Do you challenge?

Discuss general strategy

Do you challenge?

Postby TheLamb » Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:14 pm

This diatribe is probably too long. You can read it and comment if you like, but I am mostly interested on your responses to the exercises. Skip to the bottom, if you want.

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Spoiler:
People often walk up to me at club or in a tournament and ask something like: "Would you challenge ARMPITLIKE?"

Rather than guessing at the word's validity outright, I usually end up leading them down a long list of followup questions like: "Who played it?"; "What was the score?" etc. etc. Eventually we both just wish I had answered the question with "Yes" or "No".

The point is that there is so much more behind making a decision to challenge/accept a play than just word knowledge or hunches. I think one of the reasons we don't often see in-depth discussion of proper challenging technique is that you can always trump challenging strategies with word knowledge. The "optimal" decision is to simply know every word and correctly challenge off the phony ones and accept the valid ones. However, I don't believe that anyone has perfect word knowledge. Everyone is unsure of something, especially when the words exceed 8 letters and multiple dictionaries are clouding the mind.

Besides, it's not like there is anything impressive with having read up on the long -LIKE words before and correctly challenging a word that didn't appear on that list. Knowledge of tens is nice, but it's usually quite easy to apply in a challenge situation. I'd probably be more impressed with someone who honestly had no clue, but correctly weighed all the variables and determined that accepting ARMPITLIKE* was the best course of action.

So I think it's safe to say that "Would you challenge ARMPITLIKE?" is a grossly oversimplified question. As soon as your certainty of a word's (in)validity drops below 100%, there are instantly a dozen other variables you need to consider before challenging/accepting. And it's not like I'm introducing a new concept here. The fact that challenging/accepting questionable words is often based on context rather than word knowledge is nothing new. You often hear people say: "Well, I can't win if it's good so I'll challenge." before challenging what they feel is a plausible word. However, I do believe that this branch of Scrabble strategy is maybe a bit unappreciated. It doesn't seem to get discussed in positions or annotateds much. I think it's surprising, considering that free turns often equate to large swings in game outcomes.

Now, if you're shaking your head at this because you'd rather just learn all the words 100% and make all the correct challenges that way, then fine. But read on, because a lot of the heuristics discussed in this post can also be applied to the art of phony-playing. And even the most prolific players with near-perfect word knowledge can benefit from playing the occasional phony word.

So what are the factors to consider? There are lots of them, I think, and many of them are far more subtle than "I can't win if it's good."

Here's my attempt at a list:

In-game factors

1. Game state

This is the big one, obviously. It encompasses the score, the tiles on your rack, the tiles unseen, and the board situation. This is where you need to spend your time, because you need to consider three scenarios:

a) accept the play
b) challenge and win
c) challenge and lose

For each scenario, you have to ask questions like:

What play do I make if this happens?
What are my chances of winning?

Because you can always choose to pursue situation A, the decision to challenge often comes down to weighing situation A against a coin flip (argument's sake) of hitting situation B or C.

For instance, if you determine your win chances are: A 90% B 100% C 30%, then you probably have a pretty easy decision to accept the play. Same with A 5% B 30% C 0%, being virtually forced to challenge. It gets dicey when you're looking at something like A 50% B 75% C 25%. And of course, you've never got these percentages sitting in front of you. It is pretty difficult to approximate your win chances for each possible outcome of a challenge/accepted play.

Even though this factor is just one in a list, I should emphasize that in-game context (scenario vs. win %) is by far the most important factor, and the one you should always consider first (assuming you aren't 100% certain of the word's validity). Basically, you're going to spend your time here, and begin to consider the other factors when the decision is not obvious based on your analysis of the game state.

Lumped in with this factor are the fun situations where accepting an opponent's phony will give you a comeback bingo. Also, the tricky situations where you might want to weigh lopsided matchups to fudge the win % numbers.

2. Opponent's game state

It's also worth it to consider the game state your opponent faced when he played the word.

Was he desperate?
Could he have made a better or equally strong play with these tiles?

Of course, that second question is often a trap. Be careful assuming that your opponent wouldn't make a horrendous word knowledge error or miss an obvious bingo. Just because he could have played (H)OUSEtOp, it doesn't mean his play of mOUSE(F)Oo(D) must be acceptable.

The first question is probably a more valuable one to consider. Was my opponent in a situation where he would feel compelled to attempt a word he was unsure of? Out of desperation? Or simply because the game was already decided, or too early to call? Again, it's still always a gamble to assume your opponent thinks like you do. And it's also a gamble to assume that a desperate situation and a fortuitous obscure bingo can't coincide. But it's always worth considering.

