All in no order of importance.
1. Avoid phonying – don’t try things for the sake of “making the best move” – you could do that in practices but not tourneys. Make sure that before you choose a word to play, you’ve at least heard of the word, and made sure you haven’t confused it with anything similar.
2. You know how much you’ve studied. If you come across a rack which has a bingo you might know, give it some time. Racks like ILNORST or AELORTU might be easily missed because people just don’t spend enough time.
3. But either way you go, every rack which has a decent consonant-vowel balance might have a bingo. It might not be a high probability one but don’t miss those simple English ones (e.g. EXTORTS). This is an error many decent players make!
4. Find a move, look for a better move, and when you’re convinced there’s no better move, look for a better move. “I played too fast” is really not an excuse. Look at Pakorn, for an example of how people can use their time.
5. Many players suffer because they don’t know how to valuate synergy (I don’t, in many cases). This means they don’t know how to, or forget to, look for moves that keep one or two more synergistic tiles and that score about the same. While they may get lucky draws, this doesn’t mean their play was good. Don’t just look at the big moves (e.g. finding bingos, ability to find 40+ pointers). Make sure your other moves are strong. Look at Nigel for a good example.
6. Top-tier players know when to keep high scoring tiles. As a general rule, try not to unless your leave is decently balanced and there are places to score on the board (e.g. QU, even stuff like JEW can be considered).
7. Challenge anything and everything you are unsure of. The tourney is played in Single Challenge so take good advantage of that. Since there are no finals, you have no 5-point penalty to worry about (I really hope Karen changes it to 5-point next year though).
8. Do smart exchanges, but only when you need to (sometimes, you really shouldn’t). By that I mean keeping synergistic and balanced racks – don’t just change 7 because you see a rack full of consonants. Also be mindful of what’s in the bag (might want to change more if there are two blanks and 4 esses in the bag, for instance)
9. Learn your high probability 7s and 8s. They’re called “high probability” for a reason. No one expects you to see stuff like AILMMUW if you’re not top-tier, but everyone will chide you for missing AADELRU or EINORSU (yes, I missed both on ISC before).
10. Don’t just balance your rack when you play. There are many other things you can do for your rack – setup for a likely or even unblockable high scoring move among others. If you have something like IIIIQRR and have QI for 64 points, but find that you can play LIRI for maybe 4 points to open another TLS for the Q, that might be a good choice. Think along this philosophy: as long as you can score more than your opponent, you win – so make sure you score a lot while he can’t score.
And non-gameplay wise:
1. Take your racks down. This is probably the biggest tourney some of you have been to and here’s a great chance to see how you perform under pressure.
2. Don’t be afraid of being on annotation. I was pretty nervous the first few times I was on annotation, and that led to pretty crappy plays (e.g. that very special game in WYSC 2006). At least it got a bit better in 2007 though there were some funny moments as well…
3. Losing is a phenomenon that’s very hard to avoid in a 24-game tourney – so don’t get bogged down by any losses. Judging by the results of the recent WSC and Causeway, there are many players who have climbed up to top 10 positions after taking an initial drubbing.