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March 4, 2004
 Meet Memorial

 


A wordy opponent

Jeff Parsons
Photo by Chris Hammond
Jeff Parsons is a competitive Scrabble player who once scored 598 points in a game.

By Amanda Ivany
Special to the Gazette

Dr. Jeffrey Parsons knows that every word counts – at work and at play. The newly appointed associate dean of research at the Faculty of Business Administration has been busy working to improve the faculty’s research environment and make Memorial a national force in management research. However, in between the administrative duties and his own research and teaching, Dr. Parsons enjoys a hobby that has made him a national force in quite a different way.

This accomplished faculty member is also an avid, expert Scrabble player. The hobby began as a Sunday evening pastime between Dr. Parsons and his aunt during his years as an undergraduate student at Memorial. After enrolling in the University of British Columbia to pursue a PhD in Information Systems, he joined a Scrabble club that met weekly.

Through the Scrabble club, he found out about national and international Scrabble tournaments and decided to get involved.

“The first tournament I entered was in Vancouver in 1989. After that I competed in a tournament in the Grand Canyon, and won the novice division.” Over the years, Dr. Parsons has improved to become an expert player. He has played in tournaments across the United States and has competed in all four Canadian Scrabble Championships, open to only the top 50 players in Canada. He finished 19th in the last Canadian championship, held in Toronto in December and he once scored 598 points in a game.

“Canadians are among the best players in the world,” he said. “Canadians hold three former world championship titles and three U.S. championship titles.” One of
Dr. Parsons’ fondest Scrabble memories is beating Adam Logan by 125 points at the first game of the 1998 Canadian Championships. At that time, Logan was the reigning U.S. and Canadian champion.

But what exactly differentiates an expert Scrabble player from a regular player? “Really good players – the elite – know the official Scrabble dictionary exceptionally well and have excellent strategy skills,” explained Dr. Parsons. “They study a lot, and have top-level word knowledge. Anyone can play better with a little study and by learning the basics of strategy.

“Scrabble is two-thirds strategy and one-third luck. You have to think about getting the most points. For example, if you play all of your tiles in one turn you get a 50-point bonus. Also you have to consider what opportunities you are opening up or taking away from your opponent when it is his or her turn to play.”

If you’re interested in playing competitively, Dr. Parsons advises that you learn all of the two-letter words acceptable in North American tournaments. “There are only 96 of these words and it’s not hard to learn them all. They are important to strategy and can help you get a lot of points.” In addition, players can avail of computer programs and Internet games to improve their game and word power. There are also study programs that aid in improving anagramming skills. “These programs help you improve your ability to find words quickly in a given set of letters.”

When he’s not competing in tournaments, Dr. Parsons challenges his wife and fellow faculty member Dr. Katherine Gallagher to a game. “It’s quite a strategic game that we both enjoy playing,” she said. “He thinks he can always get the last word in but, just for the record, I have won a few times.”

Dr. Parsons will compete at the U.S. National Championships in New Orleans this July.


 


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Next issue: March 18, 2004

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