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SCRABBLE is Frank Lee to me.

Frank, Connie, Bob & Willie

If you have been a scrabble player and played the mid-west scrabble circuit, you have to have crossed paths with Frank Lee. I sadly report that Frank passed away this week.

I just don’t remember when I first met Frank. It seems like I always knew him. But it must have been well into my years of turmoil, when scrabble offered me a sanctuary for a little time, one game’s worth of time at a time. The place was most like at the regularly scheduled scrabble tournament in Lansing, Michigan. I was the new kid on the scrabble block; Frank was already a veteran. Frank shared his wisdom freely, usually in the from of a pun or a proverb that would be remembered and recalled. Frank commanded a presence in the room; most people, when entering the tournament room, gravitated to Frank to share a “hello”. The competition was fierce, the competitors were unforgiving during the heat of battle. But when the last tile was turned, after the winners were declared, there was always an after-gl party at a local pub where countless mugs were hoisted and words were spelled.

I got to know Frank a little better, up close and personal, when he attended my tournament, The Open Seas Championship on the Carnivale, out of Fort Lauderdale (February 1990). I recall that I was sea sick the entire cruise, lying in bed with cold washclothes on my forehead. Frank help by administering most of the competition.

Frank was never boastful, but was clearly a man of words. Frnak was a write, a thinker, a philosopher, and possessed a wonderful sense of humor.

Frank was already on crutches when I first met him; but that didn’t stop him from doing most things. He was a champion for the rights of people with diabilities. We never traveled together to tournaments, but we shared time in Cleves, Ohio, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, and at several NSA nationals, and countless other cities.

When Frank got together with Connie (early 90″s) He lived in Lansing while Connie lived in Cincy. I enthusiastically helped them to find a dwelling mid-way, in Southfield, Michigan, in my general neighborhood.

When my location changed in 1995, moving to Southern California, the distance and circumstance of 2400 miles kept us from sharing times at tournament. I did follow Frank’s results when posted on cross-tables. I never have or never will lose that feeling of connection, like family in my heart.

Bingo On, Good Friend

SCRABBLE: Using Songs To Prompt Memory

I meet a whole lot of people who tell me that they just cannot memorize all those silly scrabble words. These same people have memorized the phone numbers of family members and close friends. They still remember how to read, even though they learned that skill many years ago. They are all looking for some magic pill to enhance their personal memory.

How about using song as a memory aid? It’s been done in the past. Remember when we learned the A, B, C’s song?

Well, how about a song that would help you learn all those words with ‘Q’ which do not require a ‘U’? Would that be helpful?

Scrabble friend, Margie Gordon, found a gem on Utube this morning. She shared the link with me and I am passing it along to ‘U’. Just click below.

Click Here!

SCRABBLE: Unusual Game Ends After 4 Moves

It happend in Los Angeles, at Alan Stern’s club, at Plummer Park, on Wednesday, September 5.

It was a game between Bruno Aghedah and Bruce D’Ambrosio. The game ended with a score of 40 to 30.

How does that happen you ask? First, you have to know the official rules of the game. Do you know the rule which states ” If and when there are 6 consecutive plays of 0 (zero) points, the game is over.

Play #1: Bruce opened the game by playing ‘AHI’; Play #2: Bruno plays ‘GID’, hooking to ‘AHI’.
Play #3: Buce played ‘ZA’ over ‘AHI’. Play #4: Bruno play the ‘O’ hooking ‘ZA’ and ‘ID’.

At this point neither player had an ‘S’ or ‘BLANK’ on there racks. A series of 6 exchanges of tiles took place with neither player able to draw a tile to extend the words. The game was over. Bruno won 40 to 30.

This not the first time this circumstance has occurred. It even happened at the National Scrabble Championship game several years ago between two ‘Expert’ players. The word played were different but the result was a very quick game.

SCRABBLE: Sometimes Miracles Happen

99+% of the scrabble players across the globe play simply for the fun of the game and to pass the time away.

The other 1% have something as deadly as The West Nile Virus. They are infected with a bug that turns the ‘game’ of scrabble into more of an obsession. These people play scrabble to the extent that it interferes with their work, their relationships, and their health.

Within the 1%, 99% of these players are the highly competitive types who you will find in every sport. They invest much of there free time memorizing 8-Letter-Word which contain 5-Vowels, unscrambling 7 random tiles in search of bingo, looking for anagrams of bingo words, and much more.

Then there is the 1% of the 1%. These guys and gals are the Bobby Fishers of Scrabble, they are the Michael Phelps of Bingos, they are the Aly Raisman of Hooks. Here are some names of note in the Scrabble world. They do not receive a fraction of the notariety of the best of the best in other endeavors. You can find out more about these players. Just click HERE.

