Scrabble. When I was growing up, my parents played a good bit. I was somewhat competitive in games with my mother by the time I was a teenager. But I was a lot better at chess, and I couldn’t figure out why my mom would get the better of me seven, maybe eight out of ten games.
Then I found a few books on the game. My mom didn’t think that was quite fair, to be reading strategy books. I learned three principles about the game that helped a lot:
- two-letter words
- seven letter words
- rack management
Within a few months I was winning almost all the time. I found it very important to consider managing my leftover letters to keep a consonant/vowel balance. To this day, Mom won’t sacrifice a few points on a nifty word to make sure the next play isn’t hampered by AAEIILO or some other buzzkill combo.
Playing for seven-letter words and that fifty-point bonus was the other key to defeating my mother.
Two-letter words are fun, but classic 50’s players still don’t like all those 97 words, soon to be 101. Apparently, a new dictionary is coming out soon. Gi is now a word. As is te, a variation of ti. Honestly, I just think of a note on a staff. And qi, added some years ago? What is this, Firefly? I liked it when the q was a real handicap unless you had a u to pair with it.
The family upgrade was to replace the forty-year-old set (see above) I took with me to Chicago when I finally left my hometown in 1988. Mom insisted. Maybe she thought I would come back to visit one night a week to play. She plays a lot of solitaire Scrabble these days.
That old board was so battered by last year: the raised borders on letter square were smooth in spots. They still had a coffee stain or two from the 70’s. A few of the letters were almost rubbed off the tiles. My wife got me a new game package
One obvious drawback to playing word games is that there can never be a truly international competition, unlike chess or poker. Or is it really a drawback? So what if there’s no world champion at Scrabble; does every sport and game need an all-world winner? Maybe some competitions are better left on the dining room table on a breezy summer night. I have a nice memory or two of coming home from a date and my mother still being up around midnight. Let’s have a game.