Scrabble on the Isle of Wight
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Scrabble in the UK

Before we go any further, perhaps the first thing we should underline is that Club and Tournament Scrabble is all about the two-player game. Three players on a board is occasionally used to resolve odd-numbers attending on Club evenings, but, generally other methods are preferred for getting around even this problem. Essentially, the two-player game offers the greatest range of tactical challenges, bringing the game out of the parlour and into a more seriously competitive arena.

High Score Scrabble

The first form of Tournament Scrabble, as established by the introduction of a National Championship, courtesy of Gyles Brandreth, and the gameís owners, J.W. Spear & Sons Plc, in the early 70ís, was "High-Score Scrabble". This, too, was the form of Scrabble first embraced by the Clubs.

The aim of the "High Score Scrabble" player was to gain a good score, which, within the context of a tournament, would be added to his other scores, such that the player who achieves the highest overall score, in the event, would be considered the winner, regardless of whether or not he won any of his games. It was to the advantage of both players to create useful scoring opportunities, and to understand that these opportunities were not to be used prematurely for less than the sorts of score that they might reasonably be expected to return. The advantage of this sort of game lay in the fact that it benefited those with the largest vocabularies, and appeared, superficially, to remove the "edge" that normally exists in any game in which two people are out to beat each other. Rather, the players were simultaneously pitted against everyone-else in the room. The game was thus considered to be more social. The disadvantages lay in the fact that good players could expect to perform worst when asked to play with poorer players, and the "edge" was replaced with a feeling, usually held by the weaker player, of being intimidated into not taking any of the scoring opportunities at all, unless the score was certain to be applauded. The demise of "High Score Scrabble" occurred because it became widely recognised that the game was too contrived, and too open to conscious collaboration.

Matchplay Scrabble

During the late 80ís, with the advent of the "Association of Premier Scrabble Players" (APSP), now the "Association of British Scrabble Players" (ABSP), a national organisation of Scrabble Players, set-up, with the blessing of J.W. Spear & Sons Plc, to run tournaments country-wide, all-year round, "High Score Scrabble" was rapidly replaced by the more natural "Matchplay" version, as it tends to be referred to, by Scrabblers, themselves. Games had, now, to be won, and by as wide a margin ("spread") as possible, so that the tournament winner would normally be the player who had won the most games with the largest total "spread".

For more information about the Association of British Scrabble Players, go to www.absp.org.uk

As you will see, from the brief history of Island Scrabble, the Isle of Wight had its own miniature version of this nationwide Scrabble crisis, when we were forced to switch, almost overnight, from one sort of Scrabble to the other.