Nigel Richards

Rank Rating Name
1 2168 Nigel Richards
2 2092 David Gibson
3 2060 Adam Logan
3 2060 Dave Wiegand
5 2058 Jesse Day
6 2054 Robin Pollock Daniel
7 2030 Conrad Bassett-Bouchard
8 2029 Brian Cappelletto
9 2023 Kenji Matsumoto
10 2016 Rafi Stern
11 2011 James Leong
12 2004 Chris Cree
13 2002 Komol Panyasophonlert
13 2002 Jim Kramer
15 1999 Will Anderson
16 1998 Stefan Rau
16 1998 Doug Brockmeier
18 1982 Scott Appel
19 1975 Ron Tiekert
20 1961 Ian Weinstein
20 1961 Jerry Lerman

The highest ranking I’ve ever achieved was ’1766′ in 1996. I can tell you that I spent endless hours reading scrabble’s official word list and following the study patterns of the scrabble champs. My goal was to reach 1800. After 1766 my next two tournaments had me ranked first in my division and I didn’t play well. My rating number sank like an anchor. I never recovered and went back to playing more than studying. The only way to win consistently at the competitive level is to exercise your brain and build your memory with study,

Even thought I do not find myself at part of the 1% of the 1%, I find great pleasure in competing. Every once in a while the tile gods smile upon me and I all the star align themselves. Last Wednesday for instance when I played ‘speckled’, through the ‘p’, for a triple-triple, and scored 221 point on that play. That is my best play in the last 25 years. Last March in a game that was going my way I scored ’611′ in a single game. My highest game in my career was a ’647′. 600+ is rare.

Most people who seek out clubs for some competition are unaware of the level of play that exists in most clubs. Most people stay for one session and never come back. However, I will guarantee the newbie who rarely plays a bingo that they will be playing bingos after a couple months of learning the basics and attending club regularly.

Club directors are capable and willing to teach newbies the trick that casual players rarely know. Start playing at your local club and miracles will occur for you too.

SCRABBLE: What Brought You To Competitive Scrabble?

I’ll tell you my story. Then you send me your story at:

When I say ‘competitive scrabble player’ I mean those individuals who participate in scrabble clubs which embrace the sanctioned rules and word lists. All other scrabble players, regardless of their scrabble prowess, are considered to be ‘casual players’.

For most of my life I was a ‘casual player’. As I recall, my family enjoyed a ‘game night’ at home around the dining room table. I think that was the first place I ever played scrabble, about the same year that Eisenhower was inaugurated. We never missed a game night. It was a special time when the whole family set aside other activities and came together.

We played ‘Gin Rummy’, ‘Monopoly’, and “Chutes & Ladders’. We were competitive in regard to winning. I remember that I always wanted to WIN. I also remember losing and the lessons about losing graciously. When we played ‘Scrabble’ there was no ’2-Letter-Word-List’. We simply played the familiar words that were a part of everyday conversation. When someone did not recognize a word played, there was a challenge and someone pulled out the Webster’s for confirmation or rejection. Scrabble influence me to focus in school regarding spelling.

On lazy, rainy summer days during summer vacations we sometimes played scrabble to while away the hours. Scrabble competed with ‘Parcheesi’, ‘Casino’, and ‘Canasta’.

And that how it was. Scrabble was a sometimes thing to do on family vacations or when family came for a stay. When I played with virgin players I became bored because the game moved too slowly. At times a single game could last an entire day; they didn’t use time clocks, not even three minute sand timers.

Skipping 15 years or so I was a public school teacher at Francis Scott Key Elementary School, in Oak Park, Michigan. I taught the 5th Grade and one of my favorite subject to tech was spelling. Things became extra exciting every year before the Spelling Bee. Students did there best to learn to spell long lists of words in hopes of becoming the Champion at their school, in the District, in the City, or maybe even be invited to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

Teaching was fun and challenging. When lunch time came around, teachers would gather in the teachers’ lounge to each and interact. There was usually about 15 minutes left after everyone finish their meals. One day I brought a scrabble board. Without any encouragement on my part the staff gravitated to the scrabble board. After that there was always a game in progress; save mid way and completed the next day.

When I moved on from public school to founding a private pre-school, and having my own family, scrabble slipped into the background and was forgotten. It wasn’t until 1976 when I expanded my school to include grades 1 – 8 that scrabble returned to the scene. Scrabble was used in school as a fun learning tool and most children loved that. I learned about another private school in the area that used scrabble and we held a school competition. What fun!

