Not everyone plays timed Scrabble games or competitive Scrabble games where speed matters, but playing fast can be an added challenge even for the casual Scrabble players, and it can be essential for competitive players, online players, or anybody else that plays Scrabble with a time limit.
In a timed game, playing fast not only prevents you from being penalized or disqualified for running out of time, it also puts pressure on your opponent. Your opponent is looking for words to play during their turn, and during your turn as well. Let most of this time be on their turn!
You should be finding words during their turn, so you can play a word as soon as your turn comes up. That way, their timer continues to run and they run out of time or have to rush at the end of the game.
Of course, doing this while sacrificing tons of points is not smart. You should still be looking for good words and scoring as many points as possible as a general rule of thumb. If you’re playing so quickly that you’re not able to score a good amount of points, you need to slow down. You might score slightly lower in a 6 minute Scrabble game as opposed to a 20 minute game, but it shouldn’t be a drastic difference once you’ve practiced playing at that speed. Please note that for the first few timed games, you could see a huge drop in your point totals if you’re used to playing un-timed games or games with much higher time limits. But you’ll quickly adjust and find yourself bored in slower games. Your brain adapts quite quickly to the time constraints in a timed Scrabble game.
These tips should help any Scrabble player maintain a better pace and keep the pressure on their opponent:
1. Look for words on your opponent’s turn. As mentioned earlier, one player’s clock is always running, and it’s better that it is your opponent’s clock rather than yours. Use THEIR time to look for YOUR words. As soon as it gets to your turn, play the word you’ve found, and the pressure is right back on them. Of course, your opponent is trying to do the same thing, so this isn’t always possible. You should try to achieve this though.
2. Don’t be a perfectionist. If you’re in a game with a time limit, you shouldn’t worry that you might be missing out on a great play. If you have a very good play, then play it! Maybe it’s not the perfect play but usually you’ll end up spending a few extra minutes and not find anything better if you become obsessed with perfectionism. Scan the board, look for the best spots to score high points, and form a word in one of those spots. Use your best judgement- you’ll know when you’ve explored most of the possibilities available. You don’t need to analyze 100% of the possibilities. Often, analyzing 85% of the possibilities can take half as long and give you just as many points.
If it helps, narrow down the 1 or 2 best spots to use on the board, and then find the best word that you can place in one of those spots. That way, you won’t have to explore every possible option in every part of the board.
3. Memorize the 2 letter Scrabble words. There are quite a few of them, and they’re definitely worth learning if you haven’t already. Knowing these words can help you dump 1 or 2 unwanted letters quickly or find spots for your Bingos or other high scoring words while saving you time.
4. Play defensively. By playing defensively and not giving your opponent easy word setups, you can force them to take longer on their turn. This works to your advantage because you’ll have more time to look for your own words during their turn, and you’ll be better prepared once they’ve made their move. Remember, the faster you can play your words, the sooner your opponent’s clock starts to run again.
5. Practice closing out. In a timed game, closing out can be essential. If you only have a few seconds left on the clock, you have to be able to get rid of your letters quickly to end the game. Having a good vocabulary can help in this phase of the game (even more than in other stages of the Scrabble match). Also, learning some words that don’t require vowels or don’t require consonants are helpful too. If you’re left with just vowels, do you know all of the words you can create? Better learn!