Scrabble Challenge #9: Can You Win the Losing Game on the Last Move?
The end game is a very important aspect of playing Scrabble. If you have just a few letters left on your rack and there are none left in the draw bag, but you're currently losing the game, you still might have a chance to win if you play your cards (er… tiles) right. No matter if you're playing a casual game at home with a friend or competing against diehards in club or tournament games, the scoring process at the end provides the same results.
The normal Scrabble rules state that "When the game ends, each player's score is reduced by the sum of his or her unplayed letters. In addition, if a player has used all of his or her letters, the sum of the other players' unplayed letters is added to that player's score." This is the rule stated in the box of all Scrabble board games, and also applies to gameplay using EA's Scrabble app on Facebook and mobile devices.
But it's only like that because there could be anywhere from 2 to 4 players in a game. In club and tournament games, there's only 2 players, so the process can be a little simpler. Instead of adding to one player's score and deducting from the other, the player who goes out simply gets double the value of whatever is left on the other player's rack. So, no matter if you're in a two-player game at home with a friend or playing competitively, the final adjustment of the scores gives the same spread difference.
Let's say Player A goes out and Player B has 5 points left on their rack. In a casual game, you would subtract 5 points from Player B's total score, and add it to Player A's total score. In a tournament, you would just add 5 times 2 to Player A's score, which equals out to the same spread of 10 points.
It's very important to consider the final score adjustment when playing your last move, especially if you're losing. I've had my share of games where I was losing, but ended up winning by just a single point due to playing just the right move and adjusting the score appropriately. To do this perfectly, you need to track the tile usage so you know what's left on your opponent's rack. In casual play, most considered this cheating, but in club and tournament games, it's routine. You're even allowed a letter distribution list by your side.
In the Scrabble game below, you're Player A… and you're currently losing 381 to 395. You have the letters EN left on your rack. Taking in account the leftover tiles on your opponent's rack, make the best possible play to win the game after the final score adjustment.
Click on the image to enlarge, if necessary.
This puzzle was made using Quackle, a valuable Scrabble program for playing and learning!
SPOILER ALERT: Comments below may reveal answers.
And here's the answer for last week's Scrabble Challenge #8:
Q: Using the letters QFDLATS, find the highest scoring play on both the Scrabble board and Words with Friends board.
A: In Scrabble, the highest scoring move is QATS played vertically parallel to AERIE, also making QI and AE, for a total of 41 points. In Words with Friends, even though the Q is tempting, it's not as helpful here. Instead you would play either FADS or FLAT in nearly the same place, reaching down to the TWS square. The F would go next to the E, also spelling FE for a total of 61 points.