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Mark Zuckerberg Built a Computer Program to Beat a High-Schooler at Scrabble (Report)

Facebook chief is a “ruthless execution machine,” one Silicon Valley exec tells the New Yorker

When it comes to board games, Mark Zuckerberg apparently takes winning and losing about as seriously as Kobe Bryant.

One example, in a Monday profile from the New Yorker, highlights the Facebook chief’s competitive side: Playing against a friend’s high school-age daughter in Scrabble aboard a corporate jet a few years ago, Zuckerberg lost — and he didn’t plan to lose the rematch.

“Before they played a second game, he wrote a simple computer program that would look up his letters in the dictionary so that he could choose from all possible words,” according to the New Yorker.

The move worked out. Zuckerberg held a “narrow lead” as the flight touched down.

“During the game in which I was playing the program, everyone around us was taking sides: Team Human and Team Machine,” the young woman told the New Yorker.

This isn’t much of a shock. To get to the top, you often have to be cutthroat — especially in the dog-eat-dog world of Silicon Valley. “Domination!” Zuckerberg would often exclaim while wrapping up team meetings, according to the New Yorker. Facebook has also been quick to gobble up potential threats — acquiring a slew of companies, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus under Zuckerberg’s aegis.

“He’s a ruthless execution machine, and if he has decided to come after you, you’re going to take a beating,” ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told the New Yorker.

Zuckerberg weighed in, saying the perception he’s an aggressive, emotionless exec is overblown in an “extremely competitive” industry.

“If we’re going to achieve what we want to, it’s not just about building the best features. It’s about building the best community,” Zuckerberg told the New Yorker. “I care about succeeding. And, yes, sometimes you have to beat someone to something, in order to get to the next thing. But that’s not primarily the way that I think I roll.”