Thursday, November 02, 2006

Scrabble's New World Record: 830!

As you would all know, the Scrabble world is in shock after Massachusetts' Michael Cresta scored a world record 830 in a tournament last week.

While I wouldn't ever doubt the game taking place, as it was an officially sanctioned tournament, how the score mounted seems quite iffy.

According to world Scrabble's #1 writer and commentator (yes, I know but really you gotta read his life changing Scrabs book, Wordfreak) Stefan Fatsis,
the game has been heralded as the anagrammatic equivalent of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962 or Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series: a remarkable, wildly aberrational event with potential staying power. Cresta's 830 shattered a 13-year-old record, 770 points, which had been threatened only infrequently.
Here's my quibbles.

Cresta started two bingos (seven letter bonus 50 pointers) behind, 169-0 and then played FLATFISH, a triple triple for 239 points!

Then he passed three out of four goes, mucking about with the Q and the X while his competitor scored two more bingos.

While this was happening, another potential triple triple was being dutifully ignored by both players. I would have closed it.

But what happens? Oh, Cresta sees the triple triple and plays QUIXOTRY for 365 points!

Fatsis makes the point.
Technically, Cresta's strategy was unsound. Fishing for a once-in-a-lifetime play might be understandable in a casual game, where winning is less urgent. But in competitive play—even in a club setting, where there's less on the line than in a rated tournament—exchanging letters three times, as Cresta did, to enhance some combination of Q, U, I, and X is unorthodox at best, suicidal at worst. (The strategically correct move was to dump the cumbersome Q and move on.) In Scrabble, the player who waits for the miracle word usually loses. The implication: Cresta wasn't terribly worried about whether he won or lost.
It could only happen in America.

Why? There were a LOT of passes in the game. Some because in America if you fail on calling a challenge you lose your turn. That doesn't happen here.

Also in America ZA is a word!

My top score for an online game is 621, top tournament score is 447 and the Australian tournament record is Bob Jackman's 689.

Want some scrabble tips? Click here to read some I put together after being pulverized in club scrabble against some of the world's best players.

Obviously Cresta didn't read my tip on getting rid of the Q!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He does not claim to be the worlds best player or even in that class. he was playing the game for fun. He does not insist on having the record. He could care less. Even losers (or non experts) get lucky sometimes. His record is the best score ever, period.