Cili, silly, and Scrabble on a Saturday @ Jean’s

A few of us got together for some Scrabble at Jean Barinque‘s this weekend. She (and her family) were gracious in having us over for essentially the entire day. We had a mini-tournament and then just had some casual games after dinner. It was a good turn-out: Tim Anglin, Mark Hamilton, Sam Hollington, Shan Abbasi, Charles Helewa, Michael Lancashire, Lou Cornelis, Jim Nanavati, Garth Hardie, Yvonne Lobo, Vera Bigall, Vijay, Sophia & Steve Ozorio, Mark Edelson, John & Ann Hayes, Troy Frost, Joseph Bowman, Geoff & Julia Grenville, and of course Jean. I think that was everyone and I hope I didn’t forget anyone. Here are some quick summaries of the games.

Game #1 vs. Garth Hardie

Garth just beat me. Nothing much to say.

RECORD: 0 – 1

Game #2 vs. Sophia Ozorio

For whatever reason, Sophia just seems to have my number. Not only does she seem to get the better share of the tiles, her style of play just frustrates me. I’ve been trying to just play my game, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

BINGOS: Me – OeSTRIN; Sophia – none
RECORD: 0 – 2

Game #3 vs. Jim Nanavati

Jim’s a really good player and so my margin of error was very small. I got into a rut of trying to bingo with a great stem (AENRS) and so I found myself playing off only two tiles at a time. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t scoring very much on those plays while Jim just kept on scoring. The game quickly got out of hand.

FINAL SCORE: 430-231 (LOSS – ouch!)
RECORD: 0 – 3

We had a short break for food. Jean made a great pasta and salad (not to mention all of the snacks and drinks).

Game #4 vs. Lou Cornelis

Somehow I got matched-up with Lou and was only hoping to keep things close. Lou is currently ranked the #45 top player in North America so he’s really good. He’s also a really nice guy who’s always willing to help out other players. He reminds me of Shaun Gautcher who was always willing to share insights with new and lower rated players like me.

In terms of the game, I had the better share of the tiles and so I was able to keep scoring. Lou was playing some exotic words like NAIRU and GIAOUR so I had to laugh and tell him that he “could make-up words and I wouldn’t be able to challenge them”. Charles was sitting next to me and he said it was like a cat playing with a mouse. There was an interesting position at the mid-point of the game. The score was 168 – 118 for me. I had the following tiles: AAEPTZ? and here was the board position:


I saw position #1 as a good option to play ZETAs (75 points) and then saw position #2 (52 points). Ultimately, I ended-up playing ZETA at position #2 because I wanted to keep the blank. Full disclosure, there is a bingo with those tiles but I didn’t know it (ZAPATEo). When I examined the play via Quackle (minus the bingo), ZETA is valued slightly more than ZETAs. I asked Lou about this position after the game and he would’ve played ZETAs. His reasoning is because there was almost no opportunity for the opponent to have a big come-back play. ZETA scores 52 (and saves the blank), but Lou came back with (Z)ETAS for 42 on the next play so the net was only 10 points. Using the blank nets something like 40-45 points (assuming Lou can find a 30 point play). I’m curious what others would play. Would you save the blank or would you take the points?

The rest of the game went by quickly and I got very fortunate with great tiles to extend my lead. Lou made a great play of TErEFAH (essentially at position #1) and then had a late bingo of ESQUiR(E)S for 86. While I’m ecstatic about the win, I was happier that I played a relatively solid game. Looking back, I think I missed some obvious high scoring plays like JORAM and JUNCO.

FINAL SCORE: 496-375 (WIN – and I am shocked!)
RECORD: 1 – 3

Game #5 vs. Charles Helewa

This game was close and came down to the end. Don’t know why/how I let this game get closed but Charles did his bit to shut down scoring lanes. I have to bow my head in shame as I let Charles play (C)ILI* on me late in the game. Regardless of the outcome, I had a fun game against Charles.

