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Prof in Scrabble Grapple
Knox climatologist Peter Schwartzman competes in National Scrabble Championship tournament
August 19, 2004

GALESBURG -- Knox College professor Peter Schwartzman expects to rise in the rankings of the nation's best Scrabble players, after competing in the National Scrabble Championship, July 31 through August 5 in New Orleans.

"I met several of my personal goals," said Schwartzman, associate professor of environmental studies at Knox. "I wanted to get at least ten wins, and I wanted to finish higher than the rank I had going into the tournament."

Schwartzman achieved 12 wins against 18 losses. He finished 147th out of 173 players in Division 1, after entering the tournament ranked 163rd.

Division 1 is the most competitive of the five divisions at the Scrabble tournament, in which players win points by building words on a grid using letters drawn at random. Each letter has a point value, with lower values assigned to the most common letters -- "E" is worth just one point, while "Z" is worth ten points.

Schwartzman averaged 390 points per game. The tournament winner, Trey Wright, a musician from Los Angeles, had a record of 23-7 and averaged 426 points per game to collect the top prize of $25,000.

"I could have finished 15-15, but I had several close losses," Schwartzman said. "I realized that I could play against the best," he said. "I certainly saw words I didn't know, but I didn't feel I was outmatched."

Similar to a spelling bee, Scrabble winners generally know more words. "I've heard that the top players in the world have memorized all 128,000 possible words with two to eight letters," Schwartzman said. "I've been competing for eight years, and I probably know half of them."

Schwartzman is also happy that he notched 63 "bingos" -- when players use all seven letters on their rack in a single play, to form a seven, eight or nine-letter word.

"Each bingo gives you a 50-point bonus," Schwartzman said. "Division 1 is so competitive that maximizing the number of bingo plays is a key goal."

Schwartzman got about two bingos per game -- a total of 63 bingos, against just 49 scored by his opponents. Schwartzman's bingos:

S I L I Q U A E
D I U R E S I S
A R T E R I A L
A R U G O L A
E U P L O I D S

Competition has gotten tougher in recent years, Schwartzman said. "Several of the top ten ranked players didn't finish in the top ten in the tournament, so there's a lot of room for upsets."

Computerized word judging made its first appearance at this year's national tournament. In the past, human judges used word lists or dictionaries to determine whether a word was legitimate, and whether the player or the challenger would lose a turn. Computers are both faster and more accurate, Schwartzman said.

A climatologist, Schwartzman is chair of the environmental studies program at Knox, where he has taught since 1998.


Related Links

Peter Schwartzman's Scrabble tournament stats
http://www.scrabble-assoc.com/tourneys/2004/nsc/build/player/1/145.html

Peter Schwartzman profile




Contact

Peter Bailley
news@knox.edu
309 341 7337

Peter Schwartzman (r) at Scrabble tournament

Peter Schwartzman (right) and Sammy Okosagah consult a computer to resolve a word challenge at the National Scrabble Championship. Schwartzman won the challenge, but Okosagah , a former Nigerian national champ, won their match.