There are three routes to traverse towards your destination as a Scrabble champ. You can work on all three simultaneously but if you’re a newbie, then you can start in the order shown.
• Word Power
Perhaps MOST critical in learning words, is to ALSO learn their HOOKS (the letters that go at the front (front hook) or at the back (back hooks) to make other words).
Words are learnt as lists: Examples of word lists words that have only 2 letters, only 3 letters (2’s and 3’s), or 4 letter words that take a Z, the most common 7 letter words etc.
Most basic word lists: (with hooks)
• 2 letter words
• 3 letter words
• 7 letter words (top 2000)
• 8 letter words (top 2000)
There are several other lists that you can move on to as your word power improves.
Strategy/ Game Play:
In addition to building word power, you also need to develop “board play”. This covers aspects like Board Vision (being able to spot the spaces where you can play bingos etc.), Rack Balancing and Rack Leave (engineering your tiles to get the best combination of letters for a bingo) etc.
This is best read about in the SCRABBLE PLAYER’S HANDBOOK.
It’s hosted on the site: http://www.breakingthegame.net/handbook
This is a comprehensive guide written with the collaboration of some of the best scrabble players. It provide great insights into how to play the game with little quizzes and examples along the way. Easy to read. Highly recommended.
You can also look at the following sites:
- http://www.youthscrabble.org/index.html Run by Karen Richards, this site explains has very practical “HOW-TOs” offering tutorials on word play and scoring.
- John Holgate’s site (5 time Australian Champion): Offers good scrabbling tips http://scrabble.org.au/strategy/index.htm
Temperament is the hardest thing to develop. If you’re the kind who has a live-in-the moment attitude and a positive attitude, you’re half-way there. Developing the right temperament is best learnt from a coach.
Acadamies/ Classes: Ideal to learn strategy and develop the Zen-like temperament required to excel at Scrabble. While classes are typically for beginners or those who are reasonably good but want to improve their game, there are actually coaching sessions for expert players as well!
- Wordaholix: Based out of Mumbai, Wordaholix offers coaching for beginners and experts in either standard modules or customized packages. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check out http://www.facebook.com/wordaholix
- Irfan Siddiqui on-line coaching classes: Typically for a few weeks at a time, the coaching sessions are divided into two groups: Group A: for beginners and intermediate scrabblers and Group B: for advanced and expert scrabblers. For more details, email: email@example.com or WhatsApp +973-333-455-50.
- Swati Gupta’s Scrabble Training Centre: Located in Delhi, though originally a brick and mortar centre, the pandemic has moved her online, offering customized coaching, with a lot of interactive games, for beginners and intermediate players. Beginners will require a minimum of 4 sessions. To know more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ISC beginners group: Run by Archana Aggarwal and Hema Shah, they offer coaching, tips and practice games on-line. One-to-one coaching sessions are also offered at a nominal cost. For more, reach out to either Archana or Hema
- Archana: email@example.com
- Hema: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Listening to Scrabble commentary of the matches taking place from our league matches to international tournaments. You learn a lot about strategy and board play – and a few words along the way. I would recommend this highly. This is the only time you can actually get into the mind of an expert scrabbler – absolutely invaluable. Try not to miss any. To follow the tournaments that are going on, get yourself to the nearest administrator of a scrabble club/ group or a senior scrabbler and you can be added to the whatsapp groups on which the schedules and links are posted.
- An interesting YouTube channel to watch, particularly for beginners, is David Webb’s channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-8sPGr787Ep8m2JCmkw0tA
And if you want to get in that much needed practice on your own, here are some self-learning tools:
• Zyzzyva. Offered by Collins https://www.collinsdictionary.com/scrabble/scrabble-tools/, Zyzzyva is an anagramming program typically downloaded on a computer. You can learn not just basic lists but also list of words by probability of occurrence. Provides hooks and meanings of every word. Make sure to use the Cardbox feature to only re-learn those words you don’t know.
• Anagram Quizzer: An app that allows you to learn on the go. Typically free unless you want to use special features of the program
• Aerolith: www.aerolith.org Quizzes of 2- 11 words provided daily. Plus word builder puzzles. These are to be completed within a specified time. Helps cement word knowledge. Also provides explanations of the words – with hooks and meanings.
• Quackle: http://people.csail.mit.edu/jasonkb/quackle/ Helps to simulate games and look at alternative plays (for more experienced players). This site http://www.word-buff.com/free-scrabble-game.html offers an easy ‘how-to-use’ method.
• Xerafin: xerafin.net is a website to facilitate learning words for Scrabble or other word games. It features anagramming practice with build-in spaced repetition as well as other mini-games, leaderboards, and live chat which make it fun to learn. Visit it at https://www.xerafin.net/ using your google or facebook login.
Resource People for any of the Word Tools above: If you’re finding it difficult to navigate any of these, you can contact either of the Word Tool Experts:
• Ishika Shivalingaiah : email@example.com
• Rajveer S Rawlin: Samuelrr@yahoo.com
You can also read Rajveer’s blog at https://rajveersscrabble.blogspot.com (For those who don’t know him, Rajveer was the A division runner up at the 2019 GOA WESPAC tournament.)
Practice: Actually playing the game:
In these CoVid times, apps and the internet rule! So the two places you can find other scrabblers are:
- ScrabbleGo: A free app on your phone that you can play on the go. Opponents can either be your friends or random others. There is no time limit on a move or the game. The software doesn’t allow you to make a fake word, so you learn as you play, especially if you experiment with words. It also has a series of other single person games that help with speed and anagramming.
- Classic Words: An app for Android phones. Helps with practicing game play.
- Internet Scrabble Club (ISC): www.isc.ro. This is where scrabblers converge for friendly matches and tornaments. You can select the timing of your game, the type (whether you want to play VOID – where you can only make correct words (like ScrabbleGo) – or challenge games with penalties for making a fake word. Explore and choose the setting that suits you. Every player has a “handle” that may or may not indicate their names. Some of our favourite Delhi players are Rudish (actually super polite), Armpit (not smelly!), Zephyr 19(very pleasant indeed) and Vandanag (that’s really her!)..
- Once upon a time we used to have Scrabble meet-ups, where we would meet to play games across a board. This differs from playing on-line in several ways:
- You have to tile-track: you can’t see the remaining tiles in the bag at the click of a button. If you’ve made a mistake in tracking the tiles played, you might lose a game!
- Board vision: Many top-rated players have been making two-letter phoneys on ISC, purely because of the difference being able to see the spots on the board.
- Timing: You have to press a clock and watch your time: not automatic as it is on-line. If you forget to press the clock, you will be losing time.
So while it’s good to get on-line practice, try to play across a board too. Inshallah, we will start our scrabble meet-ups soon.
- by Ela Ghose with Rajveer and Ishika