FINAL SCORE: 338-314 (WIN)
BINGOS: Me – TENANTS; Charles – none
RECORD: 2 – 3

Game #6 vs. Steve Ozorio

I don’t think I’ve ever beaten Steve, so I was hoping to play a good game. The most interesting series of plays occurred at turn #11. I played (O)NLOOkER at N1 and Steve challenged the play allowing me to pull ahead 338-269. I tried my best to block him from making use of the TWS and I made a big mistake as I forgot that RIM takes a Y. In my ignorance, I thought I blocked the TWS with RIM but then Steve played CAR(R)Y at 8K for 60 points. Doh! The rest of the game was just both of us trying to make plays to eke out a win.

FINAL SCORE: 395-377 (WIN – yes!)
RECORD: 3 – 3

Well that was it for the mini-tournament. Vijay won the tournament being the only unbeaten player. I don’t remember the standings or the other winners (class/division) but everyone had fun.Several people were playing some fun games (Steve and Sam were duking it out in a semi-serious game which was still full of laughter) and a few team-games were in full swing. I decided to get in a couple of games against Vijay, hoping to learn something while I played against him.

Game #1 vs. Vijay

Look, Vijay is good. Even with slightly better tiles, he was able to run up a big score. Nevertheless, it was good to see how he worked around the board by keeping lanes open while simultaneously managing to keep scoring. He finished the game off with a great find (APPOSES).

FINAL SCORE: 492-332 (LOSS – no surprise)

Game 2 vs. Vijay

I wanted a rematch so we kept playing. This time, I started first since Vijay started off the other. I opened with a bingo which was nice. I had the better share of the tiles and I was able to score with them. On one sequence, I was able to get two bingos in a row and was very happy with my find of ACROBA(T)s. With those tiles, I was originally thinking something like CARBONATE but that requires 9 tiles so I started to look for alternatives until I eventually found ACROBATS. I was also fortunate that Vijay made a mistake in tracking his tiles so I was able to make a final out-bingo.

FINAL SCORE: 486-415

Well since we were tied in games, we decided to play a tie-breaker.

Game #3 vs. Vijay

Vijay made a great find (in my mind) on turn #2: EXONyMS for 98 points. The scary thing is that he could have played OX/(ZA)X for 63 points and still kept his blank. Vijay kept scoring and was ahead by 100 for most of the game. But, I kept scoring and tried to keep within striking distance. On my last turn, I had ADEIRST and a few places to play. Vijay made a careless play and it allowed me to score 89 on my last play of DIASTER. Combined with 24 for his tiles, I was able to almost score the upset. We looked at the final plays after the game and while there was no way for me to win, I could have still made-up over 100 points.


I had to chuckle with the comment Vijay made after our three games. Basically he was trying to figure out why my rating was so low and why I struggled against lower rated players when I seem to play him and other higher rated players tough. Didn’t have an answer for him. Maybe I sometimes play to my opponents.

In all, it was a fun day and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Too much of a good thing?


I’m beginning to wonder if there are too many Scrabble tournaments. Choice is good, but having too many choices isn’t a good thing.

In terms of Scrabble, I’ve been noticing the number of participants is smaller for individual tournaments than in the past, at least in the Toronto area and for the US Nationals. I have to admit that I have a bias for “bigger” tournaments. In the large tournaments I’ve attended, I’ve noticed a certain level of energy and excitement in the air that just doesn’t seem to be present in a smaller one.

Judging by some of the early enrolment in some of the tournaments, I think I’ll have to check out Anette Tedesco’s tournaments as they seem to be real crowd-pleasers (Albany, Lake George, and her July 1st tournament).

A Study Plan for 2010/2011

Okay, now that the 2010 National Scrabble Championship is over, it’s time to look forward to the upcoming Scrabble season. I’m tentatively planning on attending the 2011 National Scrabble Championship. If/when I do attend, I want to have more success than in 2008 or 2009. As such, I’ve decided to put together a “study plan” to help me prepare for a good placing. My ideal would be to have a top 5 finish in my division (probably division 3 or 4).

