAXIES/(MOOT)S. After finishing my tracking, I turned the board around and realized I misread the play. Instead of (MOOT)S/BRAXIES, she played BRAXIEST* – ugh. For the next three or four turns, I was internally berating myself for the absolutely stupid mistake I made. I managed to tie-up the game but then I got frustrated because I couldn’t find a play for my natural bingo HAIRNET on the board (and there was no bingo lane for an 8 with these tiles). I got impatient and tried (DE)T*/THERIAN which was challenged off. I had hoped Wendy would give me an opening, but she was smart and didn’t. After that I just couldn’t make-up for the lost turn.

Final score: 385 – 313 (loss)
Bingos: me – TACRiNE; Wendy – BRAXIES(T)*
Record: 4 – 6 (-559)

Game 11 vs. Huguette Settie (#10)
You know you’re in trouble when your opponent starts apologizing to you. Huguette had three bingos in the first four turns and then continued with some fortunate timing to make big scoring plays with the power tiles. I just couldn’t keep up.

Final score: 488 – 363 (loss)
Bingos: me – MANgLED; Huguette – ENAtION, ROUGHIE* (I can’t believe I let this one go), ME(E)RKATS
Record: 4 – 7 (-684)

Game 12 vs. Emil Rem (#08)
From what I can remember, I didn’t have very good tile synergy. Emil played a good game and was simply better.

Final score: 434 – 345 (loss)
Bingos: me – GASSERs; Emil – GINgERS, (Q)UARTILE
Record: 4 – 8 (-773)

Game 13 vs. Wesley Yocum (#06)
With tough tiles, I managed to tie the game with my bingo of ETESIAN using the only spot available to me. Unfortunately, I put the N at 14O which was the absolute worst spot for me. Of course Wesley plays SLUICI(N)G for 176 points! Great find for him and just bad timing for me. I did my best to keep a positive outlook but I realized I was playing to minimize the spread. I got fortunate with an out bingo to make the score somewhat respectable. Otherwise this would have been embarrassing.

Final score: 549 – 441 (loss)
Bingos: me – ETESIAN, PIQUANt; Roland – OUTRuNS, SLUICI(N)G (triple-triple!), DILU(T)ERS
Record: 4 – 9 (-881)

Game 14 vs. Roland Simon (#13)
Flat out got beat.

Final score: 434 – 305 (loss)
Bingos: me – none; Roland – ARENITE, sEAGIRT
Record: 4 – 10 (-1010)

Here are the statistics for the tournament.

Averages Me Them %
Score 352.3 424.4
Bingos 1.07 1.86
Blanks 0.86 1.14 43%
S 2.14 1.86 54%
Power Tiles 1.93 2.07 48%

Lessons from the tournament (and next steps…):
1) NEED MORE PRACTICE: I need to play more games to get back into “game shape”. There are quite a few things to playing games that you can’t really develop by studying words. All of the physical things about playing – tracking tiles, the mechanics of the game. Not having played very much over the past two years, I realize that my ‘instincts’ are a bit off in terms of knowing when to challenge (or not).

2) NEED TO STUDY: This one is obvious. I need to brush up on my words. I just had no confidence in words and got common words mixed-up and confused.
3) FOCUS ON THE BEST PLAY: I found myself getting into a pattern of trying to bingo and then falling behind. The result was then that I *needed* to bingo. Instead of trying to bingo all the time with common hi-prob words, I need to focus on making the best play possible.
Given the sorry state of my game, I have to be honest with myself in that I’m just not very good. The nationals will be fun, but I won’t have any chance of vying for a top 10 finish.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Calgary and hope to play there again the future. Perhaps for the Western Canadian Championship in the fall.

[upcoming] Calgary Scrabble tournament (March 24-25, 2012)

It’s been a while, but I’ll be participating in a tournament. I’m participating in the Calgary Scrabble group‘s 20th Annual Spring tournament. As of March 10th, I’m playing in the >1200 division. You can see the current roster here.

Since I haven’t played Scrabble in quite some time and have done very little studying, my expectations are very low. I’m the ninth seed of 11 at the moment with 5.3 expected wins. Hopefully this tournament will give me the motivation to start preparing for this year’s upcoming nationals in Orlando.

A visit to the Calgary Scrabble Club [2012-02-09]

Having a rare evening to spend in Calgary, I decided to visit the Calgary Scrabble Club and enjoy some games. I showed up a bit early and was warmly greeted by several members, including Siri Tillekeratne. He introduced me to Randall (who is apparently the club director) and we had a friendly game before the evening started.

Friendly game vs. Randall
This was a good game that we never had a chance to finish. He played a phoney against me that I thought was 50/50.

Final Score: 325 – 285 (incomplete – my turn to play)
Bingos: Me – COTERIE, (S)POoNING; Randall – (W)OODLICe*, VARLETS

Game #1 vs. Dorothy
Not much to say about this game. Dorothy played a relatively conservative game while I tried my best to keep it open given some of the challenging tiles I have.

Final Score: 379 – 326 (win)
Bingos: Me – ResTAGE(D); Dorothy – none

Game #2 vs. Wendy
This was a very low scoring game. I struggled with tiles all game and felt hesitant and anxious. I think it’s a sign of how rusty I am from not having played in quite some time. I accepted NOILE(D)* – ugh. Here’s the final situation that I spent several minutes evaluating before making my final play. I have the following tiles: ILOPSTY and the score is 280-257. The bag is empty and your opponent has ACIOR. Given the board position, what would you play?

I ended-up playing STYL(I) at 8A for 27 points. Doh! Gave her an out play.

Final Score: 299-284 (loss – ugh)
Bingos: Me – RINg(L)ETS; Wendy – none

Game #3 vs. Noella
Another game when my rustiness did me in. This game was close all throughout. I had six vowels on my rack for the last four turns and that pretty much did me in. Also, Noella plays very quickly and not having played in a while, that unnerved me and got me distracted.

Final Score: 406-385 (loss)
Bingos: Me – (T)ITRATES; Noella – cREDITs

I had an enjoyable night. Definitely showed me that I have to work to get in shape for the Nationals in August.