mosaic (masochistically) wrote,

Top 10 reasons to adjust your pace

I wrote this for M a while back. We've had a number of earnest discussions about it since, and some of it was off-target for her specific case. But we think there's still some stuff here that could be interesting to others.

I was also reminded of this, particularly #7, while reading crosstables's entry on pruning trees.

Speed up your slowest moves

1. Trust your first (or second) instincts. You are not likely to make a significantly better decision in 4 minutes than you will make in 45 seconds. (I now agree this is highly debatable, but I still feel there is an essential truth here in some situations.)

2. Rob opponent of thinking time on your clock. And its corollary: when you force opponent to take their own thinking time – you get thinking time, too!

3. Play to your own strengths. This is perhaps the most important point I thought of here. You have several extraordinary fundamental talents. (I.e., exclusive of any developed or learned game- or Scrabble-specific talents). Among these are a lightning-quick mind, and a capacity to observe, and retain, myriad relevant (and irrelevant, more on this) details in parallel. You will inevitably see, and make use of, more individual data points, more quickly, than 98% of other tournament players. When you take 4 minutes on a turn against an opponent whose brain is almost guaranteed to be slower and kludgier, you are erasing this advantage.

4. (Obviously) leave more time for the endgame. You enjoy a good endgame, and in a close match you will get tremendous enjoyment from the challenge of finding optimal solutions. Why rob yourself of the opportunity to do these justice?

5. Corollary to #1: when these earlier instincts err, you need to trust that your ability will develop over time. I sense that you put all your eggs in the single basket of a single play. Think globally. One move, in one tournament match, is a single minute step in your entire Scrabble career. Get it right, or get it wrong, and move on. Be less afraid. Your opponent is making many (and hopefully, many more) equivalent mistakes.

6. There are new tiles in the bag. I make this error often. After agonizing over a play, I’ll exchange, or go for turnover, and be astounded to find a bingo on my next rack. Sometimes the right answer isn’t precisely in this play, but rather in the bag.

7. Re: irrelevant facts. We touched on the theme of where our minds go – ‘what-ifs’ that depend on letters we don’t have, words that other words remind us of, sowpods plays when we’re in a twl game, etc. These inspirations are really far from irrelevant. They bespeak a mind that is alive and awake and imaginative. These powers are to be cultivated, and will sometimes produce the unique innovative plays that turn a game.

I sense there are some things in a gray area, too, that occupy you on those clock-burning turns: considerations about offense/defense, quadrants, assessments of opponent’s vocabulary, inferences from their last play, head-game factors, etc. Your appetite for consuming and using ALL this data is spectacular – but unnecessary (at a conscious level). That is: TRUST, TRUST that you are making use of what is necessary, and remember that a single given play does not have to have a complete thesis supporting it. Proceed with faith that your brain has nibbled sufficiently at the edges of the problem – which it has surely done, in a startlingly brief instant of time.

Slow down your fastest moves

8. Standard advice: look for the better play.

9. Guard against careless mistakes caused by rushing or (usually) over-enthusiasm.

10. Set your own pace throughout. Play your own game. This has gradually come to me over time. I occasionally now come to the endgame on a short clock, but overall I feel – much more so than I used to – that I am not as affected by fast, frenetic, slow, or otherly-paced opponents. My game, increasingly, seems to have a heartbeat of its own. I intuit that this is a strength. If I take a longer time shuffling my tiles, of course it telegraphs that I may have a blank. But in general, a regularized pace can be a little unnerving to some opponents, and it’s a practice I’ve seen from top players I’ve faced such as Jere Mead and Adam Logan.

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