Here are the things that I would like to complete by the 2011 NSC (“completed” items are crossed-out):

  • 3s – much to my dismay, I still don’t know all of the 3s cold
  • Power Tile 2-5s: Q, Z, J, X – I’m having trouble with the X words
  • Hi-Prob 7s 1-200: Almost have this list down
  • Top Bingo Stem 7s: TISANE, RETINA, SENIOR, ARSINE, STANED, thinking of adding others
  • Power Tile 6s: Q, Z, J, X
  • Hi-Prob 7s 201-400: Just started this set of words
  • Power Tile 7s: Q, Z, J, X
  • Hi-Prob 8s 1-100: For some reason the 8s seem inordinately more difficult to learn than the 7s
  • 5 Vowel 8s: I did this set a while back but I need to review it again
  • Top Bingo Stem 8s: TBD – still trying to find my list of top bingo stems
  • Power Tile 8s: Q, Z, J, X
  • No vowel words 2-8s: Almost have this set complete and it’s quite handy.
  • Hi-Prob 8s 101-200:

If I can, I would like to tackle the following words too:

  • “Medium” Point Consonant 2-8s: K, Y, W, F, H, V
  • “OUT” words
  • Hi-Prob 7s 401-1000: I would like to get the top 2000
  • Hi-Prob 8s 201-500: Eventually getting the top 1000
  • 4s
  • 5s

I’m primarily using Zyzzyva’s cardbox feature to review words. To learn new words, I’ve created sheets of words based on searches of Zyzzyva. Some people swear by flash-cards and mnemonics, but I can’t seem to get the hang of mnemonics. I’ll update this list every so often as a means of tracking my progress.

Playing for prizes vs. points

I’m thinking of participating in the upcoming 6th Annual July Toronto Scrabble tournament has me thinking whether I should play up or stay in my current division. My current rating is 1194 which places me at the top of division C (<1200). As with many tournaments, I have an option of “playing-up”.

Here are some arguments for why I should play-up a division:

  • Potential to gain ratings points because of low seeding and fewer games to win
  • Play against higher-rated players
  • Challenge myself
  • Satisfaction of beating higher-rated players
  • Not forced to win the majority of games in order to maintain or increase rating

While the possibility to gain points is pretty good, here are some reasons to stay in my current division:

  • Higher chance of winning a prize/$$
  • Theoretically easier to win games (winning is always fun)
  • More difficult to win games when playing-up (losing is not fun)

So, what do you think? Should I play for the points or play for the prize?

Feel free to leave a comment to share your thinking on this issue. Do you play-up?

Career advice using Scrabble

I came across an article touting career advice using Scrabble. There’s nothing earth shattering about the article, but I thought it was an interesting way to include Scrabble (and anagrams) into an article. The article is titled ‘Career Scrabble? Career Jumble? Anyone, Anyone?‘. Finding the author’s intended word(s) wasn’t hard so I challenged myself with trying to find the other anagrams.

Is this the future of Scrabble?

Saw this post from Endgadget titled “Scrabble for the iPad” which describes how to use the iPad as the board and two iPhones as tile racks. The authors mentioned a tile rack app that looks cool. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check out the tilerack app because it’s not currently available in Canada.

There’s a short video clip at the bottom of the article that is a demo of the app. As a side note, one of the players missed an opening bingo…

[note: photo from Endgadget]

Scrabble @ Vera’s – May 18, 2008

I missed attending club earlier this week because of a hectic schedule.  Fortunately, I was invited to attend a small get-together for some games at Vera Bigall‘s place.  She was hoping to play a few games as preparation for an upcoming tournament in Montreal.

The attendees included:  Shaun Goatcher, Tim Anglin, Anna Miransky, me, Peter Manzolillo, Heather McCall, and of course, Vera.  I had never met Pete or Heather before, so it was cool meeting some new Scrabble-folk and playing against/with them.

