By RICH FOLEY
Five years ago, I wrote about playing Words With Friends, an online game very similar to the Scrabble board game I grew up with. Back then, I had a number of friends willing to play, but the number dwindled as the months went by.
People I consistently outscored lost interest and quit playing, but surprisingly, a person who always, and I mean always, beat me also stopped. I’m not sure if he felt sorry for me or was just bored because the chances of me ever besting him were so small.
I recently reviewed my record on the game site, which they conveniently update regularly in order to remind me that WWF may not be something I’d want to pursue as a career. I was surprised that I’ve only played 165 games over the past five years. But that’s because I’m online so seldom that some games take a month or two to finish and I hate playing more than three or four games at a time.
The sad part is that I’ve only won 73 of those 165 games. If, however, you take the two people that usually beat me out of the total, my winning percentage is about 70 percent. That’s my story, anyway.
I’ve played a total of 1,748 unique words, which sounds pretty good until you think about how many words are out there. I’ve used all seven letter tiles in one move three times, including once when I started a game by actually playing the word “friends.” If that’s not appropriate, I don’t know what is. They didn’t give me any bonus points for it, though, nor do they give you a 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles in a turn like the Scrabble game does.
The longest word I’ve ever made is “houseboats.” I did that by putting “houseb” in front of the word “oat” which was already on the board, then adding an “s” at the end, using all seven letters to make a ten-letter word. I’ve made a total of 39 words of 50 points or more, but none of over 100 points. There’s no record of my highest word score, but I do remember once totaling 87 points.
I have had a bit of fun playing the game with people I’ve been randomly matched with by WWF. You have the option of declining or even asking for more opponents. Some of those games have been interesting, to say the least, although they should probably be called WWPS, or Words With Perfect Strangers.
Many of these people stop playing if you get a big point lead. I’ve even had a couple resign after I’ve apparently scored too much on my first move. One woman quit after I played a word I’m quite sure has never appeared in this newspaper. I don’t know if she was offended by the word itself, or the fact that the 66 points I scored extended my lead to 120 points.
And then there was Deepti. A few months ago, WWF sent an invitation to play with a woman named Deepti, a name I’ve never heard before. I did a search for her on Facebook, figuring she’d be pretty easy to find. Actually, I gave up counting after I passed the 500 mark. I kept scrolling, discovering that the number of women named Deepti ran into the thousands, many from India.
Searching again using the initial for her last name listed on WWF reduced the Deepti inventory to a hundred or so. I quickly found her photo and discovered that she was a student at a college in Illinois. Almost everything she was following was in the United Arab Emirates. I don’t know if she was from there or just a fan. After I took a fairly large points lead, Deepti joined the list of former WWPS opponents.
According to The Wall Street Journal, I probably should be wary of opponents from Nigeria. The Journal says that Nigeria has more top-200 rated Scrabble players than any other nation. Yes, they actually rank the world’s best Scrabble players. Nigerian players include Wellington Jighere, 2015 winner of the Scrabble World Championship.
Nigeria has named Scrabble an official sport and several of its states have their own Scrabble coach. Scouts visit high schools to watch for Scrabble talent, much like the search for football or basketball players here.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Mr. Jighere says that nearly every day, some stranger pesters him on Facebook to play Words With Friends. I would ask him myself if I thought there was a chance he’d accept. After all, it might be fun to get clobbered by a true expert. Then again, maybe not.