Will Anderson is one of the best players in the world at multiple word games. He is widely considered to be one of the best Boggle players in the world, and has made tens of thousands of dollars on Worldwinner playing word games. He is currently rated #1 by NASPA, the 2017 North American Scrabble Champion, and is largely recognized as the strongest player at Aerolith.
Q: How did you get into tournaments?
Will: Well, I took a little bit of a different route. I was originally a Boggle player for years, and then I read the book “Word Freak”… then I started meeting some of the Boggle players on Facebook, and a lot of them were Scrabble players, and they encouraged me to give it a try. So I went and played a local tournament, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Q: In terms of Scrabble, name one way Boggle helps you and one way Boggle hurts you.
Will: Well, Boggle definitely helps you see lots of short words, over and over, and you learn the patterns between those short words. If you play Boggle you get such a stronger base of words as opposed to someone who just has a strong vocabulary.
But Boggle is not a very deep game strategically, and that is an adjustment. It took me a while to get even the basic nuances of strategy down. It was definitely a help, but not the easiest transition.
Q: What makes you good at Scrabble?
Will: Having the background and familiarity with words, I really think the strong point of my Scrabble game is centered around word knowledge, word finding, and unscrambling words, and having these word tricks to help me find words.
My weakness, but it’s now the part of the game that gets me the most excited to play, is mastering the strategic nuances of the game. It’s my weakpoint, but it’s my favorite part of the game: once you know the words solidly, it’s expected you know that, but just the breadth of strategic situations that you need to master, that excites me to improve.
Q: What are they key characteristics of a good Scrabble player?
Will: A good Scrabble player is disciplined: there is no way you can learn the words in the dictionary without sitting down and making a plan, depending on how many words you want to know from spending 5 or 10 minutes a day, to some people who spend an hour a day. A half an hour (or more) of focused study will get you to where you need to be.
You also need to be even-keeled: you have to be able to handle the luck: those vagaries affect you. You can’t let those things affect you: there’s no coincidence that the people who are the best at that are the best players over all.
And you have to have some talent for Scrabble tasks: you have to be good at anagramming, you have to have the mindset of making the best strategic play and adjust from situation to situation that the game demands. There’s some natural ability that goes along with the hard work.
Q: Tell us a story of something that happened to you within Scrabble.
Will: You know, it’s hard to think of one moment that stands out, but one thing that stands out is… my opponents are more than just other Scrabble players now, some of my best players are Scrabble players. And just going to tournaments and hanging out with those people and talking about things not even related to Scrabble, it’s one of my favorite parts of playing this game: the people who play it can be a really big draw.
Q: If you could go back to your first tournament and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Will: Well, at this point, I can do badly at a tournament… two or three years ago, a bad tournament would really get me down. And I would tell myself that every player goes through that. You will not be unique if you have a terrible tournament.
And you can’t let that detract from all the good things about Scrabble and reasons why Scrabble is a fun game to play. There is luck, and you will sometimes not play your best, but take it in stride, and take it as what it is: a pastime, and a fun pastime: it should always be fun.
Q: In three words, how would your friends describe you?
Will: Thoughtful, sarcastic, and focused.
Q: Why is Scrabble important?
Will: It’s important to me because I’ve met a lot of friends playing. It’s nice to have some friends outside my normal sphere of people, outside of the regular things in life that you do. And it’s something that’s a lot of fun, something that I enjoy. That’s all you can ask out of a hobby.