This board occurred at this year's Easter Warmup tournament.


You are player A with the rack A I I N O S T.

The scores are 397 to you and your opponent has 375.  You have a healthy 22 point lead but…


Your opponent has only 6 tiles on their rack. You know that 3 of them are a J, a blank and an E, but you don’t have time to work out the remaining 3 tiles.

Can you win ?


Remember :

If you think your opponent can play all 6 tiles, you need to block their space or score more than their move will yield (also remembering to add/subtract your unplayed tiles).

If you think your opponent can’t play all 6 tiles, you will have the benefit of 2 moves to their 1 providing you can play 2 moves that outscore their move (and of course you will have the benefit of the +/- of their tiles).

You have a 22 point advantage to start with, so don’t forget to include that in your calculations.

In tournament play, you may not have time to calculate your opponent’s rack, but it should only take 5 minutes to help your decision-making.  


There is one useful, but obscure, word which guarantees a win, but everyday Scrabbler’s vocabulary should see you winning… but how?



Answers / thoughts below




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Firstly if time permits player A should determine the letters in player B’s rack. This should only take a few minutes and are JAREL and a blank.


Secondly assess where the J can be played for a high scoring move.

There are 4 places :

1.        Around the U or L in columns C/D and with the J on a double letter, and the whole word doubling. An example move JURAL would score 40 points, and if player B has a play out, using all 6 letters, will score 42 points (+/- points left on player A’s rack)

2.        JiVE in row 14, this scores 32.

3.         InJERA in column N for 28

4.         JAiLED or JArREd in column N for 58.


Player B’s highest scoring moves  are in column C and column N and cannot both be blocked.

What is player A’s highest scoring move ? The highest, and most obscure is ISATIN/GRIPES(30) and will leave an O.

This will mean player A will go 52 points up, and player B will lose if they play out for 42 points. So player B must play JAiLEd/JArRED for 58. Player B is now 6 points up, and all player A has to do is play the O to win and JO will do admirably.

But ISATIN is very obscure.


What is the next highest scoring move ?

There is another obscure word OSTIA (and GRIPES) for 27 and this will win in a similar manner to ISATIN.


There is an everyday word which scores 27 too. It also blocks player B’s high scoring words of InJERA, JiVe and JAiLED/JArRED. This word is VAIN in row 14. This will put player A 49 ahead.

Player B’s best score is 42 by playing out (7 points behind), and with player A holding OSTI, player B will win by 1 point.

If player B only plays JURAL (40), player A can play out with RIOTS column H for 18.

So playing ISATIN will win everytime. Playing VAIN will win providing there is no 6 letter word for player B to play out. There isn’t, so playing VAIN (blocking 3 out of 4 of the high J moves) will win, without resorting to knowing ISATIN.


In summary in a close game:

1 - Try to work out the tiles on your opponents rack

2 - Ascertain if they can play out in one move and either block it or score more than their move (allowing for +/- remainng tiles)

3 - if they can't play out in 1, you must try to play out in 2. and outscore their single move score (allowing for +/- remaining tiles).