Most peopleís experience of Scrabble is - sadly -
restricted to playing with the family at Christmas-time.
The worst possible time!
Grandma turns up late for Christmas lunch, the turkey is
burnt, everyone is tired and irritable, and Auntie Mabel
will insist on scouring the largest dictionary in the
house before, finally, after 20 minutes, coming out with her move,
ARISTAE, say, around the second A. She proudly announces
the score to be 7, no - 8 (mustn't forget that double-letter
square) points. You darenít ask what the word means for
fear she will pick-up the dictionary again. Hoping to
get things over with as quickly as possible, you take
the most tiles you can - always the more the better - and
throw down a similarly low-scoring collection of letters.
A not unreasonable thing to do in the circumstances!
You won't be surprised to learn that most Club players
would feel like turning the board over in just as much
disgust, at Auntie Mabelís antics, and not just because
competitive games are expected to be over in around 50
minutes. Rather, Auntie Mabel clearly has no idea what
the object of the game actually is!
Scrabble is not a race to see which player can get rid of
the most tiles first. The tiles have scores on them,
and the object of the game, is - rather obviously - to
outscore your opponent. It might seem that the
more tiles you play, the higher your score will be, but
it will very rarely be a good tactic over the whole game.
I wonder, for example, what Auntie Mabel's 7th tile was?
She had AEIRST. If she had looked in "Chambers' Twentieth
Century Dictionary" (the accepted Bible for Club Scrabble
players in the UK) she could have found 7-letter words
with the A, with the B (BAITERS), the C (RACIEST), the
D (TIRADES, to name just one), indeed with any letter
apart from the J, the Q, the U, the X, the Y and the Z.
In fact, it would have been a pretty good bet that she
had the opportunity to play off all her letters, so
getting a 50-point bonus and guaranteeing herself the
chance to be insufferable right up to New Year. Even
when the word won't go on the board, there are few
competitive players who can resist the desire to "fish"
- to play off the one awkward letter and have another
No. Scoring, or preventing your opponent from scoring (which
is why the game works best in its 2-player form) is what
the game is really all about. And whether you play 1
tile or 7, knowing more words than the other player will
count for nothing, if you don't have some idea of why
one word might be preferred over another.
The first skill that Auntie Mabel needs to acquire,
though, is that of spotting high-scoring moves. The
beginner's game which follows is intended to
introduce the new, or almost new player, to a number
of different types of move which will normally yield
a good score. Established players, who feel happy
that they already understand these things might wish
to jump ahead to the Advanced