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How to Play Scrabble Competitively

Updated on February 28, 2013

Do you want to score higher in Scrabble? You can. Are you thinking that you need to know lots of words? Maybe, if you’re heading for Scrabble championships, but what’s just as important as widening your vocabulary, is to use particular Scrabble tactics. Scrabble is a competitive game, which is best played between two players, even though you can add up to two more players. Your overall strategy for Scrabble should include smart plays, power plays and defensive plays. Here are some basic tactics that you can use to dazzle your competitors.

Play Two-Letter Words

There are over 120 two-letter words in English which you could study. You don’t necessarily have to know what they mean -- even though that’s commendable -- but they are absolutely excellent for making smart plays. Sometimes two-letter words conjure some large scores too and they are commonly used to make two plays in one -- meaning that when you play one word, it forms another word in the opposite orientation. Two-letter word plays are at times your only way out from an apparently blocked game.

Play Three-Letter Words

Three-letter words are not as versatile as two-letter words, but they also are good for smart plays. There are several times when you can add a single tile to an already played two-letter word, such as adding ‘K’ to ‘AS’, or adding ‘D’ to ‘AND’. Just like two-letter words, you can also study a list of three-letter words that will boost your competitiveness.

Make Use of Prefixes and Suffixes

Adding to letters to already played words is clever, especially when you can get a multiple score. You can do this by adding prefixes such as ‘un’ or suffixes such as ‘ed’. Suffixes tend to be more commonly played though, as you can pluralize words by adding a valuable ‘s’ or transform a word to its past tense by adding an ‘ed’.

Make Power Plays With Rare Letters

You know these letters, and they can either be a source of headache, or they can bring you massive scores. There exists only one J, K, Q, X and Z in any Scrabble pack, and their value ranges from 5 to 10. They are great for power plays, particularly when you place tiles in multiple score zones. Study words that have each of these letters, as there are relatively few of them, and many of them aren't commonly used.

Unscramble Letters in Your Rack

See all possibilities. Keep shifting around tiles in your rack and see how many optional words you can come up with while keeping track with what’s taking place on the board. This is a tactic that will make it more likely for you to play the best play, and not just putting down tiles at the first sight of a play.

Can you make a BINGO word (using all seven letters) from these?
Can you make a BINGO word (using all seven letters) from these? | Source
Blank tiles have no numerical value, but they are extremely valuable 'ghost letters' especially when creating Bingo words.
Blank tiles have no numerical value, but they are extremely valuable 'ghost letters' especially when creating Bingo words. | Source

Use Blank Tiles Wisely

Blank tiles have no value numerically, but they are extremely useful ‘ghost letters’ that can be the letters that you don’t have in your rack. Use blank tiles to make bingo words, i.e. using all seven tiles in one power play. Also, you may need a blank tile when you’re out of vowels, which tends to happen when the game is winding down. Simply put, use blanks only in dire need or when you can make an awesome play.

Study and Practice

These Scrabble tactics discussed are certainly not exhaustive, but rather basic, so that you can start improving your game. There’s also the ingredient of foresight in your overall Scrabble strategy. This is not about predicting what words are going to be played, but about where they may be played. Sometimes, you may need to hold off from playing certain words that will give your competitor an open chance to make multiple scores, or even to block your next play. That's another thing, you need to make sure that you don’t block yourself from future plays, so for instance, try not to play all your vowels at once -- it may turn out to be Scrabble suicide. Practice is key, and while you do, try out these tactics. Oh, and remember to study those two-letter words -- they’ll come in handy to play Scrabble competitively. Guaranteed.

Have a comment? Got any Scrabble tactic you would like to share?

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