Meta-game factors

3. Knowledge of the opponent

If I've played against the person a fair number of times (or at least seen them play in some annotateds), then I hope to be able to answer the following questions with a decent level of certainty:

What is his word knowledge like?
Is he known to make mistakes on words?
If he known to intentionally play phonies?

If I've never played against the person and know very little about their game, then I can probably at least answer the following:

What is his approximate rating?
How long as he been playing?
Does he play other dictionaries?

All of these questions will help me to determine how likely it is that my opponent knows an obscure word, is making a mistake with his word knowledge or guessing on a word, or is intentionally trying to phony me.

Can you add more weight to knowledge gained more recently? If an opponent won a challenge earlier in that same game, are you less likely to challenge his next obscure-looking play? You probably shouldn't be, but it's going to affect your decision, likely.

4. Behaviour

Can I glean anything from his body language? Can it be trusted?
Did he play the word quickly? Does that matter?

Obviously relying on this factor is dangerous, but I don't think it can be ignored. It helps to have experience against your opponent here. I won't list any rules of thumb, since they obviously become less useful the more people I share them with. :)

Non-game factors

5. Pressure

Who is watching? Do I want them to see me allow this ridiculous word?
What is at stake? Could I forgive myself for blowing the tournament on a word like this?

Ideally, these should be nonfactors, but you might find your decisions being affected by them nonetheless.

7. Linguistic knowledge / Hunches

How plausible is this word based on my knowledge of other words?

Duh, kind of an obvious one. But it's one that seems to get overlooked the deeper you get into the game. (Admittedly, the dictionaries do betray logic often.) This is where "word knowledge" is separated from "language knowledge".

Hey, you might not have studied enough to know for certain whether ACARUSES is valid or not, but your knowledge of Greek pluralization might help you there. Maybe your knowledge of chemistry can help you sort out which -ATE, -ITE, -IDE words should logically be valid.


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Exercises

Okay, so these are some fabricated scenarios. In each of them, your opponent has played a word and you have them on hold. You have to determine whether you want to challenge.

The goal here isn't to guess whether the word is valid. Hopefully, you'll genuinely have no clue whether it's good, and you'll have to determine whether it's best to challenge. But of course, if you are just awesome and know for sure whether it's good/bad, that's cool, too. I'm mostly interested in the analysis that leads to your decision.

Please show your work:

1. Do you challenge?
2. What factors led you to that decision?
3. Were there other factors which you noticed, but which didn't affect your decision?
4. Did you have a hunch one way or another as to whether the word was good? How much did that affect your decision?

Position 1

Position 2

Position 3

Position 4

Position 5

Position 6

Position 7

Position 8
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby jrbrooks » Tue Nov 01, 2011 11:53 pm

It is late, so I'll just answer the first one (each one of these could be a topic in and of itself).

I would challenge OVERGREEDY, for the following reasons:

1. I have studied all the OVER* 7's and 8's, and I know that OVERGREED* is no good. Although this may be flawed logic, that would be the biggest factor.
2. Jeremy Hildebrand played it, and I know he is pretty fearless.
3. Having a V and a Y on the same rack doesn't lend itself to a lot of bingoes, even with a blank in hand. So if I challenge successfully, I know that he doesn't bingo next turn either, as he'll probably be trying to dump EVY somewhere.
4. Your rack sucks, so you'll probably score very poorly (I would actually pass FUVW next turn if I were you). So if you don't challenge, he has a brand new rack on a fairly open board. You'd probably be down around 80 points after his next turn. Compare that with challenging the word off, trading 4 tiles, and watching him try to dump tiles on his next turn. (I would probably play ENVY next turn if I were him to leave ?DER).
5. As far as I know, that is the only even semi-plausible bingo on that board.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby CanadianBacon » Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:42 am

#2

I'd probably challenge - I think early in the game people might be more likely to gamble on bingos. It's also a rather unwieldly rack that would be hard to deal with if this bingo is phony. Finally, I can't see the opponent landing anything huge next turn unless they get another bingo (which would pretty much have to be an 8) or a double-double, so I feel like scoring zero wouldn't be as costly as in some other situations.

And, I should know this, but I'm not sure if this rack has a bingo. TELLASE or something? If there was a bingo here that was being blocked than that really cements the decision to challenge.