Just like many, my life hit a major bump in the road in 1981. During the next few years I set about recovering and reinventing myself. I was single again. There were good time and there were difficult days and long nights. At one point I thought I had found my calling as a motivational speaker and group leader.

But life is always serving up new opportunities and surprises. It was one of my lonely time in 1986. I was looking at a list of Activities For Singles printed in The Southfield Eccentric. One of the listings was for a scrabble meeting. That was for me. I couldn’t wait for Saturday to arrive. It was February in Detroit, Michigan. A winter storm had just blown over the previous night leaving 8 inches of snow on the ground. Before I could attend a scrabble event I had to unbury my car and see if I could even get it to the road. Nothing was going to stop me. I scraped the ice off the window of the car, shovel a path behind the car to the driveway, and pulled the car out to the road. The GOOD NEWS was the roads were clear and salted. The BAD NEWS might be that the event would be called off due to the weather.

I drove 20+ mile at a snail’s pace. I was lucky to have had plenty of washer fluid in the window washes. Slush sprayed onto my windows by passing cars. I finally arrived at The Presidential Inn in Lincoln Park, Michigan. The parking lot had been cleared; all the snow had been pushed to the West end, creating a 15 foot high snowbank. Now I became nervous.

National Scrabble Tournament

I walked into the lobby of the Inn. I shook off and stamped the sleet from my boots. I noticed a sign point directions toward the scrabble even. I walk to the room and war warmly greeted before I took my coat off. (I have always attempted to make newcomers feel as welcome as I did on that day.) I was bombarded with questions by the greeters about my experience playing scrabble. They listened with interest at first and then offered to show me how scrabble is played at clubs. Other than using the same board and tiles, the two experiences are very, very different. As were walked into the room, passing games in progress, always 1:1, I snuck a peek at the words played on the boards. ‘ngwee’, ‘magnetic’, ‘kvas’. I thought I saw the word ‘zebra’ but I took a second look and it was ‘zebrass’.

I asked if they were playing in English. They snickered. They assured me that their word list was english and showed me their dictionary. They reminded me that there were 150,000+ words in the dictionary and that most people on the street use only about 5% of those words to communicate. I wanted to know more.

Then they told me that this was not a singles activity. The editor at the newspaper place the article in the wrong section. This event going on was a qualifying event to select local players to go on to the National Scrabble Tournament.

So these folks playing all these strange, unfamiliar words, were amount the best players from a 500 mile radius. Now I didn’t feel quite as stupid.

I was invited to stay and watch, which I did. At noon when they broke for lunch I was invited to eat with them. The table talk was about this play and that play that had occurred during the morning competition. Several of the players invited me to a local club in Livonia, Michigan that played on Tuesday evenings. I accept.

And that’s how it all began for me. I didn’t win my first game at club for nearly 6 months. In every game I learn several new words. They taught me about stems and 2′s and bingos, and hooks. I learned how to use the time clock, track tiles, and read the rules.

What’s your story?

SCRABBLE: Weaved Into Our Life

Khim Clarke Teoh

I just receive a delightful contact from a scrabble player who formerly played at The 1st Sunday Tournaments, which I directed. Some of you who played in those tournaments may well remember Khim Clark, now Khim Teoh. Khim was a newbie to competitive scrabble sceen, who already had a good handle on the game. In her first two tournaments, Khim had 3 wins, very respectable. Khim shocked the other player at those tournaments because seasoned player often wrongly assume that newbies lack word power and skills.

I was pleased to receive Khim’s note, but better yet, Khim gave a gift to all of us in the form of a wonderful blog about scrabble in her life.

Every scrabble player who ever played in a competition, and others, will enjoy this:

” Just for the Spell of It

Mom is a thug on WWF—not World Wrestling Federation but a sport that is much more intimidating than that…Word With Friends. WWF is a wildly popular word game application on Droid and iPhone/iPad that resembles the iconic international board game Scrabble. She has beaten me three games in a row and I can picture the victory chant on the other end of town—mom sprawled out on her lazy suede couch with her +2.00 reading glasses that she bought at the ninety-nine cents store. I can envision her snickering while uttering, “Hah! I caught her with her pants down. She’s stuck with the power Z-tile that she didn’t get a chance to use”. It’s two am and I am lying in bed answering mom’s telepathic remarks, “Aiya, Ma, I had it all planned out to put the word ZENITH with my Z on a Triple Letter Score and go out with a Bang!” We used the expression Aiya instead of Gosh to remind ourselves that we are Chinese at the core. I should have known better who my opponent was. It is always a bloodbath when it comes to this game. “You never even give me a chance to play my word, keeping the board so tight. Did you forget that I am your daughter?” I turned off my iPad and go to bed, deflated. Victory eludes me. This is a typical night in Irvine for me—playing WWF with Mom is the ultimate relaxation and quality time as I am now a grown woman in my early thirties burdened with adult responsibilities.

