Richard Spence was crowned the first Scrabble Go Community Tournament Champion in December 2020


Q: How does it feel to be crowned the first Scrabble GO community champion?

A: I was a little surprised to have won, given that there were several other strong tournament players (e.g., Austin Shin, Shan Abbasi).

Q: You seemed to sail through your matches, were there any challenging moments?

A: There were a few tricky positions in both games; I did miss GALOsHE (which I knew but saw HALOGEn first), as well as a 9-letter bingo ORIG(IN)ATE and ADDIBLE in game 2. The MIDIS play in game 1 was also a bit tricky since I was considering many similar plays (MIDS, MIDST, DIMS), but these seemed weaker defensively.

Q: You have played your fair share of tournaments. Were you nervous going into the live stream final?

A: It was my first tournament game with live commentary (which is usually reserved for board 1 in major tournaments), so I was a little bit nervous, mainly hoping I wouldn’t blunder too much. However, I’ve been in many positions in actual NASPA/WGPO tournaments where the final game decided the winner.

Q: How did you get started playing Scrabble?

A: My mom and I played when I was fairly young (middle school), and I played in my first tournament in 2006.

Q: What do you think makes you good at playing Scrabble?

A: I have a fairly good memory and a very strong mathematical background. A lot of arithmetic and some basic probability are needed in Scrabble.

Q: In three words, how would your friends or family describe you?

A: nerdy, smart, kind?

Q: How do you prepare for a tournament?

A: For major tournaments, I usually review some word lists such as high-probability bingos or 4/5 letter words which I tend to forget. However, I haven’t studied words much lately since I’m usually busier with other things.

Q: If you could go back to your first tournament and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: I’m not really sure since it’s extremely rare for someone to do really well in their very first tournament. Perhaps, don’t expect to play well since you’ll only improve from then.

Q: What would be your number one or two tips for the casual Scrabble Go player?

A: For players just starting Scrabble, I would suggest learning the short words, high probability bingos, and other common lists of words.

I also highly recommend good “board vision” – on every move, study the board and see where the high-scoring opportunities are (typically DL/TL squares next to vowels or spots where bingos could be played), even before looking for words on your rack.

Q: What is your number one tip to be a better Scrabble player?

A:  The best play is usually the play that maximizes some combination of score, leave (tiles left on your rack), and minimizing possible openings for the opponent. So every time you consider a play, you should at least consider these three factors. More advanced things to consider are the tiles left in the bag if you track tiles, what tiles your opponent has (e.g., if it’s the endgame or if your opponent lost a challenge), and the opponent’s word knowledge.

Q: How did you get started playing Scrabble Go?

A: EA Scrabble was discontinued, and several of my friends had already tried Scrabble GO, so I decided to give it a try.

Q: What keeps you playing Scrabble Go?

A: I mainly play players who I normally played in person (before COVID-19), and oftentimes I am not available for a full hour for an entire game. However, if I’m playing in online clubs/tournaments where games are timed, there are other online platforms I use.

Q: Everyone has a favorite ridiculous word in the Scrabble dictionary.  What’s yours?

A: A few ridiculous words I’ve played in actual games include QAWWALI, KUVASZ, and USQUEBAE. Words that I’d dream to play in an actual game include WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), OLOLIUQUI, and ZYZZYVA.

Q: What is the biggest mistake an average Scrabble player can make?

A: One huge mistake I see a lot of beginners make is by playing the first word they see, without taking into account rack leave or openings left for the opponent.

Q: When should you trade in all your letters? Is it worth doing, or do you try and avoid doing that?

A: I rarely exchange all 7 unless I have a completely worthless rack like UUUVVWW; it’s more common to exchange 6 and keep an E, T, or another decent tile. Of course, by balancing your rack on non-bingo plays, you can minimize the times you get really ugly racks, but every expert has had games where they play nearly perfectly and still draw terribly.

Every “rule” in Scrabble has exceptions, though – perhaps keeping one of the U’s might be desirable if there are 7 in the bag, and one of them is the Q. So oftentimes, you’ll want to consider what tiles are left before exchanging.

Q: Is there one word that you feel is overrated or that people use too much?

A: All words are useful, though perhaps a subset of words I might consider “overused” is the -ING or -ERS bingos. As a simple example, if your rack is AGIILNT or DEINNRS, an obvious first choice would be TAILING or DINNERS. However, if these don’t play, it might very well be possible that their less common anagrams INTAGLI or ENDRINS are, in fact, playable.

Q: Do you have any last words of wisdom for Scrabble players?

A: Have a sporting attitude (congratulate your opponent for nice plays, etc.), learn from your mistakes, and most importantly, have fun.


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