The 2014 National Scrabble Championship began Saturday in Buffalo, New York. Over 500 players in six divisions of varying difficulties will compete against each other — and a bag of lettered tiles.
But scoring well (and winning) doesn’t happen so easily. Even the pros use certain tricks to help themselves on the board.
1. Learn two- and three-letter words.
2. Create two words at once using the letter “s.”
You can add an “s” to the end of an already existing word on the board to pluralize it, while also creating an entirely new word. But use your “s” wisely. The game only contains four “s” tiles, so the move should earn at least 10 points to make it worthwhile.
3. Place tiles that create common endings or beginnings on the appropriate sides of your rack.
Many words end in “-er,” “-ed,” or “-ing,” so putting those on the right side of your rack will help you visualise future options. You can also add these endings to existing words to make completely new ones.
The same applies to word-beginnings, like “un-,” “in-,” or “re-.” But place those on the left side of your rack.
4. Look for “hooks.”
Hooks are single letters you can add to existing words to make completely new ones. For example: “Lush” turns into “blush,” “host” into “ghost,” and “come” into “comet.”
Stay especially aware of words that could include “y,” “e,” “r,” and “d” on the end (like handy, plane, tamer, and tamed).
5. Head for the “hot spots.”
Plan your game from the beginning to move toward “hot spots,” better known as bonus squares, on the board. A well-executed triple word square can send your score into the triple digits.
6. Save some combination of the letters, AEILNRST.
While you can only have seven letters on your rack, some combination of the above letters will give you the best options for play. Hint: You can create “starline.”
If you don’t pick those letters, try to save the same number of vowels or one more consonant.
7. Learn “Q-without-U” words.
The letter “q,” the highest scoring scrabble tile along with “z,” almost always precedes a “u.” But again, the game only contains four “u” tiles, likely used in other words.
The official Scrabble Dictionary lists 17 instances of “q-without-u” words: qabala, qabalah, qadi, qat, qaid, qi, qoph, faqir, mbaqanga, qanat, tranq, qindar, qintar, qwerty, sheqel, qindarka, and sheqalm.
Adding “s” will pluralize all of those, except for the last two.