We grew up in Malaysia, poor but not deprived. In her early thirties, Mom was the breadwinner raising us three rascals since Dad left when I was seven years old. She earned a meager teacher salary but always used innovative ways to stretch her dollars so that we never missed a meal. Ration is the key word when it comes to food in our household. We fought viciously when the dishes were served because it was a survival of the fittest mentality at the dinner table. Last person to attack the fish got the eyeballs and the crunchy tail. Tough luck. Just add soy sauce to stretch the white rice. Last person to scoop the rice from the rice cooker, had to wash all the community dishes, no ifs and buts. Mom was a very no nonsense kind of person. “Deal with it, life’s tough and it’s no use complaining”, she often told us in that stern teacher voice combined with that look of shame that always worked effectively. Mom taught Home Economics and she definitely applied it on us. Our ancestors would flip in their graves if we ever threw a grain of rice away!

Mom never bought any toys because we couldn’t eat toys and we needed to eat. After eating and other basic necessities, we were left with pretty much fresh air, sunshine and a mother’s undying love. It is this mother’s undying love that was constantly executing ingenious ideas such as dropping us off at the public library as a safe babysitting venue while she ran her errands. I always viewed the public library as a portal to magical places and eras as I launched myself through the pages of books. Mom ensured that the three of us learned English well even though it is taught only as a second language in the Malaysian school system. I remember her exact words, “If you master the white man’s language, perhaps you all can go to university on a scholarship”. Her teacher bone fueled this goal by cajoling us to read voraciously. I grasped the world around me lexically, my hunger for words were insatiable. I would read ingredients on a shampoo bottle label when there was nothing else around me to read.

The only “toy” we had in our humble abode was a tattered Hasbro Scrabble Board game—it became our family’s main form of entertainment. I was the youngest after my two siblings—we were all three years apart in age. That didn’t deter me from being highly competitive in this game or fearing them one bit. Mom trained us to scour the board for the best spot that would score the highest points given our seven tiles. “Why are you so stupid ah? You opened the Triple Word Score for your brother when you could have played somewhere else and score the same points. Aiya, next time look carefully before you place your word”, Mom would exclaim with gusto. Just like the dinner table, I learned early on that it was survival of the fittest when it came to playing this game. Score, score, score to the very end. Show no mercy. Our games would get tumultuous at times. Loser had to do undesirable tasks such as kill cockroaches, centipedes and other uninvited guests that were constantly swarming our dinky, worn terrace home. That was motivation enough for us to persistently up our game by being obsessed with words and perusing the Merriam-Webster dictionary to grow our vocabulary.

Years would pass. Our cumulative academic accomplishments were attributed to Mom’s tenacious efforts of always being an advocate for our education. The epitome of her arduous journey was leading us all to America, the promised land for a university education. Through our pursuit for a better life, Scrabble remained constant and a bonding activity in our family. Even after we had all graduated and obtained dignified careers, we still got together once a week at Mom’s house for dinner and an invigorating game of Scrabble.

This obsession led me to join the National Scrabble Association and when I first learned about the US OPEN Scrabble Tournament, I was captivated. Hmm…Only in my wildest dreams have I ever imagined myself competing in any US OPEN tournament. This dangerous thought led me to the local Scrabble Club held at the Leisure World Retirement community to get my ranking in order to qualify for the 2006 US OPEN Scrabble Championship. Having never competed in any Scrabble tournament, I was a little anxious.

As I walked into the Leisure World community clubhouse, I noticed that most of the members were at least twice my age, over half a century old. Did I not fit the Scrabble club demographics? Apparently, being a geek in school and a Scrabble enthusiast wasn’t enough! I had a sudden panic attack that maybe all the members here with their salt and pepper hairs (mostly salt if there was any hair left), serious bifocals and embedded wisdom lines on their foreheads were going to devour me alive in the game. Nevertheless, I walked in and introduced myself to the Scrabble director, Gary. I confessed that I was a virgin contestant to an official Scrabble tournament. He gave me a quick rundown on the rules and said gently, “Don’t worry, it’s a friendly tournament”.

