Yesterday in class, in preparation for our first Wordplay Day tomorrow, I offered an overview of Scrabble and presented an example of the potential importance of tile placement by the first team to play. The first word of the game may be played horizontally or vertically, but one letter must be on the center double-word square. I projected the sample below, noting that it was a valid first play but not the best option. Why, I asked, would the first team profit from a different choice?
The image that follows illustrates the benefits of placing the a, rather than the r, on the center square. With the r on the center square, zebra is simply a double word-scoring play for a total of thirty-two points. If, instead, the team places the a on the center square, zebra is a double word-scoring play with z on a double letter square for a total of fifty-two points, twenty more than the team would have gained by placing the r on the center square.
Imagine that early in your Scrabble game, the seven tiles on your rack are I-U-K-L-N-R-blank. If the q hasn’t been played yet, you would be wise to hold onto the u. There are only four in bag. If you play your u, and don’t draw another one but draw the q, it will be difficult to play the q since there are only a few words that contain a q that isn’t followed by a u.
Holding onto your blank is also a good idea. A blank has no point value, but it can be used as any letter. There are only two in the bag. Having one of the blanks late in the game may help you out of a tight spot or enable you to score high by playing the blank as a hook and forming more than one word.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Early in your Scrabble game, if the seven tiles on your rack are I-U-K-L-N-R-blank, you may want to risk the chance of not drawing another u or blank. Playing the word lurking would be a Scrabble or a bingo, the terms for playing all seven of the tiles on your rack, which earns you fifty bonus points.
Tomorrow, at the beginning of Wordplay Day, I will distribute the worksheet for your first Check , Please! assignment. If you are absent or misplace the copy you receive in class, you can download and print a copy from the link below, or download and print one from Blackboard. Your completed Check, Please! worksheet is due at the beginning of class on Monday, August 29.