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Bored Games

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From the American Association of Retired People (AARP) website:

What's your favorite board game?

Scrabble: 42.7%
Monopoly: 28.0%
Chess: 13.7%
Checkers: 10.9%
Clue: 4.8%

Submitter Arthur Berger writes: "I don't mind being beaten by Scrabble, but to be beaten by Monopoly does hurt." Yeah, we need to get Korchnoi on tour to show them what's up. Sure, you can put a hotel on Broadway, but where are your keys?

If they'd included card games chess wouldn't have cracked one percentile. Funny to hear about Scrabble again today. John Henderson was just telling me about the movie Word Wars, about the Scrabble championship. He said it was disturbingly similar to chess tournaments. Best trivia: at the pro level you can use obscenities!


Scrabble Championships are nothing. I just found out that there may actually be puzzle-solving championships. Not math puzzles, but the kind where you have to piece the cardboard together. I hope this isn't true.

My chess playing math professor friend Bryan informs me that high level Monopoly is a rich, strategic battle - very different from the game of chance that we remember playing as kids.

A university music school professor is a two or three-time Scrabble World Champion. I was a student at the school the year he took his first title. One afternoon I walked by his office and challenged him to a game. He looked up from his desk and replied evenly "I have class in a few minutes. Want to meet back here in an hour?"

Zwischenzug. I fled.

I think I've played Scrabble just once or twice in a decade. I beat my sister - a fellow word freak - when we were home for the holidays years ago and immediately retired for life as family champion. Of course with her husband we play using Spanish, English, and French. Makes things much faster. You just have to have set with an .

I wonder if the German version uses a double-size board and you draw 20 tiles instead of seven. I have a Russian Monopoly set I brought back from Moscow. The game pieces aren't the classic ones from childhood though (if I didn't get to be the car I would pout, or so I'm told).

Mig, I've always had similar feelings about the dog. When I was a child, Monopoly was the game in which my family members exacted revenge against me for the chess trouncings I was already dishing out to all. They would exchange properties with each other but freeze me out. When I lost they'd laugh and laugh having put me in my place. In retrospect, it's possible they drove me to specialize in chess. When I eventually visited Atlantic city as an adult and saw the grid of streets we had been battling over I knew I had made the right choice of boardgame of preference. I'll grant Scrabble fanatics a tip of the tumbler..but I've little respect for domino rubes. Furthermore, I'd rather play "give away" chess than Clue.

The Scrabble Newsletter publishes word graphs for memorization.

Against any common set of five letters, say S-T-A-R-E, is plotted the 26 letters of the alphabet along both the x and the y axis, creating a 676-square grid. Each square of the grid contains the legal words which contain S-T-A-R-E and one letter from each axis. The grid square for "I" and "C" will thus contain "STEARIC" etc.

You memorize the chart. Then any time you have S-T-A-R-E among the seven tiles in your rack you instantly know all the seven-letter words you can form.

Then you memorize the S-T-A-N-E graph. And the S-T-A-I-R graph, etc. etc. etc.

Yes, Scrabble nuts are almost as crazy as chessplayers, but who do they have to match Bobby Fischer?

I recently joined a Scrabble club and was impressed (though not surprised) at the level of seriousness with which competative Scrabble is approached. I was immediately handed the entire list of two and three letter words and told to get working... There are 96 legal two letter words in Scrabble, including "UT", "XU", and "DE". Strange, but fascinating.

Interestingly, Scrabble uses the Elo rating system but the ratings seem to run about 400 points lower than in chess. Total beginners usually start at around 500 and there are only a handfull of players above 2000. (The entire possible range of ratings is also smaller, because chance is a factor in the game.) I know that the numbers themselves are irrelevant, but it interested me nonetheless.

Note to other science fans out there: I have always been interested in the fact that ratings are similar to physical quantities like potential energy and voltage. That is, the value itself is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is the difference between two measurements. In economics, I believe there is a similar phenomenon with the exchange rates of currencies, where what matters in not the exchange rate but how it changes over time.

