Former Scrabble champ reminisces

  • Updated: June 20, 2008 - 4:13 PM

Robert Watson of Edina helped put the Twin Cities Scrabble scene on the map when he became national champion 20 years ago. Although the 59-year-old Allianz executive quit playing competitively after his 1988 win, he still plays with friends and remembers the championship run.

Q Why did you begin playing Scrabble?

A While at medical school ... we'd have these fantastically frenetic Boggle games. I went through an entire dictionary and wrote the three- and four-letter words, and I could beat everybody but this one guy. Eventually, everybody quit playing with us. Boggle came to an end and we converted to Scrabble.

Q Did you have a secret strategy?

A You've got to know your four-vowel, seven- and eight-letter words. [And] in my day, I was very good at bluffing. That was my greatest satisfaction, ultimately, to bluff the other masters.

Q Why did you stop playing competitively?

A They changed the [Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary]. After eight or nine or 10 years, something like 2,000 new words were added. My research was picking up, I had a daughter and a family, and for me to take those 2,000 words and rework my word lists just wasn't something I could do.

Q Do you still think about Scrabble?

A I'll still sit down and read a page of the dictionary just for fun to see how many words I remember.

Q Will you play competitively again?

A People have very much wanted me to come to tournaments to play again -- my rating is still one of the highest out there -- but I'm not especially inclined to.

TONY GONZALEZ

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