WSJ has a first-person report on the US Scrabble Championship by Stefan Fatsis. Scrabble is one of my favourite games, so I enjoyed reading the account.
Only we few know how complex Scrabble really is.
For starters, there are the 120,000 or so words. Compare that to the standard working vocabulary of around 20,000 words. The truly elite players have studied and can recognize in a jumble of letters nearly all of the words found in the Official Word List, the lexicon for the game.
Beyond that, there’s the strategy. It’s not enough to know the words, you have to find them at the right time. Like some Broadway understudy who waits years for the knock on the door, words go unseen, hidden in the backstage of the brain, until called to make their debut. I wrote down a few words played by the leaders of the expert division — where a 20-year-old from Thailand named Panupol Sujjayakorn, who barely speaks English but is one of the world’s best players, stands in first place with a 13-1 record — during the first two days of the event: BELADIED, VALGOID, RETIARII, MOTTLY, BIBLISTS, SACBUT.