Dictionary vs Strategy

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Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby yiannis » Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:00 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm curious as to what everyone thinks is more important to win: having the correct strategy (maximizing doubles/triples, keeping the game open/closed, deciding which letters to keep or not, etc), or having the broadest vocabulary?
Of course a top player will have both, but the question is which of the two can take you furthest? Will a good strategist win someone with a better vocabulary who is not as calculating in their moves? Mensans are big on scrabble, but I don't think it's because of their vocabulary.

I think there are ways to separate the two and test them. There are games which focus on words only (hanging, merriam-webster's dictionary quiz, etc), and others which focus on the strategy only (Yushino).

What does the collective intelligence think?

Yiannis
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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby CanadianBacon » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:04 am

IMO, if you are just starting out in tournament scrabble, simply having decent word knowledge will carry you pretty far. As long as you recognize how to score points, and know enough words to score a lot of points, you probably won't have a lot of trouble playing in the bottom division.

One of my rivals in scrabble is rated almost 200 points lower than me. My record against George is eerily close - 10 wins, 10 losses, average score 381-381. Actually that's incorrect since one of the games isn't scored.

But, the point is that I know more words than George - however he always plays super defensive which often limits the words I am able to play. Not that I don't have any strategy, but George's play style often overcomes his lower word knowledge. His first language isn't even English, so he'll often challenge fairly ordinary words, but at the same time play words that I didn't even know.

Edit: I just realized that this topic is a little out of place in the "introduce yourself" forum.
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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby Curran » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:56 am

Really, there isn't enough activity in this forum to warrant having more than a few subforums anyway, not the almost twenty there are, but to the point:

It really depends what level you are at. At any point, you can access what effort of improving either will give the best return on your game. Starting from never having played any scrabble, learning basic defense and S conservation (~10 mins) can give a big boost, the learning the 2's (~30-60min) can give the next biggest boost. This goes back and forth and really should always be at an equilibrium. That said, I think it is common, and probably in this equilibrium of returns, that once someone understands 90% of concepts off all strategies, when to use them etc, they will probably be at a 20% retention of non-common vocabulary.
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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby kev10293 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:11 am

The fundamentals of strategy are more important. A person strong in the fundamentals will do better than a person with a little better word knowledge but terrible strategy.

The minutiae of strategy aren't as important. There are some positions in scrabble which are infinitely more complex than anything you would likely encounter in a game of chess... the difference is that making the right decision isn't as important. A .01% edge doesn't matter much for example.

Word knowledge is more important in my view simply because the fundamentals aren't too difficult to learn, relatively speaking.
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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby yiannis » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:05 pm

On second thought, there is another way to distinguish the two: play online games :geek: Both the iphone version of scrabble and words with friends have a multitude of ways to cheat on finding words. But not on the strategy part I don't think.

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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby snowplow48 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:17 pm

Also, good strategy can mitigate vocabulary limits through better leaves leading to high-probability bingos.
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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby tazy » Sat Jan 18, 2014 2:38 am

George's play style often overcomes his lower word knowledge. His first language isn't even English, so he'll often challenge fairly ordinary words, but at the same time play words that I didn't even know.
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Re: Dictionary vs Strategy

Postby ElevenKids » Sun Oct 11, 2015 11:04 pm

To really be great you need both word knowledge and strategy, because not knowing words (especially hooks!) can make strategies useless.

Good strategies to pay attention to for a minimum are
- Tracking at the end of the game to know what the other player can do, even approximately
- When you're ahead, try to minimize the easy bingo lines. It's not hard to prepare for that.
- Adjust your play for when the board is open or closed. At least pay attention to whether there are a lot of bingo lines etc.
- Try not to keep ridiculous bad combinations of tiles in your rack after you play your word. Consider hoarding an S or a blank or a Z for a turn to get a better score (sometimes I do this way too much)
- Time management, not to be too low on time at the end of the game.

I think I do most of these things naturally. I find it very difficult to learn all the words length 6-8 even. My rating has been 1550-1700 consistently. :geek:
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