This page contains strategic Scrabble puzzles at an advanced level. The first 5 positions come with the strategic choices presented for you, while the second 5 positions allow you to look for your options yourself. Good luck!
Score: 261-212Choices: TOO 6j (14), OOT 14a (14), OOT c6 (14), TOO 11k (12), TOTER 3i (25)
In Diagram 1, you can’t score well and are looking for the best place to play OOT. Most people are hesitant to play OOT at c6 since it offers a powerful spot while blocking a bingo lines for your strong AERT. However, OOT is a strong play since it allows you to block even more bingo lines next turn. Soon it won’t be important if you draw a bingo, since your opponent won’t have any options for catching up.
Choices: VIA f4 (8), IT i7 (8), GOA g3 (4)
In Diagram 2, you are best off playing VIA. Since the board is closed, you need additional open bingo lines, and there is no good way to fish off an I next turn. Playing VIA allows you to play a bingo using row 10 or column e next turn.
Choices: TAJ c1 (38), JOLTING 3c (36)
In Puzzle 3, most players play TAJ quickly as it scores more than JOLTING, keeps a better leave, and opens a seemingly less dangerous bonus square. However, JOLTING is actually a better play. The LING after TAJ is not very useful on this board as there are few useful bingo lines for -ING. The T is actually more dangerous than the T because there are very few dangerous tiles left in the pool to make high scoring __N_ words at h1 after JOLTING, while the T opens up longer words and even potential 3x3s. Also, the pool is stronger than normal and the S and ? are stronger than usual on this board: thus, drawing additional tiles on this board is desirable.
Choices: JEE 11c (18), JEED o4 (20), JEES f2 (39)
In Puzzle 4, you have to take the score into account. Normally you would make a fishing play such as JEE or JEED, but because of the score you need to bingo soon AND score well. Thus, you need to play JEES even though it severely diminishes your bingo chances. Any other play will not allow you to score enough points to win very often even if you draw a bingo.
Choices: JAW i1 (13), TAW I1 (6), JOT m13 (20), TANTO 12k (8)
In Puzzle 5, you should play JAW to block your opponent’s setup. JAW is better than TAW because the J is a fairly large liability in thus position, Playing the J will allow you to score minimally well while only turning over a few tiles and giving yourself a smaller chance to draw a vowel.
Failing to block isn’t an option, as there are too many devastating plays that your opponent can draw in this position. Your opponent is also under no obligation to use the setup next turn: if he doesn’t draw something that scores well, he can play elsewhere and preserve that setup for later. Because of this, you should block the setup and sacrifice equity now, taking out the setup threat both next turn and into the future.
In Puzzle 6, most players play JOY immediately. They reason that the A is a better tile than the O, the Y scores more points, and that the A can be used to parallel row 9. However, there are actually quite a few other options: JOY, JAY, JOG, and JAG are all good options.
JAY is actually the best play since it virtually guarantees a high scoring play next turn. The A is actually not much of a help, while JAY sets up a likely FOG play next turn for 29 points.
Puzzle 7 shows you the importance of math. In this position, you are ahead by just enough points that you can outrun the vast majority of your opponent’s holdings by playing JO 6d (9). This will allow you to play ZIP or ZAP on your next turn and just barely outrun your opponent’s bingo. Trying to block row 15 won’t work, as low scoring blocks can be outrun by other bingos and ZIP/ZAP 15a will lose to bingos on row 15 or 3x3s through the Z. If you were behind another 5 points, you would need to block row 15, but JO allows you to eke out many 3 or 4 point wins after a 92 point bingo by your opponent next turn.
In Diagram 8, you would like to find a play that wins the game even if the Q in the bag. We would like to find a play that allows us to play QAT and has QI as a backup, while winning all the time even if your opponent has the Q. However, no such play exists. However, there is another option: passing your turn. Passing forces your opponent to draw the Q, and our rack is strong enough such that we can outscore our opponent even after they play QI, either next turn or later in the game. Thus, your best play is to pass.
Last play: COR 5f (20)
In Puzzle 9, you need to exchange keeping AE. The pool is very light on vowels, and you are going to need to draw a blank to win the game. Keeping AE allows you potential scoring and bingo options, but the consonant heavy pool and bingo lines that requires vowels dictate that keeping both vowels is a necessity. Although it’s tempting to try to prevent bingos and outscore your opponent, at this score your opponent won’t need a bingo to win. Keeping AE maximizes your bingo and scoring chances on future turns.
In Puzzle 10, you should play TED 11a, setting up THUMB. While it’s easy to get into bingo-searching mode when behind, THUMB gives yourself an avenue of catching up without having to draw a bingo. Because of the score and the position, TED can easily be a fishing play trying to draw a bingo, so your opponent is unlikely to block THUMB next turn since they would rather block bingo lines.