The festive season presents the perfect opportunity to grab family and friends and challenge each other to a battle of wits with a fun-packed board game.
As one of Britain’s top Scrabble players, champion Philip Nelkon shares some of his top tips with Furniture Village that are sure to provide an edge over other players this Christmas.
“ It is always worth asking yourself, ‘What is the highest score I can get?’, however, it is not the only point worth considering.”
Don't always go for the highest score!
The best tile is a blank. It vastly increases your chance of getting a 7-letter word and collecting a 50 point bonus, so don’t play a blank unless it raises your best play by upwards of 25 points. Set your own targets for other great letters such as S, J, Q, X and Z.
Try to ensure that you have a similar number of vowels and consonants. Play duplicate letters where possible – for example, if you have 3 Ns you may want to take fewer points in order to be able to play one of them. Another good tip is to try and keep the letters from the word RETAINS on your rack where possible, as these are the best letters for making 7-letter words, and getting 50-point bonuses.
The occasional player never changes letters, arguing that it is a waste of a turn. However, if you are continually scoring below 10 points because you have poor tiles, then a change would probably be the best option.
Trying to find a 7- letter word from an unlikely looking rack of letters is difficult when you are shuffling all 7 tiles around. If you have combinations such as UN, IN, RE etc, move these to the left of the rack and then shuffle the remaining five letters. Likewise, if you have word endings such as -S, -ED, -ER, or –ING, then move these to the right and play with the other tiles to create words.
2 letter words
There are 124 playable 2-letter words in Scrabble, and these are the most important words to learn. Some are everyday words like IT, IN etc, but there are also interjections, contracted forms, tonic sol-fa and letter sounds, which you will probably know but might not realise are acceptable words to play.
AD, AH, AR, AW, BI, ED, EF, EH, EL, EM, EN, ER, ES, EX, FA, HA, HM, HO, LA, LO, MA, MI, MM, MO, OH, OO, OP, OW, PA, PO, RE, SH, ST, TA, TI, UG, UH, UM, UN, UR, YO.
However, it’s not hard to learn the rest either. They are:
AA, AB, AE, AG, AI, AL, AX, AY, BA, BO, CH, DA, DE, DI, EA, EE, ET, FE, FY, GI, GU, ID, IO, JA, JO, KA, KI, KO, KY, LI, MU, NA, NE, NU, NY, OB, OD, OE, OI, OM, OS, OU, OY, PE, PI, QI, SI, TE, UT, WO, XI, XU, YA, YU, ZA, ZO.
The double letter, triple letter, double word and triple word squares are referred to as the premium squares. Using these squares will increase your scores significantly. With the letter premium squares a good tip is to find the highest scoring letter on your rack and try to land it on a double or triple letter square. Utilising the 2-letter words, you can often play that high scoring letter in two words simultaneously, therefore scoring 4 or 6 times its worth depending on whether it is placed on a double or a triple point square.
Philip Nelkon, 56, from London, has been one of the country’s top Scrabble players for over 30 years. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having won the National Scrabble Championship a record number of four times, and in 1993 he also represented England in the World Scrabble Championship in New York.
Philip was co-author and chairman of the committee which compiled the original Official Scrabble Words, and he has written articles and a book on the game, as well as having devised Scrabble puzzles for many magazines and newspapers.
He is also a founder member and former chairman of the Association of British Scrabble Players (www.absp.org.uk) and has worked for Mattel the owners of Scrabble, as Scrabble Promotions and Licensing Manager for close to 20 years.