The Scrabble Duck is an attempt to make sense of the weird but somehow wonderful world of tournament scrabble from the bemused perspective of a former chess and magic player.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
So last time we left with the cliffhanger of how online ratings actually mean more people should at least consider "cheating" on ISC. My argument is simply this. The most efficient way for many people (myself included) to improve their skill at most games is to play with others who are better than them. Conversely, playing with someone who is significantly worse may also lower your ability. My personal experience has been that when I play scrabble with players more than a hundred or so rating points below whatever level I am at, I quickly pick up bad habits and phonies that if I am not careful will linger and manifest themselves at the worst possible time when playing higher level competition later. A couple caveats before we go on: there are lots of different ways to be bad at scrabble or even mediocre. For instance, I know several players who make poor placement decisions, but know more words than I do (or at least in specialized categories like "threes that do not take an s" or "five letter z words"). There is value to be had with these games, but I still have to be vigilant to pick up the good and leave the bad. Additionally, if a higher rated player decides to "push around" a lower rated player by mixing lots of phonies in with their valid obscure plays then the experience is not going to be very productive either. So what does all this have to do with using aids while playing online? Simply this: playing void games and using aids to inflate one's online rating allows a player access to others who are much better than the "normal" level of competition they would have available. The void feature eliminates the possibility of the stronger opponent filling your mind with bad plays so each new word that enters your brain will be playable when you see it on your rack in a later game. Observing the strategic tendencies of high level players for word placement in real time eventually begins to hard wire "dos and don'ts" into the mind as well. I know countless players who very rarely play against opponents significantly stronger than them despite playing a high number of games both online and off. Unless they increase their studying and memorization they invariably remain stagnant or slowly decrease in ability. Those who use the tactic I have described to obtain games with superior competition have consistently improved their rating and often by leaps and bounds despite doing the same (or even less) traditional studying. It may be debatable whether this decision is morally right or not, but it is not debatable that it gets results.