It is probably safe to say that the majority of UC Davis students have played, or at least have heard of, the smartphone application Words With Friends. A lesser-known fact, however, is that the City of Davis has its very own Scrabble club.
The Unofficial Scrabble Club of Davis plays year-round, every Wednesday night from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. In the warmer months, April to October, members gather at the Davis Farmers Market to play alongside the food and live music of the Picnic in the Park. Beginning in November, the group moves inside to the tables of Crepeville where they weather the cold with some friendly scrabble competition.
Jack Norman, a sophomore statistics and computer science double major and Scrabble Club member, explained that playing scrabble on Wednesday nights gives him a healthy break from his busy schedule.
“If I’m stressed or if I have had a tough beginning to the week, I can always look forward to Scrabble night,” he said in an e-mail.
Norman said that he is one of the younger players. Most of the club members are not college-aged; nevertheless, the club welcomes all people and all skill levels to come and play. The layout is family-style, with four to a board.
Lynne Conrad-Forrest, another Scrabble Club member, plays in her free time when she is not working in Sacramento. She joined the club not only to exercise her mind with the popular word game, but also to socialize with other members of the community.
“I enjoy the camaraderie and mental stimulation and sometimes silly fun that goes on,” she said in an e-mail.
The Unofficial Scrabble Club follows all of the rules outlined for the game. The only exception occurs during a formal word challenge; if the challenger is correct, then he or she receives a 10-point bonus while the player with the incorrect word loses a turn. Conrad-Forrest also said that it is not considered fair to consult a dictionary during play except during a word challenge. Players are allowed to check spelling between or after games.
“We often take breaks from our own games and observe other ongoing games, discussing words and possible combinations and placements,” Conrad-Forrest said.
On a typical Wednesday night, members can fit in two to three games, with rotations based on who is there, who has won, who has to leave early and who has arrived late. On the other hand, it is to be expected that there will be at least four or five die-hards who will stay and play until 11 p.m.
Playing the game does have some benefits other than being a good way to pass the time, members said. Norman said that he has learned many new words by playing Scrabble, since it is frowned upon to play a word without knowing its meaning. In addition, a study by researchers at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, among others, has shown that playing Scrabble regularly boosts cognitive and analytical capabilities, and also lowers the risk of dementia in aging adults.
CHLOE BREZSNY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.