#3

I'm actually feeling pretty good about not challenging here. With the blank and S in hand, the game isn't necessarily over. The play just opened a giant Z(A)IRE spot, so I'd probably play F(A)B to muck it up, keeping a super nice leave. Im short on vowels, but there's tons left in the pool, so I'm likely going to draw them. I might get lucky and draw a bingo through the E that was just played, or to the R up top. Simple bingos like CINEASTE or CANISTER are likely enough to leave this bingo on IMO.

#4

It's hard to make up words like this. And considering the rating of the person who played it, I'd be surprised if it was phony. Can I win if it stays on? Well, that would require me to Q stick him and draw a fluke bingo that doesn't get blocked. So, play S(I) and hope to draw ISOLAT(E)D. The possible Q-stick kind of tempts me to leave it and try to squeak something out. I have a hard time believing a super high rated player would risk losing a game by phonying. The word does sound vaguely familiar, some kind of mineral maybe?

#5

The game is so far out of hand here... even though this has a very good chance of being valid, I'd have to challenge. I'd normally challenge a triple-triple if I didn't know the word just because of the sheer points it's worth. So I'd feel like I'd have no choice but to hope it's a phony in order to have any chance to win. This is funny because I played FAWNLIKE at a tournament recently, and that's far more dubious sounding than the word in question here.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby Magrathean » Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:35 am

whoa! just came across this. this is a cool post. here we go...

1. Let's see. My spidey senses tell me that this is probably not a word. It's too specific of a use of an OVER word...from experience the long OVER words seem to mostly include fairly common words. My best play doesn't vary much whether I challenge it off or not - it's probably just exchanging UVW, possibly throwing the F back as well.

however, I notice from his rack that she has OVERDYE/BLENDE for many, many points on row 14. The fact that she didn't play it last turn indicates that she may not have spotted it at all since it is so many more points. However, any decision I make would be conditional on finding my best block of OVERDYE.

Since I can find no reasonable block for OVERDYE, I figure I should challenge, and when/if it comes off the board exchange VUW as expected. There's no case to be made for leaving it if I am pretty sure it's no good, since I drop from a 60-65% favorite by taking it off to a 20% win chance by my best estimate.

2. it's worth being highly skeptical of a natural bingo that uses such bad tiles. unquelled seems like it could be a word, but they are in significantly worse shape if you challenge it off and then play EL/ELL or something - in fact they barely have a play. if it stays on, well, at least the board is fairly open. You don't want an opponent to get that far ahead early unless you really do think it's a word. if it's good, you tell them "nice play."

3. Given the game situation you pretty much have to challenge this no matter who the opponent is because you're behind a lot and whatever play they have next turn is so likely to be a major downgrade. I think you challenge and prepare to play FACT if it comes off. if not, ouch.

4. damn yoooou kenji. this is a fun one. first of all I think corycanth is actually a word (hopefully I'm not just thinking of corybant). the thing is that kenji is in lots of trouble because he may be Q stuck. in response I would just tack the S on CORYCANTH. it minimizes your exposure to the Q so you should win 8/9 instead of 7/9. even if kenji challenges and it comes off it's not immediately clear that he has to win as long as he eats the Q. so I think you let this one stay.

I have to do other stuff. thanks for the post! I'm sad that I'm 1 for 4 on these words so far : (
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby Magrathean » Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:46 am

oh what the hell I'll do the rest of them.

5. given that you just had both spots for EVENTUAL blocked and you're down 160, you had better challenge unless you absolutely 100% know whalelike is good, even though I am probably 80-90% on it. only exception is if you really need to not lose by 300 for some reason because then you can do better damage control if you accept.

6. I just don't think it looks like a word at all. you have ZOUAVE one way or the other, but in this case I would challenge just based on the dubiety of the word.

7. in a close game like this, the decision obviously makes a huge difference in who will win or not - if it stays on he's probably 55-60% to win, you challenge it off and play UNSAMPLED you're probably 60%, you lose a challenge you're probably 15%. you can just do the math in this case...60-15 is 45, 40 to 45 minus 15 is 25-30, so you should be at least 65% sure it's no good. I am so I would challenge.

