b Papa Dog's Blog: When Scrabble Can Make Me Crazy

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Saturday, February 05, 2005

When Scrabble Can Make Me Crazy

I just played what may not have been the world’s worst game of Scrabble, but was certainly a leading contender for stupidest. It started off auspiciously. Mama Dog and I both came up with seven-letter words on our first turns; “doubled” for her and “position” for me. That initial fifty-point bonus was the beginning of the end for me. I crossed “doubled” at the “o” and could have laid “position” down with either of its two “o”s in that spot. Without thinking it through, I decided that since either way I did it opened a triple word score, it didn’t really matter. I laid it down with the “o” in double as the first “o” in position. A second after turning the board back around to Mama Dog I realised the flaw in my logic; the way I laid it out, and “s” could be added on the end for “positions,” and an easy move for the bottom triple word score. Had a laid the thing out with the second “o” crossing “doubled,” the “p” would have been the one near the triple at the top, and there is no such word as (quickly checking the Scrabble dictionary here to confirm) “sposition.”

It seemed fortunate for me at first that Mama Dog didn’t have an “s” and didn’t take that triple. But she did follow up a couple of moves later with “cosier” (misspelled as “cozier”), with the “z” landing on a triple letter score. It was around that time I picked up the “q” and things started to really go downhill. The problem wasn’t that I don’t know how to get rid of a “q.” I do. The problem was that the other letters I had pointed the way to greater potentialities, and I was loath to divest too quickly. Next thing I knew, I had “equoia” and one other letter. If I could get rid of that one other letter and pull out an “s” or a blank in exchange, then I’d have “sequoia,” which could be laid across the bottom of “position” to form “positions.” “Sequoia” would cross the triple word score, and it would altogether come to approximately one billion points. So rather than doing anything sensible or pragmatic, I gave up my turn to exchange the extra letter – I think it was an “r,” and naturally drew…another “e.” I spent the next four or five turns using up one or two letters and drawing out ones I didn’t need. I got a “v.” I got another “e.” I got my “r” back. I got so desperate that I started feeling the tiles as I reached into the bag to see if I could tell whether or not I was holding an “s.” Technically, this would have to be called cheating, but as I couldn’t tell the difference anyway, the point is kind of moot. Meanwhile, Mama Dog racked up points.

Thankfully, it couldn’t go on forever. Eventually, the laws of probability kicked in and Mama Dog, who was the one exchanging the lion’s share of letters because she was making real moves, got an “s” and put something else in my spot – a triple word score plus “positions.” I thanked her with utmost sincerity for freeing me from my stupid obsession. I got rid of the “q” by playing “qua” on a triple word score. Not anywhere near enough to catch up, but at least it made up somewhat for a succession of four- and five-point moves.

Immediately after that, of course, the first tile I drew was the remaining blank, which would have made “sequoia” for me if I had only played my one odd letter. I’m sure I could have found another place on the board to put it, though not a triple.

This plunged me back into mania play again. The blank plus a bunch of common letters made it seem certain I could come up with another seven-letter word. There were plenty of spaces on the board. But no matter how I looked at it, there was no seven letter word there. There were plenty of near misses. One letter off. Six-letter words. I had “bureau” plus one extra letter at one point. I didn’t play it because I was sure if I got rid of the extra “u,” I’d be able to form a seven-letter word with whatever extra letter I drew. I recognised that I was back in the same pattern of stupidity I’d already spent the game regretting, but I was helpless to break from the cycle.

Final score: Mama Dog, 438. Yr. humble correspondent, 244.

It’s an odd thing, to be set on a course of action you know is stupid and self-defeating but to be so committed to that particular stupidity that you can do nothing else. There are obvious analogies to be made to certain tides of American foreign policy, but I won’t belabour it. Let’s just say this is a good illustration of why I’m sometimes reluctant to play Scrabble. Or chess. Or bridge. Every now and then I’ll get hung up on a certain idea about a perfect word, or move, or line of play. It makes me crazy and frustrated, I end up finishing a solid second, and a good time has been had by nobody. Well, at least in this case that’s not quite true. I’m fairly certain that Mama Dog quite enjoyed that “positions” move, to say nothing of the final outcome of the game.


Post a Comment

<< Home