Recently there was an interesting endgame - can you work out the best play ?

 

 

 

Player A has just played BLOATER and BLUMEN, but because BLUMEN was not allowed , the move came off.

 

 

 

Player B is 11 points behind and knows Player A's rack (BLOATER) and therefore also what the last 2 letters in the bag are B, Y.

 

 

 

What should player B do ? (The blanks make TRIVIAL and INCUBATE).

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s summarise the situation. The game is close (only 11 points between A and B).

 

Player B knows Player A’s tiles (BLOATER) and what is in the bag (BY). From Player A’s perspective the unseen tiles are B, Y, Q, I, R, O, C, E, T and does not know which two are in the bag.

 

 

 

In close games it is normally advisable to play all your tiles before your opponent, so that you gain the point values left on your opponent’s rack, and they also lose that value too. (This process is known as countback).

 

Player A has better tiles than Player B for playing out in two.

 

 

 

If you don’t want to read the logic of every individual move, there are key learning points at the end of the article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player B also has the Q to get rid of, and the tiles in the bag (BY) won’t help playing the Q. Therefore the Q ought to be played now.

 

Where can the Q be played ?

 

 

 

There are 4 options :

 

i)                    QI across in row A, column 3 also playing QIN. This scores 24.

 

ii)                   QIN down in row A, column 3. This scores 12.

 

iii)                 QIS across in row G, column 2. This scores 12.

 

iv)                 QI across in row K, column 3. This scores 11.

 

 

 

Let us look at the merits of each of the 4 moves in turn.

 

 

 

Option 1 – QI.

 

This move scores 24 and puts player B 13 ahead. But player B will pick up BOTH the B and Y.

 

If Player A can play the tiles from BLOATER in two moves, then it is very likely that they will win.

 

One example is

 

-          for Player A to play BOLT row G, column 2 down scoring 18. (Player A is now 5 ahead).

 

-          for player B to play BOYS in row K column 7 down scoring 26. (Player B is now 21 ahead).

 

-          for player A to play AREA in row H column 12 across scoring 12 (Player A is still 9 behind, but player B has CERT left, which will mean Player A will win by 3).  REAK (if you know the word wins by more).

 

Therefore player B should not play QI and empty the bag.

 

 

 

Option 2 – QIN.

 

This move scores 12 and puts player B 1 point ahead, and leaves one tile in the bag.

 

From Player A’s perspective the tile in the bag could be a T, E, R, C, I, O, B or Y.

 

A good move by player A would be BOLTER row G, column 2 down scoring 20. This will leave an A + the tile in the bag. Whatever tile it is from TERCIOBY will play next time. In most cases there are at least 2 alternatives.

 

Player A, lays BOLTER 20 points, going 19 points ahead, picking up either B or Y to accompany the A.

 

If player B picked the B from the bag, the rack is TERCIOB, otherwise it is TERCIOY.

 

If the rack is TERCIOB, the highest scoring move is COBS (K7 down) for 22 (leading by 3 points, but leaving ITER on the rack). Player A only needs play out which can be achieved by playing YA row H column 13 down for 14 points.

 

 

 

If the rack is TERCIOY, the highest scoring move is COYS (K7 down) for 26 (leading by 7 points, but leaving ITER on the rack).  Playing BA in row H column 13 will again secure the win. 

 

Thus playing QIN is not a good option either.

 

 

 

Option 3 – QIS

 

This is a very good move, as it blocks the BOLT/BOLTER moves that score so highly for Player A in the previous two options.  This move scores 12 and puts player B 1 point ahead, and leaves one tile in the bag.

 

From Player A’s perspective the tile in the bag could be a T, E, R, C, I, O, B or Y.

 

Player A now has to find two places to play 8 tiles (BLOATER + the one tile in the bag). The option of BOLT/BOLTER has now been blocked, and there are two obvious places – onto the K of KATA (perhaps BLEAK or BREAK) or onto the first S of DESIGNS (and example might be BOATS). But whichever option is chosen player B will reply by scoring on the remaining opening, preventing player A from playing out in two moves.

 

 

 

So player A needs to create another opening to enable a playout with whatever tile is drawn from the bag.

 

Probably the best option is to play LOBE in row F column 13 down scoring 21 (putting A 20 ahead). This will create an opening as the E of LOBE will be played adjacent to the T of PATRONS creating TE. TE is a useful two letter word, as it can be backhooked with A and T both of which we will be retaining.

 

The letters being retained are RAT and will be joined by one of TERCIOBY.

 

If the T is picked up TRATS will be play in K7 down or TET/TART will play in column 14.

 

If the E is picked up, TET/TEAR is the sole place to play out next time

 

If the R is picked up, we have no play out next time

 

If the C is picked up, we CART/TEC

 

If the I is picked up, we have TEA/AIRT

 

If the O is picked up, we have RIOTS or TET/TRIO

 

If the B is picked up, we have BRATS

 

If the Y is picked up, we have TRAYS or TET/TRAY

 

So for three of the eight letters we have a guaranteed playout, and in another 4 cases we have at least one place to play. This is quite a good % chance, so player A plays LOBE 21.

 

 

 

If player B picks the B from the bag, then player A will always win,  as the playout will be either TET/TRAY or TRAYS. (Player B scores COBS for 22, a lead of 2 so any TET/TRAY will easily win.)

 

However if player B picks the Y, then player A only has one playout BRATS (j7), and can be stopped in numerous ways :

 

TOYS (k7) for 24 (a lead of 4)

 

COYS (k7) for 26 (a lead of 6)

 

TROY (m3) for 23 (a lead of 3)

 

OYS (l7) for 23 (a lead of 3).

 

 

 

In the majority of these plays, player A can score 24 points by playing ABBA (h12).

 

 

 

For both the TOYS and TROY move, player B is left with CIRE, which  player B has TWO places to play next time : TEC/CIRE (i14 down) which scores 13 or CIDER (j2 across) which scores 16.  It is this CIDER scenario which will give player B the best result a DRAW :

 

To summarise all the moves :

 

Player B QIS 12 (+1)   pick up the Y

 

Player A LOBE 21 (+20) pick up the B

 

Player B TOYS 24 (+4)

 

Player A ABBA 24 (+20)

 

Player B CIDER 16 (-4) with RT left on Player A’s rack, (+2/-2) the final result is a DRAW!

 

 

 

If player A plays BRA (20) k3 rather than ABBA, then player A wins.. but will player A get greedy and go for the higher point scoring move ? ! Sometimes the lower scoring move will enable a win.

 

 

 

Option 4 – QI

 

 

 

This move scores 11, and has much the same logic as QIS (option 3). Player A needs to create a space on the board so will play LOBE. Picking the Y will guarantee a win by playing TRAY or TRAY as detailed above.

 

 

 

Picking the B will also win as player B has to block BRATS, but the reply from player A is ABBA for 24.

 

This time the space in the bottom left hand corner if the board is restricted because of the QI, and moves like CIDER are impossible.

 

 

 

 

Some learning points from this exercise :

 

 

 

1. In close games, always try to leave one tile in the bag. Emptying the bag, gives the advantage to your opponent.

 

2. If your opponent plays an illegal move, write down the letters.. its useful to know what letters they’ve got, or in this case… what’s in the bag!

 

3. Some moves can be quickly established to be losing moves. Don’t play them. Even if you can’t see how to win with other moves, play those instead. Let your opponent make a mistake…and you are ready to pounce if need be!

 

4. Sometimes the highest scoring move won’t win the game. Think what you opponent can play, do some simple sums, and play a lower scoring move, if it guarantees the win.