8. you have REVISAL/RURALITE one way the other and he doesn't have any other bingos like WOODTITS. I wouldn't let WATOOTSIE stay on unless I was reallllllly certain that it was good. game score aside sometimes you have to trust your sense of incredulity. Aren't the Watutsi a tribe in Rwanda?
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby tonyleah » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:33 am

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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby joshcalomel » Sun Dec 02, 2012 11:26 pm

I'm not much of an analysis person... I challenged all except 5 because it looked good.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby kunjoos » Tue Dec 04, 2012 4:55 pm

I'm not saying that you can't enjoy Scrabble if you're not an analysis person, but I really feel like if you're not an analysis person then you're probably better off playing recreationally and not studying all too much since Scrabble is, at its heart, highly analytical. No one can become an elite player without being highly analytical. It's best to learn this when you first start out rather than learning it years down the line. I know that it doesn't seem like it's the case, but it's definitely true.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby kev10293 » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:09 am

I'm not saying that you can't enjoy Scrabble if you're not an analysis person, but I really feel like if you're not an analysis person then you're probably better off playing recreationally and not studying all too much since Scrabble is, at its heart, highly analytical. No one can become an elite player without being highly analytical. It's best to learn this when you first start out rather than learning it years down the line. I know that it doesn't seem like it's the case, but it's definitely true.

Hmm. That's a little harsh. Accurate of course, to an extent.

The thing is calomel' analysis was actually not that bad. I wouldn't do much better, most likely.

You want to challenge a word when the word is a phoney and you want to not challenge a word when it is legit. I have seen many players screw themselves over by not challenging a word because they thoiught could win regardless. Sometimes it is best to simply challenge if you think the word is nonsense.

The only way to get to the top is to know all the time. You must know the dictinoary basically cold so mathetmatical analyses are interesting but impractical in my opinion.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby whatnoloan » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:23 pm

If this is true Kevin, the only people at your "top" will be people with truly eidetic memories like Nigel's. Being that these people are extremely rare, I think you saying that "the only way to get to the top is to know all the time" is ridiculous. Yes, really good players need to know the dictionary very well but it is almost impossible to know it cold. Thus there will arise situations where mathematical analysis of challenge situations will become important; there will be situations where you are not sure, if you are not Nigel or Quackle. I wouldn't be surprised if even Nigel was unsure, once in a great while.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby kev10293 » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:39 am

Yes obviously. I was being a little harsh just to state a point.

I was stating the obvious. I assumed people would understand what I meant.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby Jean Valjean » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:13 pm

kunjoos wrote:I'm not saying that you can't enjoy Scrabble if you're not an analysis person, but I really feel like if you're not an analysis person then you're probably better off playing recreationally and not studying all too much since Scrabble is, at its heart, highly analytical. No one can become an elite player without being highly analytical.


This will make a very interesting thread. I wrote a response, but decided to make sure I'm clear on something before posting. What sort of analysis are you talking about? What do you mean by "highly analytical?" This might be terribly obvious, but if we are on the same page with your definition, then I am personally of the opinion that the only truly great (beyond great, Champion level) "highly analytical" Scrabble player is Joel Sherman. And I think he manages this despite this fact (not because of it) because he devotes his life to the game. All of the other legendary players throw the bullshit out the window a bit.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby joshcalomel » Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:07 am

Hey guys, are you going to reply to the original question, or are you just going to talk about analysis? I think we could put that topic in a different thread.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby squamae brown » Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:49 am

I have to agree with you that not many people have actually answered the original topic. Here are my answers:

1. Challenged because it looks silly.

2. Challenged. I was leaning toward it being good, but not enough to just let it go. Also hoping that I might get a bingo letter after his next play if it turns out to be good.

3. Not challenged. Not something you'd just make up, so a challenge would be banking on (1) misspelling, (2) Collins word, (3) foreign word or (4) some kind of taxonomical term that isn't actually in the dictionary. It would be helpful in this case to know if the opponent is a Collins player/multilingual/horticulturalist, but I'm probably going to give the benefit of the doubt most of the time.

