Tourney Scrabble - Best Scoring Practices?
April 16, 2010 2:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking forward to getting into some Scrabble tournaments soon, and I have a few question regarding player responsibility for keeping track of scoring.

Here's what I'm guessing is a typical scoresheet (PDF link). Questions about the scoresheet:

-What specifically goes into the 'Word(s)/Rack' column?
-Is the board diagram in the lower right used for anything in scoring?
-What goes in the 'played blank' slots - the entire word in which it's used?

I tried to use this sheet in a recent kitchen-table game and it was exhausting! Trying to mark off the tiles that had been used as well as each player's scoring seemed to take too much time, leaving no time for strategy in playing the ever-changing letter layout.

In a tournament, does each player keep track of both players' scoring?
posted by DandyRandy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not familiar with exactly this scoresheet but based on experience with tournament Scrabble here are my answers:
The Word(s)/Rack column is for keeping track of either the rack that the player had at the time or the word(s) that were played. The idea is to be able to recreate the entire game at the end if necessary. This is also helpful for individual players to see what they should have done differently.
The board diagram in the lower right can be used to note down the words as they are placed on the board, thus aiding in reconstruction of the game as above.
I would imagine the 'played blank' slots are for keeping track of who had the two blanks i.e. the name of the player who played each blank, but this is the thing I'm most unsure about. Otherwise it would be the words that the blanks were used in, but this seems like something that could be noted in the Word(s)/Rack column instead.
posted by peacheater at 3:43 PM on April 16, 2010

Oh and a couple more points:
You don't have to keep track of every single thing on those sheets. They're more to give players options to track various aspects that they're using to improve their game rather than a hard-and-fast rule. In the beginning stages of learning to play serious scrabble, just track your tiles and note down interesting racks and the words you played with them (apart from keeping score etc.).
Yes, both players are supposed to keep score, so that any errors can come to light.
posted by peacheater at 3:45 PM on April 16, 2010

There are several purposes for this. One is to to keep track of things so that if there's a scoring dispute you can resolve it by reexamining the game.

Another is to take the sheet home and review the game to see if you found the best plays, and to analyze your strategic choices. Some friends of mine are competitive players and wrote the Quackle simulator to help them do that. But even just going home and looking at your rack and the board with a dictionary and an anagram tool can help you get better.

Crossing out letters as they're played is just for immediate in-game use, and in the endgame it can really help to know exactly what their rack is. Even before that when you're deciding between two words, which leave is better for your rack balance depends on what's left in the bag.

If you want to play scrabble 'seriously' probably keeping more information will be helpful.
posted by aubilenon at 5:20 PM on April 16, 2010

I tried to use this sheet in a recent kitchen-table game and it was exhausting!

Doing this at first is hard, but you'll get used to it quickly. Here's what I do after each play:
  1. Write down the play and score. Use a standard notation like BET(WE)eN so you can quickly know which tiles were already on the board and which were part of the play.
  2. Record the total score
  3. Play my turn if it's my turn
  4. If my opponent is making an immediate counter-play, take my next turn as well (repeating steps 1 and 2 as required by tournament rules)
  5. Cross off the tiles in the letter tracking area for one play at a time, putting a little checkmark next to the word when it's been marked in the tracking area.
  6. Keep checking off plays until they're all checked.
This way you get all the benefits of tile tracking without losing a bunch of time on your turn while you do so - the best time to track tiles is when your opponent is taking a long time and you have "spare time" to do this. Sometimes I'll put off steps 5 and 6 until the very last few plays (e.g. if it's a close game and I need to know exactly how to play the endgame); this is annoying but it's your clock time and you can choose how to use it as you see fit.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2010

I don't play tournament Scrabble, but my husband has for years, so I speak reasonably fluent Scrabble by now. :) I'll point him at this question to give more expert advice than mine, but he's playing in BAT this weekend, so it may be a bit.

What specifically goes into the 'Word(s)/Rack' column?
Put your plays and your opponent's plays there, in the appropriate columns. You could write your racks, but from what I've seen at tournaments, players keep their scoresheets on the table where their opponent could see them, so writing your rack is probably a bad idea.

Is the board diagram in the lower right used for anything in scoring?
It is not used in scoring, and is optional. It will help you see how the game evolved, and as said previously, is a really useful tool for recreating and analyzing your game afterwards.

What goes in the 'played blank' slots - the entire word in which it's used?
No, you put the letter that the blank was declared to be in that slot. In a tournament, you'll also be designating the blank on a little form designed for that purpose.

I tried to use this sheet in a recent kitchen-table game and it was exhausting!
It does take time and practice. Your best bet is to play in a local club for a while and get used to the clock and the scoresheet. Competetive Scrabble can be a very different animal than friendly Scrabble games among friends.

On a general note, a useful and Scrabble-geekery-enabling site is Cross Tables - you can see upcoming tournaments, locate clubs, study aids, annotated games. I use it to keep track of my husband's record, and those of folks I've met at tournaments.

Have fun! It can be quite addicting - my husband went from hearing about Word Freak on NPR to club play to his first tournament within a few months. Now, almost 9 years later, he runs a club, helps directs a local tournament, and is playing up this weekend in the experts division.
posted by booksherpa at 8:35 AM on April 17, 2010

And this is booksherpa's husband checking in. I just got home from the tournament and did pretty well; 8-7 and 9th place after being seeded last of 22 players.

Anyway, getting back to your question ... the only thing that you "technically" have to do is keep track of your cumulative score and your opponent's cumulative score. That's it, nothing else to do. Everything that you see there on the scoresheet besides keeping track of the scores themselves is gravy.

The rule that comes out of the NASPA Official Tournament Rules dated 2 Feb 2010 (full PDF available here) is as follows:

IV.G.1 How to Complete a Turn

a. After your opponent’s last play, record the cumulative score. (May be waived if bag is empty.)
b. Position your tiles on the board. You may remove or reposition tiles before starting opponent’s clock.
c. If playing a blank, designate it appropriately. (See Rule IV.F.1.)
d. Declare the score.
e. Start your opponent’s clock, ending your turn. If opponent’s clock has already been running, the turn ends after step d.
f. Record your cumulative score. (May be waived if bag is empty.) You may NOT pre-record this score.
g. Record your play, if desired.
h. Draw tiles to replenish your rack.
i. Track tiles, if desired.

Heck, if you wanted to, all you really need is a piece of paper. I've seen players of all levels use all sorts of different scoresheets, from plain notebooks to elaborate scoresheets tracking all sorts of different variables within the game.

But let's get back to your other questions:

What specifically goes into the 'Word(s)/Rack' column?

Writing your racks down is a good idea, particularly if you want to go back, anagram the rack, and see if you missed anything. Writing the words down, too, is good so you can track the plays and go back to see what was played in the event of a recount. Some scoresheets even have different columns for racks and words. Early on, words only is probably best, and you can graduate to racks later.

Is the board diagram in the lower right used for anything in scoring?

Nope, completely optional. Lately, I've seen people using digital cameras to record their final game positions. YMMV.

The thing I'd concern myself most with is the clock. Playing with a clock can be intimidating to some folks when first starting out. Once you get used to it, it becomes secondhand.

Hope this helps!
posted by skitchen at 7:01 PM on April 18, 2010

Thanks for the insights, skitchen and all others.

Booksherpa's comment about recording the rack on a scoresheet that your opponent can see (but would never take advantage of, I'm sure) still seems a bit of a security risk.
posted by DandyRandy at 8:35 AM on April 19, 2010

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