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Want to Win at Scrabble? Play Shorter Words

The conventional wisdom has always been that a good Scrabble player is someone with a hefty vocabulary—the kind of person who can drop an eight-letter word you’ve never heard, complete with q’s and z’s to boot. Now, a new class of Scrabble champions are turning that strategy on its head.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Nigeria now has more top-200 Scrabble players than any other country in the world, including current World Champion Wellington Jighere.

Jighere and his fellow Nigerian Scrabble champs are ushering in a new era in competitive play both in who is represented and how the game is being mastered. In brief, their strategy is to play four- and five-letter words, even if longer ones can be played. If that seems crazy to you, let’s break it down.

While there’s certainly an advantage to going big (like when a competitor plays all seven tiles at once, earning a “bingo” worth an extra 50 points), that move also comes with certain handicaps. For one, it gives the person across the board more letter opportunities, as well as making you vulnerable to a bad draw the next time around. Playing shorter words and holding onto adaptable tiles is a safer—and it seems, smarter—bet.

Analytics on millions of simulated games have shown the merits of the short-word strategy and proved faults in the old game plan. Computer programs are also helping players in real-time, helping them to compare their own instincts with that of an app, informing decisions as they go.

While it will take time to see where Scrabble play goes from here, it’s clear that there’re still things to learn about this 78-year-old game, especially as more countries in the developing world (many where it is regarded as a sport) hop on board.

Check out the video above for a play-by-play breakdown of last year’s championship game.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

Banner image: iStock.

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Mattel Unveils New Uno Edition for Colorblind Players
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Mattel

On the heels of International Colorblind Awareness Day, Mattel, which owns Uno, announced it would be unveiling a colorblind-friendly edition of the 46-year-old card game.

The updated deck is a collaboration with ColorADD, a global organization for colorblind accessibility and education. In place of its original color-dependent design, this new Uno will feature a small symbol next to each card's number that corresponds with its intended primary color.

As The Verge points out, Mattel is not actually the first to invent a card game for those with colorblindness. But this inclusive move is still pivotal: According to Fast Co. Design, Uno is currently the most popular noncollectible card game in the world. And with access being extended to the 350 million people globally and 13 million Americans who are colorblind, the game's popularity is sure to grow.

Mattel unveils color-friendly Uno deck
Mattel

[h/t: The Verge

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fun
Lightning-Fast Teen Sets New Rubik’s Cube World Record
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In less time than it takes some people to open a pickle jar, 15-year-old Patrick Ponce can solve a Rubik’s Cube. His total time of 4.69 seconds makes him the new holder of the world record for fastest 3-by-3 Rubik’s Cube completion, as highlighted by Compete (and seen in the video below).

Ponce achieved the impressive feat of dexterity at a tournament in Middletown, Virginia, on September 2. He takes the title from the previous Rubik’s Cube speed record holder, Feliks Zemdegs, who solved the puzzle in 4.73 seconds at a competition in Australia in December 2016.

But the teenager may not hold his new position at the top for very long: Expert Rubik's Cubers have been steadily lowering the speed record beneath the 5-second mark since 2015. And human competitors still have a long way to go before solving a cube in 0.887 seconds—that’s the record that was set by a robot in March of 2017.

[h/t Compete]

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