4. Challenged. This really is a fascinating one, you could write a few pages on it. What it boils down to for me is that he's in a spot where he does probably need to make a desperation play, and I don't really think it's that easy to win if you let it stay. For example, using an S immediately on CORYCANTH could backfire if he was knowingly bluffing and challenges it off, and even if it stays, if he can then play the Q he should outrace easily. I think you'd want to play VIDEO/WOO and hope to draw an E (5/9) for bingos through the T in THRUM and the second N in MONOTONE or an R (1/9) for bingos just through the E in MONOTONE. It would be more intuitive to play the O in OI to block the Q spot, but I think that's wrong because (1) it doesn't change the situation where you draw an E or R and he has the Q (he would need to try to block and then win a tight endgame that involves you blocking the Q spot after his block, though I think he's got it if you draw the R because then he only has to play off one tile to block and can't be slowplayed as effectively (these statements about who's winning the endgame assume that he's going to challenge off CORYCANTHS if you try it since he should be able to figure out whether he needs to in order to win with the bag empty) - the point is, where you play the O that you're fishing off doesn't change anything in this case); (2) if you don't draw an E or R after VIDEO/WOO, he can either play QI if he has the Q or pass and force you to draw it, winning either way - in this case, yeah, it would be better to have blocked the spot, but you wouldn't have enough firepower in the endgame to win either way (again, assuming he challenges off CORYCANTHS); (3) if you draw an E or R but he doesn't have the Q, you have a situation where VIDEO/WOO is definitely better than OI, because if you played OI he'd know that unseen to him are letters which give a possible bingo(s), plus the Q. Thus, he can pass, knowing that if you have the Q you can't fish it off in one tile, and if you have the bingo you'll play it to take up to a twenty-something point lead and draw the Q, after which he can block the I in your bingo (if necessary) and easily bleed you to death. So playing VIDEO/WOO probably allows you to win at least the 5/9 endgames where you draw an E (though I didn't actually play through them, and they would be close), maybe the one where you draw an R (depending on your confidence that you'll get away with CORYCANTHS), and definitely not the other 1/3. Those aren't bad odds, but I'd feel at least 2/3 sure that CORYCANTH is just a desperation try. And honestly, if I was making a decision in, say, five minutes of game time rather than thinking it over for half an hour, I'd probably challenge largely based on the concept of "I'm not losing by not challenging a word I've never seen before."

5. Not challenged. Oddly enough, I actually specifically remember Quackle playing WHALELIKE as an extension against me. If not for that, yeah, you'd pretty much have to given the game score and the triple blocks of EVENTUAL.

6. Not challenged. It seems redundant but not that improbable, and I really can't afford to not get ZOUAVE down here. One of those, "Whatever. Nice play. We'll look it up after the game," moments.

7. Not challenged. This word is actually in my real life vocabulary. I could imagine it not making it into the Scrabble dictionary, but I'd be hard-pressed to challenge it in any situation. Note: I saw CUNIFORM/UNCIFORM based on the inference that SUBSAMPLED was probably blocking something, but I probably wouldn't see them/be sure that they were good in a game. Even if I did/was, though, I highly doubt I'd challenge.

8. Challenged after a hearty laugh.

EDIT: Clarifications to #4:
i. If you play off an O and draw E or R, where opponent has the Q and E and R were the last two tiles in the bag, then opponent can't block all of your possible bingos at once, so you could adjust your odds upwards a little since they'd have to guess. Still, your true odds of winning are not going to be better than 2/3 at the moment of this position.

ii. Since I'm comparing my (perceived) odds of winning after challenging CORYCANTH (100% * confidence that CORYCANTH is phony; it isn't trivial to see that you'd win 100% after challenging it off, since you'd have to block CORNETCY which I didn't know, but if we can assume that he's missing CORNETCY you'd just have to empty the bag, making sure to hang on to your I, and you'll lead by about 40 and it's clear he's not making that up in the endgame... for the record I'd probably block the E anyway just to be safe since a lead of about 30 should be enough to ride out the endgame) to my odds of winning after leaving it, I might have to include some probability of winning if I draw L or O and CORYCANTHS turns out to be good, since those might be winnable if it is (again, haven't actually worked through them exhaustively, which is realistically the limitation I'd be under in a game). So I guess my perceived odds are a little better than 2/3, but not by much (I still think drawing R and winning hinges on CORYCANTHS being good, except as in (i) where E and R were last in the bag and he chooses to block the E bingos). I'd still challenge. Btw, the induction of the odds of CORYCANTH being good into the odds of winning endgames after leaving it, because of the hook, is part of why this is such an interesting example.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby kev10293 » Tue Dec 11, 2012 5:41 am

Jean Valjean wrote:
What sort of analysis are you talking about? What do you mean by "highly analytical?" This might be terribly obvious, but if we are on the same page with your definition, then I am personally of the opinion that the only truly great (beyond great, Champion level) "highly analytical" Scrabble player is Joel Sherman. And I think he manages this despite this fact (not because of it) because he devotes his life to the game. All of the other legendary players throw the bullshit out the window a bit.


