Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Scrabbling me softly

I have come to realise that there is no such thing as an innocent sport. Just as there is no such thing as a good loser. When you get down there, you have to play to win. And when you don’t, it’s a miserable feeling. So whether it’s scrabble or cricket, it’s pretty much the same thing.

Recently, I was beaten hollow at card-scrabble (a meaner variant of board scrabble) by the beau — we had just graduated from regular card games and aborted attempts at double player PS2. So, instead of killing and shooting strange looking figures on screen with his controllers, he was doing it to me with words this time. Sigh!

I actually thought that since the forum was words, I wouldn’t have to try too hard. But nothing could be further from the truth. I was doddering along like someone who had just learnt the alphabet, while the beau was making words in every direction and scoring doubles and triples with patterned √©lan. Not just that, he also went on deducting from my already poor score by playing something called the category card, which allows you to punish your opponent for using an S, or an E or something equally inane. Welcome to card scrabble!

It all felt a bit gloomy. At some point, I got so desperate, I even made up words and was suitably caught. Had I totally lost it? So much for thinking I had an equity in words..

Which is when I realised that the one thing scrabble is not about, is vocabulary. It’s about strategy. It’s all about optimizing your consonants, manipulating your vowels, and minding your Qs and Zs.
An extremely erudite poetess friend of mine and I had a chat about it and she said she had the same problem. While she waxed eloquent on the fecundity of spirit and the peripherality of belief, the husband beat her hollow with his judicious scoring.

Because, in any case, seven letters is all you have, as the beau reminded me. So it hardly matters if you can weave in serendipity into a phrase or know exactly what an onomatopoeia is. Or how intelligently can you use the word obliterate (my favourite word, incidentally) in a sentence.

The beau played by the book (as usual) and every time I contested something, he would show me the rules …so what appeared to me as slang words or prefixes or suffixes, were rendered completely legitimate according to the dictionary (much to my annoyance). So there I was, struggling with a vowel too many, wondering how to get rid of so many Is and plotting on the ‘right time’ to use my Z. And just when I did, he piggybacked on it, totaling up to a ridiculous score, laughing all the way to my defeat. The gall!

A few years ago, I joined a scrabble club thinking I’ll have fun with fellow wordsmiths, but was cleaned out in five moves by fellow players who one couldn’t exactly classify as great conversationalists, but who had copious lists of two to seven letter words and knew them by heart. As an act of charity, I was given a list of two and three letter words on my third meet. And before they invited me for their tournament (I am sure they needed me just to get a headcount— I wasn’t going to be a star player anyway), I fled. And never turned back.

But now, I am going to get back like a woman on a mission, and when I do, you’ll read about it on this very page. Until then, QUIZ on to triple word glory.

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