We were assigned our opponents. I sat across from a heavy-set elderly gentleman in brown Dockers and faded floral shirt that almost matched the curtains on the window named Mr. Richard Johnson. We shook hands and he proceeded to unzip a Zildjian cymbal bag. He then pulled out a custom handmade Scrabble board that sat on a mahogany lazy Susan platform with his initials RJ engraved onto it. “This is the most beautiful Scrabble board I have ever seen, Mr. Johnson,” I gasped. He looked pleased, “You can call me Dick. There is a meticulous Amish carpenter that makes these custom boards. You will need one for the Championship”. We were off to a good start—a little flattery goes a long way. He whipped out his tile bag and it was a dainty red silk embroidered pouch. Dick got his bling on with all his Scrabble paraphernalia! Who knew he could be such a pimp Scrabble daddy. I was envious. He set up a special timer clock next to us and proceeded to arrange all one hundred tiles on the board to verify the count of the tiles.

There was a rhythm to the tournament rituals. The tiles all went back into the bag and Dick shook it vigorously. We each took a letter to see who would go first. An “E” versus my “G” led to Dick starting the game. We were given a special score sheet to log our scores and track the tiles that were played. After each play, we would announce the score and start the time on our opponent’s clock. I didn’t realize there was so much formality to this game. My fascination and reverence for the game grew. Dick and I were halfway through our game when it was my turn. I was stumped. I looked hopelessly at my tiles. Six difficult consonants (Y,C,V,G,M,B) and the pathetic vowel “U” stared right back at me. I was deep in concentration when Dick suddenly asked, “Can I look at your rack?” He was staring sternly down my low cut V-neck shirt that I wore over a Victoria Secret miraculous push up bra—I became a little self-conscious.

“Don’t worry the first round is just warm up, I can help you out since you are new to the tournament scene. Show me your rack”, he pointed to where my tiles were. “Oh, sure”, I turned my tile rack to him, a little embarrassed that I had misunderstood his intentions. I always thought that it was called a tile seat because it looked like a miniature bench for the tiles. “Hmm, you’ve got a nice rack. Just a little Consonitis. Look sweetheart, you can be a hooker and just hug these vowels right here”, Dick said endearingly as he pointed for me to lay the word GYM to hook below the word ABA to form two-letter words AG, BY and AM which scored me a juicy thirty two points. Brilliant! Mr. Dick Johnson, a respectable senior citizen just called me a hooker with a nice rack inflicted with Consonitis, which was revealed to me as a Scrabble disease when you have too many consonants. The opposite of Consonitis is Vowelitis. Who said there wasn’t sitting on the edge kind of excitement in the game of Scrabble?

The tournament concluded and I faired modestly against three other opponents. I had three Bingos which were seven letters used in a play to score an extra fifty bonus points. I also managed to stay within the allotted twenty-five minute play time as any additional time used resulted in points deduction. I applied a combination of keeping the board tight like a virgin, being a ferocious hooker and keeping my rack well balanced in hopes for a Bingo. Juggling consonants and vowels is trickier than you would think. I also learned that there were ninety-six two-letter hook words that were essential to memorize. The key thing about competitive Scrabble is to know that these words exists, knowledge of the definitions are not necessary. More importantly, I embraced the etiquette and challenges of a formal Scrabble tournament. After three local tournaments, I earned a national ranking, which qualified me to compete in the 2006 US OPEN Scrabble Championship held at the famous historical Arizona Biltmore hotel.

After two months of soldiering through strategy books and memorizing word lists, I was ready to battle the ultimate Word War. Arriving at the dazzling Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design hotel at noon first week of August was like a surreal pilgrimage to the sun. This jewel of the desert property sprawled out in all its glory with the barren mountains surrounding it. It was the perfect venue to pay homage to a sixty-year old board game that has weathered the test of time. Its popularity has resulted in over one hundred million sets sold worldwide. At a hundred and five degrees Fahrenheit, it felt like the Scrabble God was saying to me “You will succumb to my greatness or vanish into ashes!” I checked into a fabulous villa suite with my better half—we decided to splurge on the upgraded suite since this would be our long over due honeymoon vacation. Besides, I needed the vaulted ceilings in the suites to help me contain the possible 120,000 words to be used as scoring arsenal in the tournament. My notion of being romantic is providing cheer and moral support while I contend in this national championship comprising of over six hundred competitors in six divisions. I was to compete in Division Six, the lowest of all divisions. My expectation was just to come out of it alive amongst the other blood sucking Scrabble vampires.

