Calgary Scrabble Group


Art of Exchanging, III

Posted by Allan S on Fri December 11, 2009 at 14h01
[These are notes from Allan Simon, rated 1545 (high of 1748).]

Juraj has written a good essay on exchanging, the main thrust of which is that novice and intermediate players do not exchange often enough, and when they do exchange, they don’t always exchange enough letters.

In principle, I agree with Juraj. But I have a couple of caveats:

1)Every rack is worth thinking about, at least briefly. At the October tournament I picked up AADIIKO, looked around briefly for a place for OIDIA – the only spot scored only 7 points and slotted the O in the triple lane, so I bemoaned my usual bad luck and announced “exchange six”, keeping an A. My hand wasn’t out of the bag when I saw I could have played AIKIDO for 50 points, still keeping my A!

Over the years, I can remember a few racks with III where I almost exchanged, and then found a bingo: INCISION vs. Albert and MILITIAS (from the M on the centre star!) vs. Siri.
If you have ALNSUUU, you might think of LUAU, UNAU or exchanging and overlook UNUSUAL.
So my tip #1 is : think for at least 15 seconds before exchanging.

2)If you have lousy letters but they happen to make a decent score, make the play rather than exchange. Yesterday vs. Albert I picked up AIILQTY. He opened with DUD. Actually my crappy rack has reasonable synergy – I have QI, QAT and I can play QADI or QAID, at a couple of places. I however played QUALITY (for only 20 points if memory serves), to get rid of the ugly IY combo, and for turnover. On my next turn, I drew a blank, but otherwise more crap: IIPPTU? and Albert blocked my planned UPPITY. But PIU went down for 20 points, and the leave wasn’t bad. In fact I had a great draw and next I got down OPIATES for 85 points. I went on to win the game by 15 (including a 10-point time penalty vs Albert). I am not saying I played a particularly great game, but if I had exchanged with one of the early racks I probably would have lost.

When I got home that night I played a game on ISC and my first rack was AIIILOT. You can see that I have a knack for drawing I’s! My opponent opened with OVA and rather than exchange I decided there had to be a reason for that tantalizing L hook and played AIOLI for 14 points.

So my tip #2 is: when your crappy rack somehow allows a reasonable play (say 12 points or more, with a reasonable leave) – make the play. So with Laverne’s rack of BLRRRRR – yeah, I probably would have exchanged but first I would have looked for a spot for BRRR. And if I had found one for, say, 15 points, I would have taken it and kept LRR which doesn’t look all that bad. But of course if the best I can do is BRR I would exchange, unless the score was much higher.

Finally, and I realize you know this but you didn’t say so explicitly: If you have an all-vowel or all-consonant rack, don’t just go “exchange 7” in disgust, because you may well end up with exactly the opposite problem: Assuming a normal distribution of the remaining tiles (e.g. early in the game) if I had AIIIOOU I would keep AI and expect to end up with a reasonably balanced rack next turn. So to get back to Laverne’s rack, I disagree with the players you polled, I would exchange only five and keep BR