For Explorers and Adventurers in the World of Words

THE ASTERISK: The asterisk is the glue that holds a play together. Don't concentrate on the asterisk and what it might represent. There are just too many possibilities. Concentrate on the other letters and words that have those letters in the sequence you see. Look for pieces of words, not whole ones. It's a skill that takes some time to master.

STUPID MISTAKES: Always check your opponent's play and your intended play for a stupid mistake. Be especially careful when making a small adjustment to a play at the last second.

DO NOT CHAT: In serious competition, never tell your opponent anything about a play until the game is over. It can only come back to haunt you.

PATIENCE: Just before you challenge, blink a few times, scratch your head, shake your head, anything, and then give yourself one more five second, fresh look at your opponent's play. If you are ahead, consider very seriously if the chance of a turnover is worth the risk.

WORKS IN PROGRESS: Look at words on the board as works in progress and not completed words. Always consider the possibility of putting something ahead of or after a word already on the board (no matter how long it may be).

END GAME: Watch the number of tiles remaining in the pot. Leaving your opponent the chance to go out with you holding significant value in your tray is high risk in a close game. Remember, the value of your tiles is tripled and added to the opponent's score. Many a game has been won on the last play. Leaving one tile in the pot is generally a great idea though, obviously, only one player will be able to achieve it.

DEFENSE: Plays of over 100 points or more are not uncommon. Placing an asterisk on the outside edge and offering your opponent the chance to hit both the TRIPLE-THE-WORD and DOUBLE-THE-WORD is a move that is often quickly regretted. If you are going to put a tile on the outside edge, try to make it a tough one to use and try to cover the TRIPLE-THE-LETTER square. This will eliminate the chance your opponent can achieve 18 times the point value of a letter by putting it on the TRIPLE-THE-LETTER while spanning the TRIPLE-THE-WORD and DOUBLE-THE-WORD squares.

BEHIND OR AHEAD: Play the game differently when you are behind by a significant amount versus when you are ahead by a significant amount. When behind, you have to push the envelope and try to chip away at the lead. Your opponent will be hesitant to challenge and risk losing a turn. Also, choose HIPSWOPS over BOMBS to conserve tiles in the pot and thus lengthen the game. When ahead, you have to be conservative, but your opponent knows that and will try to exploit it. When ahead, definitely close out high point areas available on the board. Also, don't concern yourself with the margin of victory. That is an ego trip that can cost you the game. Many comebacks of 200 points or more would not have happened if the eventual loser had just played to win without trying to show-off.

WASTE YOUR OPPONENT'S TIME: All things equal, make words with odd combinations of letters in them that are difficult to guess. Most players like to recognize an opponent's play as a valid word before turning their attention to their next play. You may even draw a challenge if you are lucky. Also, it is sometimes good strategy to make a quick play and shift the clock back to your opponent. Clock management is extremely important, because more time makes for greater points. Having six or seven minutes more than your opponent will pay off down the line.

KNOW YOUR OPPONENT: Some players never bluff. Some players hardly ever challenge. As far as your own play is concerned, vary it. Don't get figured out. Also, understand the game situation and your opponent's psyche. No player, for example, feels like following a failed challenge with another challenge.

TEMPO: The game sometimes has a positional tempo to it. You may find yourself consistently opening up a good spot for your opponent which he then closes off for more points than you achieved. In such cases, you should consider a defensive play to break the tempo and hopefully turn it in your favor.

QUICK TRAY ASSESSMENT: Learn to quickly assess the quality of your tray in conjunction with the opportunities on the board. It's not just about the tray, it's also about the board. For example, there are a lot of points available in the corners by forming multiple words with high point letters--especially with an asterisk adjacent to a TRIPLE-THE-WORD. If you don't have a high-point letter, a trade might be justified. Thinking about your tray for 2 minutes and then deciding to trade letters will always bring a smile to your opponent's face.


   Copyright 2003 Peter Roizen