Posted by Ed
Have you ever wondered where Scrabble champions come from? This week's Boston Globe Magazine may have part of the answer. The magazine includes a short article describing a pair of Massachusetts middle school students who'll be defending their National School Scrabble Championship at a tournament next month. Some Scrabble players, it seems, start out very young.
If you've ever read Word Freak, by Stefan Fatsis, you'll have some sense of what the world of competitive Scrabble is like. You can also find out about the Scrabble circuit from this National Post article about the Scrabble career of the novelist W. P. Kinsella, who's retired from writing and taken up game-playing. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Like all the others who participated, Kinsella is a Scrabble freak. He practises two hours a day on the Internet, playing 25 games at any given time. He regularly reads the Scrabble dictionary, hoping the words "will cling to me like lint." His strategy, he says, is to simply hope for good letter tiles.
"I like the competition," he said. "I am a lower division player and I can't play with the big dogs, never will, but I like finding weird words."
And yet, for a writer who once won the Stephen Leacock award for humour, he is surprisingly lackadaisical about the definition of the words. He doesn't care if he understands the words he spells out, as long as they are "good" -- meaning they are listed in the official Scrabble dictionary.
"I'm just looking for the points," he laughed. "Who cares what they mean?"
John Chew, director of the Toronto Club, says it's a common misconception that people who are well-read or hyper-articulate are the best at Scrabble. In fact, he says many mathematicians, such as himself, make the top players. The idea is to get the most points, not create the best or most flashy words -- a rookie mistake.
"It takes the ability to memorize large quantities of otherwise useless information," he said. "You need solid analytical skills, the ability to perform under pressure, and an unshaken confidence in the laws of probability, so that when you draw nothing but vowels you know you will eventually get your consonants later."