Friday, November 10, 2006

The amazing story of how a carpenter broke the Scrabble record

Michael Cresta and Wayne Yorra aren't your expert-level Scrabble players. One is a carpenter while the other works at a supermarket deli counter. Cresta only started playing Scrabble competitively until a couple of years ago but in October, he set the highest Scrabble score ever - 830! He and his opponent Yorra, set three new Scrabble records in North America. And here's the amazing story of how they did it. From Slate:
To understand how Cresta and Yorra broke the record, let's take a closer look at the game. (For the full play-by-play, click here.) Yorra opened with JOUSTED, a "bingo"—Scrabble lingo for using all seven tiles, which earns you an extra 50 points—worth 96 points. Cresta then traded in all seven of his tiles in the hope of getting more-playable letters, not an unusual move. Yorra bingoed again, very nicely, with LADYLIKE for 73 points and a 169-0 lead. The first L in LADYLIKE landed between two triple-word-score squares, giving Cresta a shot at Scrabble's holy grail—a "triple-triple," covering two triple-word scores with one word. That's worth nine times the value of the word, plus the 50-point bonus for using all seven letters.

Triple-triples are rare in Scrabble—I've played no more than a dozen in a thousand or more games—because they require a confluence of mathematically improbable events. Cresta's play, FLATFISH, for 239 points, was especially unusual because it contains infrequently occurring letters (two F's and an H) and isn't a common word. Many good players would have missed it. Cresta didn't because he had studied words beginning with F.
I think I should go learn more F words.

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