Friday, August 8, 2014

"It’s about Cold Memorization and Mathematical Probabilities"

The great Nigel Richards (right) and some other guy,
presumably important in the world of competitive Scrabble

Ok, all you Scrabble mavens, this one's for you.

I enjoy Scrabble as much as the next man—za, anyone?—but Oliver Roeder's article makes a clear case as to why I'll never be one of the game's greats:
A good competitive player will have memorized a sizeable chunk of the 83,667 words that are two letters to eight letters long. A great player will know a lot of the 29,150 nine-letter words as well.
And that's just the good competitive player, to say nothing of the elite.

Though, truth be told, because we didn't have a TV in the house when I was a kid (except on special occasions like the Olympics), I did develop a habit of reading from the set of encyclopedias on our living room bookshelves. And even today I do enjoy the periodic perusal of my Samoan-English dictionary.

But that wouldn't be enough to develop the chops to compete with our whiskery wordsmith, as Roeder points out.
For living-room players, Scrabble is about language, a test of vocabularies. For world-class players, it’s about cold memorization and mathematical probabilities. Think of the dictionary not as a compendium of the beauty and complexity of the English language, but rather as a giant rulebook. Words exist merely as valid strings with which to score points.
It's a nice thought, really, but I think I'll just keep looking for a regular day job, with the occasional weekend test of vocabularies.

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