Game #1 vs. Pete (view full game)
I had some good tiles while Pete didn’t.  Nevertheless, I made some good plays to score good points.  On turn #2, I completely missed the double-double opportunity (ATHEISM 92 pts) as I got locked in on the 8 letter word "THEMATIC".  Later in the game on turn #8, I missed another bingo.  I played GRIPE and kept E? for 42 points.  There were two bingo plays (12C PERIGEE 74pts and 4A REPEATING 74 pts) available that I completely missed.  According to Quackle’s "ask a championship player" option, GRIPE was still a better play – I’m assuming because of the balance between points scored and keeping the E?.  The play of EXERT for 62 points at turn 9 and a late bingo sealed this game.
FINAL SCORE:  447 – 304 (WIN)

Game #2 vs. Anna (view full game)
A weird game in which the top half of the board got closed down.  I’m kicking myself for completely missing a hi-prob bingo – EASTERN/NEAREST/EARNEST early in the game.  In all fairness, Vera missed this bingo too (she was kibbitzing   I let Anna’s play of LOS* stay on the board – bad on me.  Fortunately, Anna got very frustrated with the board and started to open things up – and allowed me to play a final play bingo for the win.
FINAL SCORE:  454 – 387 (WIN)

Game #3 Hans & Heather vs. Vera (view full game)
We decided to play a ‘team’ game and it was quite fun.  Heather is a very good player and it was interesting to see how another player approaches the game.  She and I seemed like a good fit because we shared a similar approach to the game.

This game was a fun game as we had some good plays.  Having some very good tiles always helps.  Nevetheless, Heather and I seemed to find plays that the other didn’t see.  OVERGAIN* was a 50/50 proposition for me, but Heather convinced me.  A few turns later, I convinced Heather that APOSTATE was good (I thought so).  Unfortunately, Vera didn’t think so and challenged.  From there we sort of steam-rolled the rest of the game with fortunate timing that led to high scoring plays.
FINAL SCORE:  498 – 278 (WIN)

Game #4 Hans & Heather vs. Vera (rematch) (view full game)
A game of small plays with very few (apparent) opportunities to score big.  Heather and I struggled with having very few vowels for much of the game.  Me missing DOCENTS early or chickening out on TROPINS didn’t help.  Vera played a smart game and didn’t give us many free opportunities.  Having a few glasses of wine probably didn’t help the brain think 🙂
FINAL SCORE:  367 – 316 (LOSS)
BINGOS:  ME/Heather – none; Vera – ReDDENS

Game #5 vs. Pete (rematch) (view full game)
Unlike the first game, this one was very close.  I pretty much lost the game on turn #9 when I played UNALTER(S)*, completely missing NEUTRAL(S).  For some reason, I have difficulty seeing the EU combination.
FINAL SCORE:  350 – 331 (LOSS)

Overall, I had fun playing as I hadn’t even thought about Scrabble in over a week.  In the two ‘team’ games I played, I was intrigued by how everyone seems to have different word knowledge.  For example, Heather (a >1500 level player) didn’t know many of the words that I suggested – some examples included ARVO, ENGRAM/ENGRAMME (I wasn’t sure about the second one), APOSTATE, CUTEY (I chickened out and wasn’t able to convince her it was good), and TROPINS.  Granted, she could say the same for me as I had never seen DOCENTS before and a few others.  What impressed me most was how she was able to see (and evaluate) different scoring options that developed on the board.  The only other time I played a team game was in Buffalo 2007 during the evening with Joe Bihlmeyer.  He was in charge for most of the game, but I had my moments like insisting that INCENTS was good.

Playing games is fun, but I think I need to study more.  Missing hi-prob words and bingos is not fun, especially if it leads to losses.  In any case, it was a good break from a hectic week.  I know what I need to review to get ready for the 2008 Nationals.

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