We reported at the grand ballroom where the four-day tournaments were to be held. The participants were of all ages, shapes and sizes. I couldn’t help however but notice that their physical attributes fitted into three very distinct groups. The first of course is the older and wiser demographics—safe to assume that they were all collecting their social security benefits and this was possibly their one big vacation of the year. The second is the younger participants that wore a permanent “I’m a scary brainiac with a computer chip implanted in my head so you better watch out” piercing stares wearing their thick glasses and sporting nerdy mismatched fashion. The third group looked like regular upstanding middle-aged citizens that definitely had the proper educators’ vibe.

I found myself, a comparatively young Asian SoCal entrepreneur with her baby doll dress, Paris Hilton’s bug eyed sunglasses and gladiator sandals a little out of place in this scene. Maybe, I should have packed some “churchy” clothes, I thought to myself. Too late, can’t be worried about superficial outward appearance although I got the feeling that some opponents were sizing me up and thinking that I am an easy beat. It never occurred to me that looking trendy would make me a minority in any group. Note to self—Fashion and Scrabble don’t go together. Oh well, at least I scored some cool swags from our sponsor, Hasbro like a US OPEN Scrabble Championship t-shirt and tote bag to flaunt about when I return home to planet Earth.

Day One of Tournament—I entered the grandiose ballroom with hundreds of other contestants who systematically found their designated spots and sat face to face with our assigned opponents. It was a sight to behold. There were three hundred Scrabble Deluxe boards, official SamTimers and score sheets set up on rows of tables, glitzy chandeliers above us and much excitement in the air as the players prepared for their first game. We were thick in the Scrabble war zone with one gargantuan Scrabble board on stage that spelled out “WELCOME TO THE 2006 US OPEN NATIONAL SCRABBLE CHAMPIONSHIP”. I was thrilled to be a part of this underground Scrabble cult.

Our tourney commenced and the intensity of these hard core Scrabblers were off the charts. You could hear tile bags clacking intensely, and players nervously shuffling their tiles on the racks like Mahjong tiles in hopes that words will magically form. The mechanical sounds of the timer button after every play mixed with sighs of frustrations by players who have constipated plays also added to the dissonance. Amidst the razor sharp concentration of the players, you could hear every cough, sneeze or clearing of the throat in this magnificent ballroom. If only Alfred Mosher Butts, the creator of this clever crossword game were present to witness the length of suffering that these avid Scrabble players put themselves through, he may just chuckle with delight.

Every now and then a player would raise their hand and yell out “Challenge” to announce that they would like to challenge their opponent’s play. The two would then go up to the challenge station and type the word into a computer database. If the word does not exist, the player would lose an opportunity to score any points on that turn. I took a risk on a Bingo word “Rationer” and was sent to the imaginary hall of shame in my mind when it was challenged and denied. I wasn’t trying to play a phony word—I was convinced that Mom was a Rationer (one who rations) of food when we were growing up.

Khim (today)

We played seven games a day for four days. With a winning stride of luck and skill, I had moved up to the front of the row in my Division by Day Three. By this time, my brain cells had also evaporated from the intense desert heat and mental exhaustion. I was a delicious buffet for the sharks that were just waiting for fresh blood at this tournament. Defeat was a bitter pill to swallow but I held my head up high and with the sportsmanship spirit persevered this intellectual marathon to the very end. On the last day, I felt like I overdosed on Scrabble. I woke up in cold sweat from nightmares that I had a Bingo word on every turn with no place to lay them on the board and had to settle for pathetic scoring plays.

Overall, I won fourteen games and lost fourteen games. For a sport that was covered by the ESPN, I consider my participation in this momentous event a huge personal victory. I didn’t go home with the twenty five thousand cash prize but I went home with the invaluable experience that this Scrabble journey had bestowed upon me. It made me reflect on how Mom’s influence on cultivating a never-ending passion for knowledge heavily influenced who I have become. Similar to the game of Scrabble, life is about equipping oneself with the necessary skills, studying the outcome of our possible moves and taking calculated risks in order to have a higher payoff when the time is right. If you asked what possessed me to compete in the US OPEN SCRABBLE CHAMPIONSHIP? I would simply answer…Just for the Spell of it!

Khim’s Blog Address:

Scrabble: War Story from the 2012 Nationals

Paul Rickhoff

Paul Rickhoff is from Southern California and has played many times at my local tournaments. For the past few years Paul has competed in the annual National Scrabble Tournament. Paul is a great guy and great competitor. With a rating of ’896′ Paul is playing in Division 4. Paul is also a great story teller and shares the blog below with us, enabling us to enjoy a taste of the competition going on in Orlando, Florida this week. The last 3 games will be played on Wednesday morning, August 15. Paul stands in 7th place.

“The end of day 4 at the Nationals

What an amazing day. I am dead tired as I write this, but still I enjoy writing this blog. Everyone was dead tired today (I think).

