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10 Ways to Improve Your SCRABBLE Game

#1: QI

Definition:

: the vital force that in Chinese thought is inherent in all things (plural: QIS)

About the Word:

Devoted SCRABBLE players use the dictionary as their arsenal. Every variation of a word – plural forms, alternate spellings – can be used to gain the edge in competition.

Although it’s most commonly spelled CHI in standard usage, the variant form QI is the single most-played word in SCRABBLE tournaments, according to game records of the North American SCRABBLE Players Association (NASPA).

#2: ZA

Definition:

: pizza (plural: ZAS)

About the Word:

ZA (often styled in print as ‘za) is a slang shortening of the word pizza. You may be surprised at the slang found on the tournament SCRABBLE board: BRO, HOMEY, and YO are all accepted words.

ZA is the most played word containing the letter Z (and the only playable two-letter word with the letter Z) in tournament SCRABBLE play.

Incidentally, .za is the country code for South Africa (Zuid-Afrika is Dutch for “South Africa”), but abbreviations and codes are not acceptable on the SCRABBLE board

#3: Phoney

About the Word:

You probably associate bluffing with poker, but it is just as much a part of serious SCRABBLE play. Tournament players will often make up words that look legitimate to the untrained eye – fake compounds like OUTMANAGE, or plausible misspellings like EJECTER.

The choice to play a phoney is a strategic one. (And note: the spelling of the SCRABBLE-specific noun is not the usual phony.) If your opponent doesn’t challenge you, your bluff can earn you points and strengthen your position. If you lose a challenge, you lose your turn.

“People win games by taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. Knowing the idiosyncrasies of our language is a huge advantage over those who do not,” says SCRABBLE champ Chris Cree.

#4: RETINAS

Definition:

: plural of RETINA, a membrane of the eye

About the Word:

Getting a rack with these seven letters can be viewed as a SCRABBLE bulls-eye. RETINAS has eight accepted anagramsANESTRI, ANTSIER, NASTIER, RATINES, RETAINS, RETSINA, STAINER, and STEARIN – which means nine different words can be played using those same seven letters.

The strategic player will evaluate which anagram scores the most, which might most likely be challenged, and which might best accomplish the player’s desired board strategy.

#5: XU

Definition:

: a monetary unit of Vietnam (plural: XU)

About the Word:

X is a very powerful tile: all five vowels work with the eight-point X to make two-letter words (AX, EX, XI, OX are the four other words). When the X tile is used in an overlapped two-letter play with the X on a triple letter score, the player will almost always score at least 52 points.

#6: ZLOTY

Definition:

: a monetary unit of Poland (plural: ZLOTYS)

About the Word:

Most foreign currencies, like the previously mentioned XU, plus COLON (plural: COLONES), FRANC, KORUN (plural: KORUNAS, KORUNY, or KORUN), PESETA, NAKFA) are acceptable words. ZLOTY is powerful both because it has the valuable ten-point Z and because it has the unusual -YS plural.

#7: Hook

About the Word:

The SCRABBLE sense of hook isn’t found in standard dictionaries, but it’s defined on the North American SCRABBLE Players Association as:

a letter that can be played at the front or the back of another word to form a new word; also : the word formed by such an action

SCRABBLE players don’t limit themselves to adding S to the end of a word. A single letter can make for surprising changes in the meaning or sound of a word. G can be hooked to the back of ASPIRIN to form ASPIRING and P can be hooked to the front of IRATE to form PIRATE.

Members of the NASPA Facebook community shared some of their favorite hooks:

  • F-UTILITY
  • FLAMING-O
  • I-SLANDER
  • S-WORDPLAY
  • DEADLINES-S

#8: GYOZA

Definition:

: a stuffed and fried pocket of dough (plural: GYOZAS)

About the Word:

Many culinary words from around the world are acceptable in SCRABBLE play. The Japanese GYOZA, with the ten-point Z, is particularly valuable.

Other useful terms include: SUSHI, PONZU, YAKITORI, SOJU, MOJITO, BURRITO, KNAIDEL, CAPRESE, and POUTINE.

#9: Bingo

About the Word:

A SCRABBLE play that uses all seven tiles is also known as a bingo. Tournament SCRABBLE players count on bingos in every game, because laying down a seven-tile word earns a “bingo” bonus of 50 points.

Players building up their SCRABBLE skills might memorize the six-letter bingo stems that can create the most bingos. For instance, the letters AEINST can be used to create 70 different bingos with 23 different seventh letters.

And count yourself extremely lucky if you start a game with MUZJIKS. This word (definition: Russian peasants) is the highest scoring opening word possible—128 points, when played without any blanks.

#10: AMIGO

Definition:

: a friend (plural: AMIGOS)

About the Word:

While it’s true that the category of “foreign words” is not acceptable in SCRABBLE tournament play, words of foreign origin that are widely used in English are.

In addition to AMIGO, the OSPD includes: AMIGA, AMI, AMIE, ADIOS, ADIEU (plurals: ADIEUS, ADIEUX), and SAYONARA.

Special thanks to Chris Cree and John Chew of North American SCRABBLE Players Association for their guidance and suggestions for this list.

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