Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!

It's the biggest whinge at the Internet Scrabble Club. If you're going to believe the majority of finger notes and public denouncements, there isn't a single player (except, one infers, the writer of the finger notes) who is giving you an honest game.

Well, I'm kinda sick of the whole thing. I now routinely noplay anyone who whinges about cheaters and cheating, whether I've played them or not. And people who are rude to the helpers, but that's another matter altogether. Because really, I don't believe anyone actually is cheating. I think they're just a bunch of bad losers.

Why don't I believe anyone is cheating? Firstly, it's going to be hard. A lot of people sign the Fairplay agreement, in which you agree not to use an anagramming program or website during play. When you sign this, ISC puts a detective on your computer, and if you use such a program or website, then it cancels the agreement.

Let me rephrase that. If you have such a program open on your computer, whether you are using it or not, it cancels the agreement. And it writes it up in your finger notes, so that everyone who looks can see that it was cancelled. And, it stays there for two weeks. This has happened to a lot of people, judging by the ongoing Q&A, and many were quite genuinely not using the anagrammer to help their play.

Secondly, you have the option of only playing people who have signed the Fairplay agreement. If you're really that hung up on people using anagrammers, you have only yourself to blame if you don't check that box.

Thirdly, I don't there is any way to manipulate what tiles you get to play with. They are issued automatically without any interference on your part.

And finally, let's come down to the anagramming programs. How much do these help you, bearing in mind that there's more to scrabble than just knowing lots of words? Oh yes there is. You have to analyse the board, analyse your rack and look ahead in the game, not just at this move. Chess players will understand.

I am an average player. I know some techniques, but not all. I know some stems (these are six letter basic words, which combined with any letter of the alphabet is likely to give you a word that scores a bonus 50 points.) Can I win using an anagrammer? I decided to test the theory.

So I signed onto the backup server, which is not used much. I only go there to practice quietly, so I don't have to sign the Fairplay agreement to gain credibility there. The computer players are all usually available, unlike the main server where they in demand all the time. I set my game time to 40 minutes, I set the challenge mode to void so that I wouldn't lose points for playing an invalid word, I marked the game unrated so that I would not benefit from winning, I got myself an anagramming program and I challenged Nefertiti, one of the high ranking computers aimed at the expert players.

I input every rack I had into the anagrammer looking for a bonus play. Boy, did I find some weird words, but I played them nevertheless. Every possible bingo I had, found its way onto the board.

Did I win? No, of course not. Because there really is more to scrabble than just knowing all the long words. I post a picture of the final board for your interest and edification. My words are in red. Nefertiti thrashed me most horribly, anagrammer and all. 535-379 points, to be exact.

Did I have fun? No. It was, in fact, a most boring and tiresome way of playing the game. More than half the fun is challenging your own abilities.

But I did prove my point. If you whinge about cheaters, and publicly accuse your opponent while you're playing (yes this has happened!) of cheating just because they were lucky enough to play five bonus words in one game, then actually, you're just a bad loser. If you always play VOID and moan about cheating, you're doubly a bad loser. And if you haven't challenged any of the bingo words your opponent played, ummm.... how come you know the words but think your opponent shouldn't?

So, that is my whinge.

I hope it is more literate than most I have read on ISC.