I played at table number 1 several times today, and I am getting a bit sick of it. It’s an honor of course, but it’s way too much pressure. And I am playing people who are far better than me. Still, I don’t know how, but have beaten some of the top players. They are good. I beat Sam twice. He was in first for awhile. I beat Bruno tonight. How did I beat Bruno. He is far better than me. We were both so tired. And yet, the game was hot. I was tired, but the board was not tired. Bruno and I both had 400 scores.

I had to apologize to Bruno after the game. I hooked an L onto ENDINGS to make LENDINGS. Earlier at lunch, it was mentioned that LOANINGS was good. So, I figured LENDINGS might be good. I figured 50 / 50 chance. It was only about 25 points, not so very much, so perhaps that is why Bruno did not risk a challenge. I don’t know. The game was so close. I really don’t like playing phonies. I would rather learn the correct spelling. I will eventually.

I have done well, so far at this tournament. But I always tell myself that it’s not the wins that count, it’s the game. You have to enjoy the game. Win/lose….Well, if you are worried about winning or losing, it will drive you crazy. It almost drives me crazy. I have to make a very conscience effort to “reset”.



Sam is probably 13, and quite the player. Certainly better than me. Early in the game, I am hanging in there. I am not sure how, but I am. And then Sam does an odd thing. He hooks an “I” onto KAT to make IKAT. I don’t know the word. No matter. He played the “I” playing OIS. I wasn’t watching closely. I almost missed it. Sam’s hand was in the bag. I said “hold”. He had not drawn his letters yet. We both agreed the hold was valid. Of course OIS in not good. Sam lost a turn. Later I had nice play. I had a couple bingo possibilities, and I decided to play SEDATER. It seemed like a defensive play. I knew that SEDATER was an adjective and does not take and “S”. To my amazement, on the next turn, Sam bingos with TERBIAS, hooking the S onto SEDATER to make SEDATERS. I knew TERBIAS was good. I challenged both words. Sam was a bit dumb founded. When the computer screen came up, “not acceptable”. He just stared. I said, “double check it”. The screen went blank, and he still looked dismayed. I said, “you can type it in again if you like”. He did. Same message. So, that hurt Sam’s game a bit.

But, Sam is an incredible player. There’s like one little lousy opening on the board. Sam had awful letters, but he managed a bingo. He’s amazing. He’s right back in the game with with me again.

But it gets crazier. Toward the end, somehow, the score is a bit close. But, I don’t really feel that I can be comfortable at all as far as a win. Now, Sam does an odd thing. He plays an “I” making “AI”. Apparently, he is opening a line (bingo line) with AIT or AIN or AIS. But, it’s an opening for me too. I don’t have the letters to use it. But, I do something just crazy. I play W and E and R to make WERE at the top of the board for like 7 points. It opens a second bingo line, if I would have a word with an ER ending perhaps. I have a blank, but it still seems like such a long shot. But, for some reason I did it. I actually put WERE down on the board, then pulled it back, then almost in exhausted frustration, I put it down again and hit the clock. So, what do I pull from the bag!!! Yep, I pull a V and a U. I think to myself, so much for a bingo! But, then I think, what would Kevin say. Kevin would say, “You always have to look”. It’s hopeless, but I look. Oh my. I have VENTURES through that E that I opened and who knows. Maybe Sam will not block. Well, Sam being actually pretty brilliant, plays ZINE through the triple line for like 50 points. Wow. But, it’s not a block. I play my VENTURES, for like 80 points.

But, wait…. It gets even crazier

After my bingo play, I draw but perhaps my brain is dead. I pull 5 letters. I am sitting there and I realize I have only 5 letters on my rack. I look at Sam, and he has his letters in his hand. He has drawn (but not mixed). I say, “wait, don’t do anything…” I stop the clock. I explain my underdraw. Sam says, “This happened to me earlier… just take your two letters from the bag”. Now I really don’t want to cheat this kid. I would not be happy to know that I cheated this 13 year old kid. I say, “perhaps we should call a director”. Sam says, “well, if you want”. The director comes over. She says, “no problem, just draw the two tiles”. Now, at this point, perhaps I become a bit too moral. But, I really don’t want to cheat this kid. I say to the director, “there are less than seven letters in the bag”. She says, “there is no rule related to that”. But, then she says, “But, I will look in the rule book”.

