Star Plays 1: Introduction

This is the first installment of the series Star Plays.  For other posts in this series, please click here.

This series will observe unconventional, brilliant plays made by the best players in the world and go through what made these plays so great. Hopefully, this series will give you the understanding and creativity, inspiring you to be the best Scrabble player you can be!

This series will also serve as a guide on how to watch the annotated games from the best players in the world.  To get the most out of this series, or to get the most out of any annotated game, I recommend the following process for observing positions:

1.  Go through the game position by position, trying to figure out what you would play, until you find a play where you disagree with the player you are watching.  Analyze the position and compare your play with theirs.

2. Determine whether their play was an oversight or a strategic decision. Even world class players might miss a bingo, an overlap, or an extension. Top players are human, and no one plays perfectly all of the time. If the play was an oversight, then ignore the position and move on. If you think the play was likely a strategic decision, then continue to step 3.

3.  Focus on the positive aspects of their play.  Go through some of the possible future scenario and try to understand their thought process on as deep of a level as possible.  Since you are watching world class players, there is always some deeper thought process involved.

4.  Evaluate this thought process.  If you think they have some good ideas, develop some heuristics to make your thinking more like theirs.  If you think they have a bad idea, go back to step three and analyze further, making the reasoning more position-specific.  If you still think it’s a bad idea, develop a general rule for what you think that they were trying to accomplish and then develop an exploitation measure.  If you can’t come up with one, chances are that their ideas wasn’t so bad after all.

5. Continue this process for play after play, for as many games until you feel like you understand their philosophy of Scrabble well enough such that you can predict how their plays might differ from both your choices and Quackle’s choices. Evaluate this philosophy, why it is successful, and how you can incorporate these concepts into your game.
To analyze any position, we must first answer these questions:

    • What are the other options?
    • What are the strengths of the play they made, relative to the “conventional” options?
    • What are the potential ranges (and, if applicable, perceived ranges?)
    • What is the likely response by your opponent, both to the conventional and unconventional options? (precise plays)
    • Is there any important information about either player that might have contributed? (Opponent tendencies, difference in rating, etc.)
    • What can I learn from this play?