The recently held scrabble tournament was evidence of the growing popularity of this game in Kochi

Is there a place for board games in these fast-paced times, one wonders. The turn-out at the recently held scrabble tournament in the city does not surprise you either. But what comes as pleasant news is that many who could not “make it” are die-hard followers and players of the game.

And such numbers are increasing. The second fact, just as joyful, is that there is representation of players from different age groups. They range from nine year olds to participants now in their 70s!

Silvy Cherian, 68, a retired professor of English and a regular online scrabble player, was excited at the prospect of the match ahead. She has been playing the game since she was 12. But having lived outside Kerala for the last 40 years, she says that she is pleased to see the keenness of the players at the event. Silvy plays scrabble every morning with American opponents, keeping the time factor in mind.

Highest scoring word

Nine-year-old Sridev, a ‘pro' and student of Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir (SSRVM) is confident as he is the Junior State Champion, 2010. His brother and ‘Sam sir' coach him for the game. And his favourite word is ‘Caziques'! Ask him the meaning and he says that ‘scrabblers' are not concerned about the meaning of the words but only the points it carries.

So Caziques is the world's highest scoring word with 392 points. Its meaning is a West Indian chieftain but that's an unimportant fact.

Silvy chips in, saying that the highest scoring word she has made in her long years at the game is ‘tri-oxide' with a score of 256. And as the camaraderie for the game builds up you learn that scrabble is a game that began in the 1930s, during the Depression.

“It is quite advanced in the city and in pockets in Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam,” says Sam Joseph, the organiser of the tournament and the Secretary of the Scrabble Association of Kerala. G. Rangarajan, President of the Association, clarifies that the Scrabble Association of Kerala is an ad- hoc body and is in the process of registration with the main national body.

An active groundwork in terms of awareness, increase in participation and regular hosting of tournaments will help in the process. He says that for the past two years they have been working towards this and there has been a visible change. “There are many more players than before and there are active groups in different parts of the State. We are trying to get them all under one umbrella.”

P. S. Girijan, Deputy Director of Panchayats, is a keen player. He says that he and his sister P. S. Seema, teaching at CUSAT, are both actively involved with the game and happy at the new, vibrant scrabble scene in the city. Ranjit George has come all the way from Ezhimala to join in the competition just as Kshitij Dewan from Kozhikode.

New strategy

Sam says that scrabble requires tremendous word power followed by strategy, rack management and board management. He says that the world over, the strategy towards the game has changed as it has become very competitive. Earlier, the strategy was to follow the build-and-build plan but now it is build-and-block.

Disclosing the future plan of action of the Scrabble Association of Kerala, Rangarajan says that the aim is to promote the formation of scrabble clubs and conduct tourneys. He hopes for corporate sponsorship to popularise the game.

Mind Olympics?

Sam says that SAI (Scrabble Association of India) is aiming to get the game included in the Mind Olympics, London 2012.

Meanwhile, there is a big spurt in action and great excitement among players in the city. The next tournament is scheduled to be held at the Cochin Club, Fort Kochi, on July 17. For more details contact Sam Joseph at 9846042421.

Keywords: scrabbleboard game