Comments on 2019-02-06 Operation Wifebeater

Have you tried adopting the Nigerian short word defensive style of Scrabble play?

TrevorLDavis. 2019-02-07 22:03 UTC.

Trevor! No I have not, in part because I hadn't heard of it and in part because it seems to require memorizing every five-letter word and shorter in the dictionary. But also, is the Nigerian style a myth?

Ron Hale-Evans. 2019-02-07 23:44 UTC.

Not a Scrabble expert but that article seems to say it was an old and well-known (but still valid) strategy. I do imagine you could do quite better with a boost in Scrabble vocabulary (although I don't think it need be so comprehensive to give you a non-zero win probability versus your wife). If you drip in a list of high-marginal-value Scrabble words (say 5-10 a day) into a space-repetition software of your choice (aggressively suspending "leeches" that fail to click to save on overall review time) I'd imagine with only 2 minutes a day or so of review you might be beating your wife in Scrabble in only a couple of years when combined with a solid Scrabble strategy! Probably up your Crossword game as well...

TrevorLDavis. 2019-02-08 18:48 UTC.

That's not how I read the Slate article. To quote the end of the article,

...the importance of shorter words doesn’t represent some sea change blowing in from across the Atlantic. “In general, passing up bingos to make shorter plays is a thing that happens in Scrabble,” Clinchy says. “But it’s very rare, and the authors [of the Journal article] clearly don’t understand the nuances of when and why it happens.” (Two examples of when skipping a bingo does make sense: You’re holding a blank and can score 40 or more points without burning it; late in a game when bingoing is the only way to give your opponent a spot to play that would allow him to win.)

In other words, the winning strategy is to play short words when it's appropriate to play short words and long words when it's appropriate to play long words. Well, who can't agree with that?

Ron Hale-Evans. 2019-02-09 00:40 UTC.

I got from both articles that the Nigerians focus on "defense" moreso then conventional American players and while that such "defense"-oriented-play may not always be the "optimal" strategy such a focus seems good enough to win them some games as "scrappy underdogs" (which you seem to be in the case of Scrabble with your wife). My mental model is college football where teams can find success if they are really good at only small parts of "optimal" play (i.e. Michigan State can win games with a good defense and bad offense, Oklahoma can win games with good offense and bad defense, and Army can win games by just running the ball and not even bother at trying to pass it). I agree that memorizing a bunch of low-frequency words just to be good at a certain game isn't necessarily what I'd want to spend my energy on doing.

TrevorLDavis. 2019-02-09 04:46 UTC.

Well, that's true. I don't really want to spend years grinding at any one game, because there are so many games I like. My late friend John Braley was a Chess master, and could beat almost anyone I knew at any other game that hit the table for most of the time I knew him. He was able to export his Chess strategy to many other games.

I'd like to do something similar, but by playing many games in parallel (see ScoreBoard), rather than just one in a long series. That said, I'm willing to put a certain amount of work into Scrabble specifically, because I play it with Marty. However, my immediate goal is to be on par with her and not to win a world title, so memorizing thousands of words over a period of years with spaced repetition does seem like overkill.

What happens when Michigan State plays Oklahoma?

Ron Hale-Evans. 2019-02-09 06:19 UTC.

Either approach can win but traditionally defense-minded Big Ten teams like Michigan State do comparatively well in the mud/snow (versus sunshine).

TrevorLDavis. 2019-02-09 17:24 UTC.

I suppose in this way, many sports are asymmetrical games like Cosmic Encounter. Every alien power can win, but the outcome depends on which other powers it's facing, and how well the player makes the best of the alien's strong points while minimizing the effect of the alien's weak points.

Ron Hale-Evans. 2019-02-09 21:09 UTC.

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