Last modified on 23 November 2013, at 03:34

Scrabble/Basic Strategy

Although Scrabble relies somewhat on luck of the draw - whether you receive good tiles - there is nonetheless a good deal of strategy involved in the game. A player with a good knowledge of basic strategy will have an advantage over a total novice. This and following sections concern strategy, and maximising your chances of winning.

BingosEdit

A bingo is a play that uses all seven tiles on your rack. A player who plays a bingo receives an extra 50 points in addition to what he would normally score for the play. Experts typically average 2 to 3 bingos per game. Because it is such an important concept in the game's strategy, this book has an entire chapter dedicated to it.

Using Bonus SquaresEdit

Definitely take advantage of double/triple letter and word squares, particularly ones next to vowels. For example, placing a Q or a Z on a TLS scores at least 30 points, and can score 60+ points if you form two words at once using the TLS.

If you have the privilege of making the opening play, you can take advantage of the DLS-DWS combination on row 8 or column H. Since the DLS is doubled, any letter placed on the DLS will be effectively multiplied by four. Suppose your opening rack is:

A1
A1
K5
P3
R1
S1
V4


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
1
WS
     
LS
        
WS
        
LS
     
WS
2   
WS
        
LS
        
LS
        
WS
  
3      
WS
        
LS
  
LS
        
WS
     
4
LS
     
WS
        
LS
        
WS
     
LS
5            
WS
              
WS
           
6   
LS
        
LS
        
LS
        
LS
  
7      
LS
        
LS
  
LS
        
LS
     
8
WS
     
LS
        
S1
P3
A1
R1
K5
     
WS
9      
LS
        
LS
  
LS
        
LS
     
10   
LS
        
LS
        
LS
        
LS
  
11            
WS
              
WS
           
12
LS
     
WS
        
LS
        
WS
     
LS
13      
WS
        
LS
  
LS
        
WS
     
14   
WS
        
LS
        
LS
        
WS
  
15
WS
     
LS
        
WS
        
LS
     
WS

By this strategy, we can play SPARK 8H 32. This scores 4 more points than PARKS since the K is doubled, as opposed to the P. However, further analysis shows that neither is the best play.

Clearly, PARKA (a hooded garment) is far superior to PARKS, as it conserves the S. PARKA is also better than SPARK, even though it scores 4 points fewer. However, PARKA compensates since it conserves the S, and does not allow for 3-letter extensions (as SPARK can be extended to SPARKING, SPARKERS, SPARKIER, SPARKLET, SPARKISH, and many other words). If you know the word, KAVAS 8D 34 and KAVA 8G 22 simulate better than any of the above plays. A Quackle simulation shows that KAVA is the best play in this position.

There are a few lessons that can be learned here. First, the best play in a position is often not the highest scoring play, as there is often a better play that scores less but keeps a better rack leave. Second, the S should not be wasted! Quackle values the S at around 8 points, so generally an S should not be played unless it scores at least 8 points better than your next best play. Third, the placement of KAVA matters -- we played it at 8G instead of 8F or 8H to avoid putting vowels next to premium letter tiles. According to Quackle, KAVA 8G 22 barely edges out KAVA 8F.

Finding WordsEdit

When looking for words on your rack, don't just stare at them and imagine combinations in your head - rearrange the tiles on your rack. Look for common prefixes and suffixes, and group them together. Then look at the remaining tiles and see if you can find a word to which you can add the prefix or suffix.

Finding Places to PlayEdit

As a rule of thumb, it is better to look for places to play, before finding words on your rack. Look for premium squares (particularly ones next to vowels) that you may be able to score well on. If your rack is promising for a bingo, look for places to play a bingo. You will want to look for "hook" words -- words that can be appended to by one letter to form another word. Some hook words can be easy to miss -- for example: FLAMING to FLAMINGO, or SLANDER to ISLANDER. Some hooks can be rather obscure. For example, HAZAN (as well as HAZANIM) takes a front C-hook to form CHAZAN and CHAZANIM. GRACILE (an adjective meaning "gracefully slender") can be appended by an S to make GRACILES (pl. of GRACILIS, a thigh muscle).

Opening Doubles and TriplesEdit

Most people try to avoid making a play that will allow their opponent to play a triple-word score on the next move. This may be prudent, but you should not forego a good play just to avoid it.

Avoidance of opening a double-word score is probably a bad idea. Because the double-word scores are arranged along the board's diagonal, if you open one for your opponent, you will likely open several more that you may be able to take advantage of yourself on your next move. Your opponent will probably not be able to close all the avenues, and may not even try. After all, you might not be able to use one of the double-word scores on your turn, and then that square will be available for your opponent on his next turn (assuming a two-player game).

Playing High-point TilesEdit