Lucky 13th Classics Scrabble Invitational

For the first time in its new location at 4 West Lafayette Street in downtown Trenton, Classics held its 13th Annual Scrabble Invitational, where the top 16 players from 2012 met to battle it out for the title of Grand Champion!

After a rousing America the Beautiful, non-lip synched by Trentonian Cherry Oakley (as befits all great sporting events), and after 5 consecutive rounds of play, the winner was determined.  Last year’s Grand Champion, Trentonian Megan Iurilli and number-one seed, Trentonian Eric Maywar, failed to make the final four.

The winners were

  • Tim Walker in 4th Place
  • 2-time Grand Champion Bruce Gross in 3rd Place.
  • 4-time Grand Champion Daniel Robinson in 2nd Place
  • and the 2012/1013 and Current Grand Champion is Barbara Keogh

Scrabble is played at Classics every Friday from 6:30 to midnight at 4 West Lafayette.  All skill levels are welcome.


Scrabble Tips for Beginners

Here are tips for Scrabble beginners from Dan Robinson, the 4 time Classics Scrabble Club Champion, unquestionably the best Scrabble player in the club.

As a beginning Scrabble player, your job is to learn how to play the game and how to develop good game habits, not necessarily win.   If you build a strong foundation of game strategy and word knowledge, the winning WILL come.  (and it’s likely to stay)

1.  Rack balance– Try to keep a 3:4 ratio of vowels to consonants on your rack.  You will have more options no matter what the board offers.  If your rack is balanced, try to play a combination of vowels and consonants each turn to maintain your rack.
2.  Bluffing and Challenging– Like poker, bluffing is just part of the game of Scrabble.  My advice for beginners is that if you don’t know a word that someone plays….challenge it.  You may lose many turns, and ultimately the game, but it’s a great way to commit those words to your long-term memory.  It also keeps your opponent from playing fake words.
3.  Memorizing the 2-leter words– There are 101 2-letter words that are acceptable in Scrabble.  Memorize them.  They’ll not only give you words to play when the board is very tight, but they’ll give you hooks to play off of. Did you know that an OE is a kind of tropical storm?
4.  Offense vs. Defense–  A good Scrabble player know how and when to use offensive and defensive plays.  Your goal in Scrabble is to OUTSCORE your opponent.  Your goal is not to make fun words or to make one really high-point word.  Scoring 50 points in one play is great, but not if it opens your opponent up to score 51.  Of course, you don’t often know what letters your opponent has, so how can you know if they’re going to outscore you?  It’s simple.  You don’t know.  So, the best bet is to minimize your opponent’s opportunities to score big.  Playing defensively for fewer points in a turn is often a smarter move.
5.  Don’t be Afraid to Turn in–  Sometimes, your letter just stink.  If you’re looking at a rack of “UUUULII”, you could always play the word “ULU” (an Eskimo hunting blade) to get rid of 2 U’s, but that would leave you with “UUII” and three new letters.  Chance are, no matter what three new letters you pull out of the bag, your new rack is going to stink too.  Remember tip #1;  Leaving yourself with “UUII” and any three letters is not good rack balance.Sometimes, it’s better to trade in some tiles to avoid several turns saddled with a bad rack.  
6.  Make Every Turn Count–  Do something with every turn.  Improve your rack balance, give yourself a hook for next turn, block a spot your opponent could use, or just play the best word you can.  These are generally bad ways to use your turns – Playing off one tile with the hope to draw a specific one from the bag, passing and hoping your opponent gives you the opening you need, and using your high-point letters in a way that doesn’t multiply their values.  If you make every turn count, your game scores will improve dramatically.
7.  Use Your S’s Wisely–  S’s are an easy way to score more point in a turn by “hooking” off of another word on the board.  If your opponent drops a word with high point tiles, YOU can now use your S to get those points for yourself.  Suppose they play “Zipper” for on a double-word score for 38 points.  By playing a word with an S in it that also pluralizes Zipper automatically gains you 20 points.  You get the 19 raw points from Zipper, plus your S on the end, AND whatever word you make.  All you have to do is score 19 points with your new word to negate the fact that they drew the magnificent Z.  Remember, it doesn’t matter who draws a given tile, it only matter who benefits from it most.
8.  Know Your Style–  Play to your strengths. If you know lots of two and three-letter words, try to keep the board tight so that you can take advantage of your tiny words.  If you’re a great anagrammer and 7-letter words come to you like swimming to a fish, then keeping the board open may give you more opportunities to play those long words.
9.  Make Your Opponent do it–  There’s a rhythm to Scrabble.  If you see your opponent constantly benefitting from opportunities you’ve opened on the board, stop.  You don’t have to be the one to open the board, or get to the Triple-Word-Score.  Be Patient.  Sometimes, it only takes one turn of not opening up your opponent to shift the balance back in your favor.  Soon enough, they’ll be opening up the board for YOU.
10.  Scrabble is a Game about Points, not about Words–  This can be one of the toughest things for new players to overcome.  To win a game of Scrabble, you need to score more than your opponent.  That’s it.  You don’t get bonus points for fun, interesting or long words, (unless you get the 50-point bingo bonus, of course).  You may get 30 points for a well-placed “THE” on the board, but only 18 points for “QINDAR”.  Try not to think of the words as “words”, they’re merely code for scoring points.  At its core, Scrabble is a game more about board strategy and math than about words.  Like chess, think about your next turn while you’re making your current one.  If you have “ROGZSYY”on your rack playing GROSZ (a polish coin) this turn an pluralizing it next turn with GROSZY, while making another word with your Y will probably get you more points over two turns than just playing GROSZY up front, since you’ll be scoring the GROSZ letter twice in two turns.
For more Scrabble Tips visit

12 Scrabble Tips for Beginners

Occassionally we teach a beginners course at Classics’ regular Friday night Scrabble games.  Here’s a summary.

