Most people are aware of the ways to get points in Scrabble … using the S to connect words and to adjoin words with other words and get maximum value, using abnormal two-letter words to add quick points. Also you may be aware on how to use Q without a U in words like QI, QIS, QAT, etc. Don’t forget those Z words… ZO, ZIG, ZAG, ZIP, ZERO, etc. You can also use X in strategic places with XI or AX or AXE or EX in order to get big points fast. So you’re aware of the ways to get points in Scrabble, but how can you prevent your opponent from getting points?
1. Don’t leave those corner Triple Word Score tiles open.
A triple word score when left open can cause damage to your lead, or add to your deficit. Especially when that word was originally more than 10 points, that 10 will become 30. Don’t let a J or X or Z land on a double-letter score… you’re looking at 50+ at that point for the entire word. Block triple word score tiles by placing the beginning or end of a word a spot horizontally and a spot vertically from that corner spot. That will make it much more difficult for your opponent to place a word in that corner spot unless it’s a two-letter word, and even then it may not cause nearly the damage it could have if the word were longer.
2. Make it a point wherever possible to pluralize words or extend verb tenses of words.
If you add the S to a word, or ES, or ED, or ING you limit your opponent’s chances of attaching words to your word and force them to look for other real estate on the Scrabble board to place their word. Word attachments are often the one cause of increasing point totals greatly in Scrabble.
3. Watch the Triple Letter Scores as this is a good place to use high-letter word combinations.
A strategically placed XI adjacent to an E, for example, can cost you 50 points. The X is worth 8 points by itself, when placed on a triple-letter it becomes 24 by itself. Imagine if you see a word like JO or ZO or QI with the big letter on that tile. You’re easily looking at between 25 and 31 points, and more than that if the word is longer. Help your cause by not leaving those tiles vulnerable to points.
4. Place words next to words wherever possible, but be careful not to close up the board.
This is where the real Scrabble players come to play. By placing words next to each other in adjacent rows you limit open areas and cause people to either do likewise or look for other areas to place a word. The caveat to this is that this strategy can cause a board to get overcrowded and then you’re forced to climb your way out or succumb to words you wouldn’t have normally used. It’s a great strategy but you must use it wisely. The Scrabble board is 15 spots wide by 15 spots high for a total of 225 spots to place letters. There are 100 letters available to you in Scrabble. Closing up the board can happen very quickly in Scrabble if neither you nor your opponent are careful.
5. Don’t be scared to challenge your opponent.
If you’re not familiar with a word – challenge it. The caveat to this is that you have to really believe it isn’t a word because if you challenge and you’re wrong then you lose a turn. My wife is a linguist; she has an extensive vocabulary. At least once a game she comes up with a word I’ve never heard of, but I guarantee you that it’s a word so I rarely challenge her. Anyone else, I’d challenge it. I’d especially challenge it if that word will cause a swing in the game, like a 50-point word. If it’s only worth eight points, I might not give it much thought.
6. As you play the game of Scrabble, be aware of spaces where your opponent can place those seven-letter words and block them if possible.
You’ll find as the game goes along that the board will begin to open up. As the board opens up more opportunities become available. As a seven-letter word comes to your opponent’s tile, your opponent’s main focus would naturally be to see where it can fit to get the extra 50 points. Your main focus will be to make sure to only leave gaps about 3 or 4 rows big if at all possible. If your opponent comes up with a great use of all seven of their tiles after that… you can’t do anything but shake their hand and say congratulations, well played.
7. Place words two rows from either side of a word where possible.
This strategy is to prevent those two-letter word combinations from forming. Everyone knows that those can cause more damage than the four- and five-letter words. Two-letter word connections can introduce six and seven-letter disasters for you. Placing words two rows apart gives enough space to close up the board a bit, but also make room for those times near the end of the game when you’re trying to get rid of the letters on your tile before your opponent does.
8. Treat Scrabble like chess and think a couple of moves ahead.
I know Scrabble isn’t Chess, but in a way it is… just vocabulary chess. Instead of a pawn and a knight and a bishop… you have a Q and an E and a K and a S. They can all go in different spots but they don’t jump around like pieces do in Chess. Anticipate where your opponent can go and play to make them go somewhere else. Be aware of what letters have been used in Scrabble already and do a process of elimination where you can. If you realize your opponent has certain letters, do your best to make it hard for them to use it this turn.
Scrabble is a game for people who love words. You can see what people would use and get great ideas for words you can use in future games. As much as it is an offensive game, it is also a great defensive game. Some people may say playing Scrabble defensively takes away from the enjoyment of the game… but in my opinion Scrabble is as much about strategy as it is words. Scrabble is about points as well as combinations. Scrabble brings great minds together and can be fun for the entire family.
My objective when I play is to score more than my opponent; to do that I must play somewhat defensively, but I do not neglect to put words down with maximum value per tile. For all the Scrabble lovers who want to get maximum points and not have close games, try some of these methods the next time you get together. I believe that great words can come from great minds… but great words don’t always mean great points. Remember, it’s the strategic player who wins the game, not the one with the best words.