By Terrence Echols and Ryan Collins
Jamesville-DeWitt High School junior Matt O’Connor won $650 playing Scrabble on Oct.18 and 19 in Lake George, NY. O’Connor competed with 138 other people of all ages in a Scrabble tournament.
There were 24 people in his division, which was comprised of players who wanted to use words from the British dictionary because there are more eligible words than in the American dictionary. The person who won the most games became the tournament champion. O’Connor won a total of 14 of the 15 games he played to become champion, two more games than the second place finalist, who finished with 12 wins.
O’Connor has competed in 85-90 Scrabble competitions in the past 7 ½ years, winning an outstanding $9,000 since he began. “I put all my earnings in the bank,” he said. While the money is a great motive, O’Connor will continue to compete and hopes to win more Scrabble tournaments because he loves the game. “It’s not about the money, it’s fun.” said O’Connor.
What makes O’Connor such a skilled Scrabble player? O’Connor likes to work with words and he is good at memorizing them. He is also very good at math and “Scrabble is primarily a math game,” said O’Connor. That may come as surprise to many people who don't play the game, but O’Connor explained his method; “You have to count your plays and accurately gauge how good players are. You also have to use binomial probability to calculate the chances of your opponent having a certain letter.” The example O’Connor gives is that if there is a certain number of A tiles and you have one, you must think of the probability of your opponent having an A tile and the probabilty that the A tile isn’t being used. With O’Connor’s experience and talent, his methods have seemed to work extraordinarily well.
O’Connor prepares for his tournaments by playing Scrabble for four hours a day and going on computer study programs, which help him expand his vocabulary. These programs help him learn new words and to become an overall better Scrabble player. “(The computer programs) give you all the letters in the word in alphabetical order and you have to put them in the right order,” said O’Connor. His sister Emily O’Connor, who is a senior at J-DHS, is very proud of his work ethic. “He works hard so his rating goes up,” she said. O’Connor’s friend, junior Ajay Manohar said his friend works hard and deserved to win. “I played him once, I got wrecked.” said Manohar. O’Connor doesn't have a favorite word, but he said any word that is directly responsible for him winning the game is his favorite word.