lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, July 17, 2006

Thirteen points in Scrabble

Depending on where you get to place the tiles, of course. It could fetch a lot more.

Placement is everything, to misquote Andre Agassi. In Scrabble the over-all image, the big picture is what drives and dictates where to place what tiles, and the number of points you garner means everything.

I love it if I manage to pick tiles that include those that can create rude words. Smutty words, if they fetch points, are perfectly acceptable to me in Scrabble.

If I do get the tiles, 13 points plus whatever the placement gives, is all the tiles mean to me, when I arrange them on my way to winning another game. You should be so lucky. F means 4 points, K is 5, and C is 3 and U, as a vowel, has only one point but is a valuable tile.

I prefer tiles of lesser value to the high Z or Q or even X or J, sometimes. They fetch lots of points, yes, but you are stuck with them until you find the exact spot to place them to get a triple word score or double letter score.

As a rule, I try to hold on to at least one S and a blank tile till near the end of a game, because that's when the going gets tough and your options get limited.

My personal strategy is to hold on to a tile of U until the queen of the lot, Q, has put in an appearance. Because, without U, you can't make many words using Q. There are only four of them okay, so that U is needed, I tell you. Never let go of the first U you get until the Q is played. Of course, this requires some cerebration and calculation. If you stand to make some 30 points and also get the bonus of 50 points for using up all seven tiles, you should go for it. That sort of lead is hard to beat, unless your opponent chances upon a big one too.

Don't use up your blank tile quickly either, if you pick one of them. They are precious; hold on to them and go on playing small simple words until you can lay the killer word on board and slay'em.

I am talking about friendly Scrabble games, of course. Competitions and tournaments are different. There, it becomes more a game of blocking any reasonable point of placement for your opponent, and it can and does deteriorate into vicious use of unheard of two or three letter words, which are recognised by the OED, and hence permissible.

I ought to know. I always played the leisurely version of Scrabble, until my son took to it.

At first I used to give him a 100 points lead. As his proficiency increased and I found it harder to catch up, I cut that lead to 50 points. He improved further and nowadays we start even. No handicaps and no quarter given.

He has near eidetic memory, and to counter my strategies he memorised a huge list of two or three letter words that can fetch big scores. While K and I played a fairly open game, not minding giving the other players a chance to open a new area of the board, my son preferred to pack the squares densely, making as many as four words with a couple of tiles and counting up the points.

Xa, xeme, xu, or ku or ky, or nw or ny- he'd place gleefully. I used to protest in the beginning. Soon I gave up, and took to using them myself if they could fetch me some extra points. Arguing about usage just took time and I ended up losing a turn for each successful validation of an exotic word.

I suppose this supports the theory of prenatal influences; K and I used to have matches of 'best of three' games of Scrabble everyday during the last trimester of my pregnancy. Perhaps if we hadn't spent all that time playing Scrabble but did something else, our son would have turned out differently. Perhaps we should have listened to Vivaldi and Chopin, and talked about the Grand Unified Theory.

Or maybe we should have just vegetated. That might have been for the best.



Anonymous Rajesh said...

Scrabble, crosswords, limericks, grammar. The mind boggles, Lali.

5:21 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Basically is all words, that's all. I like words and word games. What to do, I am like this only. :D

5:50 pm  
Blogger db said...

I am at a "loss for words" to express my comments on this post ..

6:20 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

If you hold back a S or the blank, you are essentially playing with five tiles, Lali.

6:37 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- :D

Ash- I am not saying it is a hard and fast rule of mine. It depends on the situation, the state of the game and what other tiles you have. I am just saying it's good strategy, generally, not to waste your esses.

6:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you play tournament level Scrabble? And you play veena and solve crosswords and compose offhand limericks. Not to mention fuming about grammar or being addressed as auntie by strangers.

Wow, Lady.

I am going through your archives and that is discovering treasures at every stop.

I read Pratchett too, BTW.


Secret admirer

9:58 pm  
Blogger Speech is Golden said...

Totally agree on the prenatal influence. Like Abhimanyu, I think I learnt to love books b'coz my parents used to spend so much time reading Jayakanthans and Thi.Ja.s. And like Abhimanyu who learnt to enter the Chakravyuha but not exit it, I don't know to say 'No' to a book and do proper work. :(

6:21 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Anon- Oi, Secret admirer. Come out of the closet.

And no, it's not tournament level Scrabble. It is just a cut-throat game with my son, with time limits and strict adherence to rules and all.

Ram- Don't tell me about it. :D I prefer settling down with a book to severe toil of any kind, too.

6:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very best site. Keep working. Will return in the near future.

9:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like your anon admirer, I am discovering new treasures, Matilda. I realise what I play is junior league compared to you.

2:17 pm  

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