She finds that there is a rule! She starts to read, “…. 50 point penalty”. I am not joking. And I am pretty sure the penalty is against me, because the underdraw is my mistake. I am starting to turn a little pale. The director says, “wait, let me read it all”. So, she does. It’s complicated. I am not sure that I understood it exactly. But, she counted the tiles in the bag, and then counted the tiles in Sam’s hand (she had Sam place them face down on the table). The sum of the tiles was 7. So, she said, since the bag had seven before Sam’s draw, there was no penalty. But, I gather that if the sum had been 6 tiles or less, my penalty would have been 50 points.

Well, the game was still not over, not yet. And Sam does not give up easy. I keep my cool, more or less. I have a rack of all consonants. So, I am still in trouble. But, I found a sweet little spot for my M and N, playing NIM for about 12 points. Sam goes out first, but I don’t have so very much left on my rack. I win by 9 points. Both scores in the 400′s. I am so tired, I just about fall off my chair!”

Paul Rickhoff

SCRABBLE: Making A Difference NOW!

Me at ’40′

So many words; so little time.

Scrabble in my life is a constant reminder that in order to make a difference, one has to take an action doing, learning, striving. It’s about using time wisely.

Speaking about time, on August 20th I’ll turn 70 years young. I remember being a kid and thinking that ’50′ was ancient. These days I am a bit confused, I’m turning 70 yet not feeling like a dinosaur at all.

Remember being a young child, having a birthday party, being the center of attention for the day, and receiving all those presents? Remember the joy and excitement you felt ripping the wrappings of your gifts to see what you’d received? It was glorious.

These days, receiving those kinds of gifts on a birthday is sometimes embarrassing. By 70 most people have everything they need. A call, a note, or a card is well received at my age.

With that said, this year I do have a Birthday Wish. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of others on this landmark birthday and I’d like to ask that you consider helping me.

Click on ‘MY BIRTHDAY WISH’ to see what I have in mind.

Me now.

Thank you for reading my blogs over the years. I’ll do my best to keep them coming.


SCRABBLE: And The Winner Is . . . .

Stop Crying! You Are The Best

Isn’t it true that we are all indoctrinated with the inference that it is the ultimate best to be the WINNER? Winners get medals; winners get parades; the winner gets the girl/guy.

Especially at times like this, during the Olympics, it is so evident, when the World Gymnastics Champion is seen crying on the sideline, feeling like a loser, because she didn’t qualify for the all around competition. Holy Moly! She’s the best in the whole world.

Sure, becoming the best is something that which drives some to push themselves, but come on, isn’t there a limit?

Many of the ultimate winners, those who get to the very top in their personal arena, having no more to achieve, nothing more to prove. They suffer terribly after their moments of glory: Depressions, failures, suicides, alcoholism, drugs.

Some who are successful, and earn our admiration, go on to develop youth organizations to help kids brake the barriers of the ghetto, like Gerry Sandusky.

Some who have contributed so much to sports and community, suffer so badly from their broken tortured bodies that they commit suicide, like Junior Seau.

Some politicians, aspiring to become president, are so self-righteous, that they ignore simple, commonsense, diplomacy standards and protocol, comparing cultures openly, in a fashion that is totally offensive to all people marching to some other drummers.

My gun is bigger than your gun.

I for one was so brainwashed that ‘winning matters’ that I have a difficult time even trying to figure out some healthier alternative. Personally, I find that I like more ‘non-winners’ than many ‘winners’.

Oh yeh, isn’t WINNING and imposing our will usually the reason for all those WARS which we say we don’t like?

SCRABBLE: Something’s Missing

It occurred to me last night as I watched the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. More than 200 different countries were represented by hundreds of athletes and they all spoke the same language: Sport & Competition. Scrabble can never hope to have that and, for a moment, I felt a twinge of disappointment.

One of the wonderful gifts that I’ve received from being a part of the scrabble community is that it has provided me the opportunity expand my circle of acquaintances and friends.

The world continues to shrink due to the opportunities to travel at will and the availability of social networkings and smart phones. For me, scrabble was the activity that opened my door, creating a reason to go out and compete with opponent’s I may have otherwise never met.

Remember a time when most of us had small circles, primarily of family, church, and work. Remember that time when parents didn’t want you to date or play with ‘those people’, because they were ‘different’. Think of all the stereeotypes that we were taught to believe when we were growing up. Think about how ingrained that teaching is and how challenging it was and it still is to unlearn all that prejudice.

The ugly prejudice seemed to be missing from the Olympics. (At least on the surface.) Even political riffs are set aside in the name of sport.

For me, the Olympics showcase an opportunity for the end to all wars. It could all be so simple. Instead of shooting and killing one another, opposing countries could play a game of soccor or delegate their president to race for the finish line. English speaking countries, of course, would settle their differences with scrabble competitions.