#1.  Turning in

When to turn in:  If I can’t get at least 10 points in a play, I turn in the less desireable letters.

What to turn in: I turn in the “c” and the “v.”  If I have too many vowels, I turn in several, assuming that for every two I put in, I will draw another vowel.  Ideally, I want to end up with 3 vowels and 4 consonants.

#2.  Bingo

To help set yourself up for bingos, save “re/er” combinations, “s” and blanks.  I only play blanks to help me get a bingo.

Also, play the highest point value tiles quickly.  Bingos come easier with lower point letters.

#3.  Multiple Words

The key to big scores between bingos is to play a word that forms multiple words.  To do this most effectively, you need to learn the 101 two-letter words.

#4.  The Elbow

The magic spot on the board is not the triple word (though that’s a good one).  Look for the elbow, where a high point letter can be part of two words (horizontal and vertical) on a double or triple.  Hit the elbow with letters like “x”, “f”, “h”, “j”, “b”, “m”, “p”, “w”, “z” and “q”.

#5.  The “S”

Bookstore Scrabble veteran Marion never plays the “s” unless is adds 10 points to a play.  I only play an “s” with a bingo, unless I have more than one.

#6.  The “X”

Get at least 28 points for your “x”.  To do this, you’ll need to play multiple words while playing the “x” on a double or triple square.

These words will help you do this: ex, ox, ax, xi, and xu.

#7.  The “Q”

Dump it as fast as you can.  Try to place it on a multiplier, but if you can’t, still dump it.

These words will help you do this:  qi, qua, qat, qaid, quid, quad, aqua, qyay, quai, quin.

#8.  The “Z”

Dump it as fast as you can.  Try to place it on a multiplier, but if you can’t, still dump it.

These words will help you do this:  za, zoa, azo, zed, zee, zin, adz, biz, coz, zag.

#9.  The “V”

Dump it as fast as you can. 

These words will help you do this:  vac, var, vau, vav, vaw, vee, veg, vig, voe, vug

#10.  The “J”

These words will help you to maximize your “j”:  jo, haj, jag, jee, jeu, jin, joe, jun, raj, taj.

#11.  Endgame

Going out first can give you as many pointsas you might get playing an additional turn.

To go out first, as soon as you see that the game is almost over and you won’t get any tiles, arrange your tiles into two words using all your letters and make plans to be out in your next two turns.  Get rid of your most difficult letters in your first word.

#12.  Practice

The best practice is to play often against people better than you.  Watch how they play.  Watch what words they play.

Don’t play to beat them; play to beat your average score.  This way you won’t get discouraged.  They might win the game, but you are improving.  Their time will come.

Note: 4 time club champion Dan Robinson disagrees with some of the advice above. 

He believes, for example, that you should not focus on dumping premium tiles like “c” and “v”.  While Scrabble experts see the “c” as an excellent bingo building letter, my advice remains to the beginner to get rid of it quickly.

Dan also believes that maximizing the use of other premium letters like “z” and “q” is important for beginners.  Of course, I agree with this, as written above.  Beginners be careful, though, not to let these premium tiles sit on your board for 6 rounds.  It will be like playing with only 6 tiles while you are waiting to play these in a good spot.

Dan is also skeptical about beginners saving blanks and “er” combination for bingos.  Here we disagree.  One bingo against other beginners in a kitchen table game should rocket you ahead.  I believe it is worth the risk.

To read more advice from Dan Robinson, visit

The 2012 Scrabble Invitational Tournament

The sixteen best Scrabble-players met at Classics Used and Rare Books on Sunday February 12th to determine who was the greatest in the bookstore’s annual tournament. 

As with all great sporting events, the day started off with the National Anthem sung by Trentonian Cherry Oakley.  Then the sixteen players sat down to play two qualifying matches.  See a picture of three of the four tables of the qualifying round below.

The four people with the highest scores moved on to the final table:  Pennsylvanian Bruce Gross, Trentonian Megan Iurilli, Trentonian Eric Maywar and New Yorker Mark Walter.

At the final table, three games were played, each eliminating the lowest scoring player.  First Mark Walter fell, then Bruce Gross, leaving the two Trentonians Eric Maywar and Megan Iurilli in the final match. 

In the middle of the match, Maywar had 3 minutes of empty brain, focusing too long on an unplayable bingo and words he knew were illegal, causing him to run out of time and miss a turn.  See him in the final moments of the match in the picture below, surrounded by onlookers. 

Iurilli never let up, consistant pounding Maywar with high scoring plays and deftly playing her way out of terrible racks (like having four “o” tiles at once).   See her focus in the picture below.

The final score was Iurilli 400 to Maywar 391.

Iurilli takes the title from Penningtonian Dan Robinson, four time champion, who did not play this year.

All photos were taken by Michael Mancuso.  See all the photos Michael took, including the winning gameboard, at