I think perhaps you have hit on what I was trying to say. I'm not quite sure.

I'm all for analysis but analysis to challenge is kind of bullshit that I'm not interested in engaging in. Is this what you mean? I think about the odds during games but I don't actually study it. I mean, my time would be betters spent studying the actual words. That was the point I was trying to make. Analysis of analysis of analysis gets you nowhere.

I haven't been playing scrabble much lately. So my opinions are basically moot. That is my view though.
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Re: Do you challenge?

Postby whatnoloan » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:02 am

1. First thought: I have no idea whether oVERGREEDY is a word and neither does he. It's possible that he passed up oVERDYE to instead try to draw a challenge on a word that he knows for sure, but I highly doubt that. It sounds a bit weird, so I'd like to give it a bit less than a 50% chance of being good, say 40%. If I challenge and it is bad, he has a great rack (though not as good as it optimally could be because he appears to have missed the BLENDE hook, having played neither oVERDYE or VEERY) and I have a bad one, but I also have the lead. If I challenge and it comes off, my next play is going to be a trade, either FUVW, UVW, or FUW (not sure which is better). FEW/BLENDE is an option but that is risky because I think he might've seen oVERDYE and not the spot for it. This is because I think he would pass up bingoing with oVERGREEDY to play VEERY if he saw BLENDE. I might be overestimating skill level but I doubt it. I'd say my winning chances are probably 70% since we have reasonable comparable racks and I have a lead. If I challenge and it comes up good, all of a sudden he has the initiative and I'm down with a bad rack, likely an exchange. Going to go with 25% win chance there. Meanwhile, if I don't challenge the best play is probably V(O)WER or exchange, and I would do VOWER. Given a skill advantage, I'd estimate 55% chance winning chance after VOWER. This means my average win chance after challenging is 52%, a hair worse than my average win chance without challenging, so I'll keep it on. No challenge.
2. First thought is the same as in position one. Neither of us knows whether this is a word. I have studied quite a few nines on Aerolith though, and this looks completely unfamiliar, so based on likelihood I'm just going to give it a 40% chance of being good just like last time, because it sounds more plausible as a word but I also might have studied it if it were good. However, this play gives me very little advantage while obviously giving him a big one. If I challenge and it comes off, I can easily exchange EL and leave him with just as tough a position as he had when he played UNQUELLED, unless he finds QUENELLE, in which case he just gave me a great spot to play a bingo next turn. If it stays on, I have a decent chance of getting a letter I need to bingo or at least score. Challenge for sure.
3. This one is pretty tough. It's definitely possible that Rod could be making up complete air here, but it's also possible that he found a great and real word. Since I'm not really sure which one it is, I would challenge, because MELALEUCA puts me in a pretty bad hole. If it stays on, I'm in an even tougher spot. If it comes off, all of a sudden I have a very real advantage, since I have a much better rack. On the other hand, if I don't challenge, I'm down a bingo on a dying board, and while I have the blank, opportunities for bingos are getting smaller fast. Challenge.
4. Tough decision. On one hand, he had CORNEtCY for just a bit less, but on the other hand, I know Kenji likes to play phony nines against people who he thinks give him too much credit for knowing nines, even if it's only a 20 point advantage over another play. However, I don't think he would play CORYCANTh if he thought it was good, even if he saw CORNEtCY, because he probably wouldn't allow for a nice juicy S hook. While the idea of trying for a Q-stick is tempting, I'm happy to challenge here, smelling a rat.
5. Again, I don't think either of us knows whether this is a word. Also, you just blocked EVENTUAL and went up 150. Very easy challenge.
6. This situation never would've come up because I would've challenged BLUeTIT in a heartbeat (also the fact that he didn't play ZOOGLEAe/BLUeTIT is an even bigger warning sign that it's phony, if you don't already know that it is). That aside, I would probably challenge TRAITORLY because Joel Wapnick is well known to underestimate young players a lot, so I can imagine him trying such an unscrupulous tactic (See: BLUeTIT).
7. Wouldn't challenge because I'm almost certain I've seen this word before.
EDIT: I just realized that this play was a bingo, rather than an extension to SAMPLED. This makes it a lot closer than I thought because he just scored a lot of points and blocked CUNIFORM/UNCIFORM and I have a lame rack with a lame pool for coming back. It's a lot closer but even with all these factors I think my sureness of the word still suggests no challenge.
8. Can't make an accurate judgment because I heard about this position a long time ago.
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