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on 20 May 2010
I had been thinking for some time that if there was one kind of book I would like to see added to the Scrabble library, it would be a book of top-quality tournament games, played according to the latest word list, presented move by move with in-depth analysis by one of the participants. And now in answer to my prayers along comes a new production from Collins, 'Play Like A Champion' by Allan Simmons, which takes you on a journey through the fifteen games that Allan played on the way to winning the 2007 UK Masters tournament.
This is a book which in one way is reassuring, in another way is daunting, and in all ways is both practical and entertaining.
It is reassuring because Allan is very honest in his analysis and makes no attempt to gloss over his fairly frequent lapses from perfection. Novice players may assume that top players, around the 190 level, know pretty much all the words, can anagram pretty much any rack, and their only problem is in selecting the most appropriate play for the situation. Well, the fact is that by and large they too are plagued by the same uncertainties, confusions and sometimes sheer ignorance as the rest of us. Allan misspells ULYIE as UYLIE*. He fails to spot a bonus AUXETICS. He misses a 110 point double-double through not knowing FIREBUSH. He agonises as to whether EPEIRIDS or EPIERIDS* is correct. He fails to find AERIFIES from EEIIRS? plus a floating A. And so on, to a rather comforting degree.
Where the book is daunting is in its tactical awareness and its depth of analysis. Allan might not know all the words, but boy, does he know how to use the territory! For the average player, decision making on the majority of moves probably goes as far as 'reasonable score, reasonable leave, doesn't leave anything too open for the opponent, OK, go for it.' You are likely to be amazed at how much further Allan takes this process, constantly assessing the state of the bag and the probability of getting required letters, manipulating the openness or otherwise of the board according to the relative scores, maintaining a constant awareness of threatening hot spots and potential hooks, making setup plays and so on.
The book is conveniently sized and well presented, with the current board position and rack at the top of the page, followed by Allan's analysis, and then the actual move made at the bottom. This means that it lends itself readily to self-quizzing mode, and indeed I do much recommend using it in this fashion, at first looking only at the board position and asking yourself what you would play and why.
Add to this a number of insets giving helpful hints on Scrabble tactics, an introductory profile of the opponent in each game, a glossary of unusual words, and a final statistical analysis (revealing e.g. that Allan averaged 440 per game, with 2.2 bonuses and had 57% of the blanks and 57% of the S's), and you have a contribution to Scrabble literature which I have no hesitation in recommending unreservedly. And when this is taken in combination with the previous excellent Collins/Simmons production 'The Times Scrabble Workout', I think it can be said that after a somewhat shaky start Collins are now getting their act together on the Scrabble front. I hope we can look forward to many more offerings of equal quality.
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on 7 June 2010
At first glance Play Like A Champion might appear to be the usual Scrabble book. In reality, it is no such thing.
This publication is a unique concept in that it takes the reader on an interesting journey through all 15 games of the 2007 Masters winner. The winner of the tournament was Allan Simmons, his thoughts and plays are written in full annotation form, move-by-move, and is very much focused on that event. Board diagrams are given for each move and the reader can play-along to see if they can match or better Allan's plays.
Very simple to follow if you are a beginner, club or seasoned player. The book is easy to follow and you will marvel at the profound word knowledge and tactical prowess of a Scrabble player with over 30 years of experience at the top level.
The simplified layout does not let your eye wander where it shouldn't. Page layout is balanced and the use of blue as the second receeding colour complements the text without being too overpowering. Words are highlighted in bold to help identify and learn words.
Allan also provides additional details such as current table placings of all 16 contenders after every round, hints and tips after every game, definition of words used in a glossary at the back and a brief resumé of his fifteen opponents. It all breathes life into some of the unique sights and sounds that make up the UK Scrabble tournament scene.
Besides being a total record of 2007 Masters you will play better Scrabble after reading this book and may very well be inclined to check out the Scrabble Tournament scene which is made up of players of all standards.
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on 17 August 2010
Much of the Scrabble literature I have read concerns spectacular, high-scoring plays, but doesn't devote any time to handling the everyday moves that make up the bulk of the game's strategy.

Play Like a Champion gives the reader an insight into the thought processes of a top player. Simmons leads us through the reasoning behind each of his moves, taking into account the factors like score and rack-leave, familiar to club-level players, but also the current game score; his opponents last play; the need to open up the board or play defensively.
An important and comforting realisation for me, was that even the best players suffer doubts, miss bonuses and make tactical errors.

The "quiz yourself" format, coupled with expert discussion of Simmons' moves is an excellent way to get a feel for the strategy of the game. I would like to see more books like this one.
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on 3 December 2010
This sort of book is long overdue. The "over the shoulder" style of presenting situations as they arise and what a top class player thinks of the options available each turn is very effective. It is not totally original - there have been many such for bridge, starting with Play Bridge With Reese in 1960 - but this book is the first I have seen for Scrabble.
I really hope that it is not the last.

The standard of play is exceptionally high, as you would expect but it is accessible for a not-terribly-good player such as myself. I bought it more for entertainment than education, but it has provided both admirably.

The only quibble I have is that there are some lapses in proofreading - the board references have not been checked as thoroughly as they might have been. For instance, in game 8 turn 12, the opponent's play is shown as UNAI at C5a (row C column 5 across); this reference is repeated on the next page although looking at the board it is impossible. The updated diagram shows that the play was at O5a and was listed correctly in the game summary. These typos are sometimes irritating but do little to detract from the overall enjoyment.

More please.
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on 29 July 2013
After playing online for 5 years, I finally entered the tournament scene last November at Jedburgh. I was in Div B and the author in Div A; my partner bought this book and another by Allan, and he happily signed the other, which was a nice touch. The book has added a personal dimension to my learning, from initially Allan going through the 7 possibilities of the letters CERTAIN, with at the time me probably knowing only one! It has highlighted to me (with the tips in addition to the The champion's gameplays) what I needed to do to improve my game. With this and other study aids, my word knowledge and strategy has vastly increased, so much so that 6 months later, I managed, against the odds to beat one of Allan's opponents (from this book) in a recent tournament. Still a long way to go, and tough playing against players with so much experience, but with books like this and a willingness to improve, it can be done
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on 10 March 2014
I bought a used book from BookBargainsOnline-UK in excellent condition, it looked like new! Now, the suggested games inside are very helpfull and i'm sure the persons i bought for will be very pleased!
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on 5 December 2012
This Kindle based book has been an interesting read, helping me to understand the way in which 'professional' Scrabble players think. Thank you Kindle!
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on 14 May 2016
fantastic service and product.
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on 26 October 2014
Could not get into it
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on 1 April 2015
just what was wanted
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