Presumably Bobby Fischer, whose cerebral hardware provides him with complete retention of everything he's ever seen, read, and heard, would make an excellent Scrabble player, given the large role memorization plays in that game. It's a tribute to OUR game that a supra-genius like Fischer found it so compelling.

Here's a tip for all you chess players out there who hate getting beat by Scrabble geeks: it becomes a vastly different game depending on which dictionary you use for reference. Any Scrabble guy will be at a huge handicap if you use a plain old desktop Merriam Webster's. Good Scrabble players aren't necessarily so great at English; what they're good at is memorizing, and if you take away their Scrabble dictionary then they're often at a loss to remember which of those two-letter words they love so much are real words. I tell you, you'll find "words" in the Scrabble dictionary that aren't even in the OED. For instance, if I'm recalling correctly, all the phonetic spelling of letters are legal, for instance, "em" spells "m", "el" spells "l", etc. Ridiculous. No wonder so many of the best English Scrabble players in the world are Thai.

It would be cool to see an AARP games poll broken out by culture. I live in a part of San Francisco we call the "former communist block" neighborhood, because it's mostly northern Chinese and Russian Jewish. The Chinese: Mah Jong. The Russians: chess and dominos.

The omission of "zit" from the Scrabble dictionary was appalling. They may have corrected that error in later editions.

We actually have a German-language edition of Scrabble, but it's incredibly hard to play despite our mutually purported fluency. Begin with the fact that German has about an eighth the number of words as English, then add (as MIG implied) the length of a lot of those compound German words, and you're not left with much.

Hadn't thought to play English+German though...we'll give that a shot this weekend.

Stefan Fatsis wrote a book about Scrabble players, "Word Freak." I don't remember any of the characters being as crazy as Fischer, but some are close.

I would die to commit more of my dictionary to memory; my handicap is my laziness however. Therefore I need someone to sell me word tapes I can listen to while I sleep. I could faithfully study this way. Anyone know where I can get these tapes?? :- )

I would die to commit more of my dictionary to memory; my handicap is my laziness however. Therefore I need someone to sell me word tapes I can listen to while I sleep. I could faithfully study this way. Anyone know where I can get these tapes?? :- )

I want to know if anyone knew a 3 letter word for a chess piece. I is probally stairing me in the face, but I want to know. Do any of you have any idea as to what it may be. This is for a cross word and the clue simily says "chess piece" the place that it goes is only three spaces. Besides useing a foreign language I don't know what it could be. HELP PLEASE!!

If it absolutely must be an English word (not say, "fou" which if I recall correctly is the French word for bishop), then it won't be the name of an actual piece.

How about, "man"? Does that mesh with the other letters in your grid?

Doesn't say "chs pce" or anything like that? I was thinking it's something like WKn or BKn....I am very curious as to what the answer is, so please if you can, tell us the paper the crossword puzzle comes from or the answer.

bravehoptoad: the spelling of letters in the Scrabble dictionary is acceptable and has been mostly standardized before Scrabble was invented. However, I completely agree with your sentiments about some of the other words in the Scrabble dictionary. Not only can you NOT find them in the OED or any other dictionary that I've checked, but when you Google them nothing sensible comes up either.

A parenthetical comment about the Scrabble "letters" - while the earlier commenters might be correct about the name of each English letter being a word in itself as far as both the Scrabble and normal dictionaries are concerned, "el", "em" and "en" don't prove it. All three are real words, apart from their identities as letter names. The first started as an abbreviation for "elevated subway" but eventually transcended its origin as an abbreviation and became accepted as a full word. The latter two are printing terms, defining certain fractions of the width of a letter, before computers and proportional-space fonts.

Houses are not very cheap and not everyone is able to buy it. But, loan was created to help different people in such kind of hard situations.

If they have added card games into the survey, I am sure poker would be one of the most popular. Whether it is online video poker or just regular poker, the game has been gaining popularity in many parts of the world.
Brandon - http://www.doubledowncasino.com

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 29, 2005 8:13 PM.

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