my first scrabble club meeting...




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Post: my first scrabble club meeting.../February 06, 2008


my first scrabble club meeting...


Last night I had my first visit to the WV Scrabble Club that I blogged about yesterday. We met at Capitol Roasters and I played my first two club games ever. I was a little nervous as I watched the 4 players who had showed up play their first two games. There was the President of the club and his wife as well as two other players.

I watched the game unfold and recognized some of the words and didn't with some others. From talking with the club President I figured out that my Palm version of the game uses the OSPD3 (Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary, 3rd edition). The club uses the OSPD4 and the OWL2 which includes different words including adding back words that I had read about in Word Freak that had been expurgated from the OSPD3 because some little old ladies had deemed them offensive until the tournament players prevailed in having them restored (at least that is what Word Freak author Fatsis said).

I saw two examples of this in my first game against another recent member of the club. She played Q-I or "qi" (the Chinese word for "chi") which was not previously playable under OSPD3 as much as I had tried to get it past the ex in our Palm Pilot games. Then I found myself stuck for a good play and down by about 20 points and saw an opportunity to pick up 12 points by playing one of the "naughty words" with the "C" on a triple letter space. I looked at my opponent and asked if she would be offended if I played one of the naughty words because I was hesitant to lay C-U-N-T out in front of a lady I barely knew. She replied ... "hell, I don't care ... I played S-C-R-O-T-U-M last week!" So I laid it out and got a nod of approval from both her and the club President who had taken an interest in my apology.


The offensive words thing was something that I found very interesting in the Fatsis book. The tournament players say that Scrabble isn't about definitions to words. In fact, the big players don't even care about definitions and say they are irrelevant to the game as they just memorize word lists and stem extensions.

This is ironic since the word that first got Scrabble in trouble was not the word itself but the OSPD2's definition of J-E-W as "to bargain." Even though the words have been restored in some more recent editions of the Official Word Lists there has still been controversy over naughty words. Parents were apparently outraged (and we all love to be outraged) when the word L-E-S-B-O was discovered in the dictionary of the Nintendo DS version of Scrabble.

Even better, the word L-E-Z was played in the 2004 National Scrabble Championship on ESPN causing much stir due to the television coverage of the event and vague ideas of what was considered to be "offensive" in play. I mean, the word F-A-G means cigarette in England and who is going to take offense at R-E-D-N-E-C-K? In my research for links I found one blogger who had an excellent idea ... house rules for "offensive Scrabble" that I may have to propose to the club sometime for a fun alternative. ;-)

Anyway, I lost the first game286 to 321 but it was close for most of the time. I got a nod from the club President for playing O-X-O and the phoney word S-H-A-B (both on triple word scores). Phoneys are a rite in tournament Scrabble play according to Fatsis and were always the quickest way to piss off my ex when we used to play ... so I try to be careful with them. My next match was to be against the club President who is nationally ranked and who was sure to clean my clock ... which he did quite handily with a final score of 407 to 228. He was pulling steadily away from me and then laid down B-O-O-T-I-E-S for 82 points in the 14th turn (scoring 50 bonus points for playing all of his letters in a "bingo" ... and scoring the biggest play of the night). That clinched it for me.

I did manage to make a few good plays though and he let me get by with the phoney B-I-N-G at the end. He missed that I laid my tiles down wrong when I made my biggest play of the game with M-O-N-E-I-S on a triple word score making E-C-R-U-S as well for 35 points (it should have been "monies" and would have been a successful challenge if he had caught it). He got me back with his bingo 2 turns later though and my mistake wasn't that I didn't the letters, just that I played them wrong.


Overall, I very much enjoyed my experience. Some things that I'm going to have to get used to are the mechanics of playing real games again. I've played so much on my Palm that I suck at real time scoring which you do as you keep track of both your score and your opponents on a score sheet that also includes a place to mark off the letters that have been played (I tried doing this during the first game and didn't get much out of it so I didn't do it for the second). Something else that I have to get used to is being timed. You get 25 minutes for all of your turns and you lose 10 points for every minute you go over that time. Time is kept on a chess clock that you have to hit at the end of every turn to switch the time to your opponent (something I kept forgetting to do).

Time isn't penalized for me till I've played my first 10 games with the club so I probably should have taken advantage of that in my first game but I managed to not go over in either of my games last night. Then of course there comes the learning of new words with my human competitors who will be drawing from sources other than the OSPD3.


I found the whole evening to be a fun two hours and will certainly go to Books-A-Million this Saturday to play again. I wish that I still had the 75th Anniversary Deluxe Scrabble (with turntable) that my parents gave to the ex and me for Christmas one year.

I know that she probably isn't using it but I left it behind in the divorce taking only the first version of the travel game that she didn't like. The turntable is essential in these club games for the flow of the game and the clock (and the club President had some very cool custom boards last night).

Oh well, I'll get one when I need it. It's just fun to be playing Scrabble again. It isn't easy to find people who will play me and that is especially true when you play words like Q-A-N-A-T or Z-I-N or S-U-Q or even U-L-U as regular favorites. Most people want to know "what does that mean" which, to be honest, I still want to know as well being that I'm such a word lover. Alas, I'll have to keep working on Kay and company to keep me sharp by letting me beat up on them from time to time in a quick game. We'll see how that goes. :-)

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