My friend Joseph is a Scrabble savant by my standards and, I would think, by many other’s standards too.
He excels at anagrams, staring at tiles placing different ratings on the variations of letters while arranging and rearranging on the rack.
He has a mastery of the two letter words, with mnemonics to remember from AA to ZA and all the HE, HI, HO, HMs in the middle.
How many times have you used all of the tiles in a Scrabble game, known lovingly as a BINGO?
Joseph is disappointed if he doesn’t get at least two each game.
I love the word scrabbling, time game, have even written about it in this column but had never met a foe like Joseph.
He recently celebrated his highest scoring game, ever, against me after an afternoon board that I doused in words like “LIEU” to dump some vowels while he played a high-scoring bingo, “STOWAGE,” across a triple word score.
He finished the game at above 500 points, with a QUEEN and a ZARFS behind him. I won’t ever forget the name for a coffee cup sleeve. It makes for wonderful bar trivia fodder, too.
I’m always impressed by the words he pulls out of the bag, they’re a good combination of everyday words that we’d all be able to pick out of a lineup and those that only a practiced Scrabble player would know not to challenge.
I’m still reeling from PORTENTES, a word that sounded so perfectly fake that it had to be acceptable. Turns out, it wasn’t, and Joseph has a great poker face too.
With time, though, I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade. I’m playing JO against my dear friend more frequently and learning how to manage the tiles in my rack. Have an S or a blank tile? An illustrious BINGO is in my sights, or at least a high-scoring play.
Scrabble is mostly skill, knowing the tricks of the trade like Joseph does will rocket you past a closed board or some misdrawn tiles.
There are the other times, though, when everything seems to go your way and you land the Z, Q, X, J and both blanks over the course of the game. That’s like drawing the Scrabble lottery, which I’ve done … but I still lost to Joseph.
This past weekend, the first move was mine. I drew my tiles and with a bit of rearranging I settled on “SETTLED,” and started the game strong with a bingo and hope that this, after dozens of games, could be the one.
I took my time, a RISQUÉ maneuver since we play tournament rules with just 25 minutes total playing time each. I knew, though, that I had started with a home run, and I didn’t want to deal a death blow to my lead.
We played back and forth, Joseph’s score climbing and mine attempting to stay ahead.
He played the dreaded PORTENTES with such brevity and confidence I didn’t dare challenge him and miss a turn and instead gave him 50 extra points to catch up with.
It was a rough go, but I held him off.
No amount of PORTENTES could stop me, it was SETTLED. I was ready to SING it loud, the culmination of months of Scrabble was this OPUS of a game. I was playing a SAGE opponent but, OH, I was a channeling my inner anagram VIXEN. It wasn’t EVEN a question, NOW was my chance.
And I won.
I’ve let that victory sink in and decided instead of winning with grace and humility, I’ve decided to detail my victory for all to see.
By KAT SORENSEN
For the Clarion