The city finals of the National Scrabble championship saw enthusiastic participation from people of all ages.

Know what the word “igapo” means? If you don't then maybe you don't have what it takes to win Café Scrabble 2010 — the pan-India competition organised by Barista Lavazza and Mattel which brings together Scrabble aficionados in eight cities. Winners of the city finals will vie for the title of national winner, the prize for which is a trip for two to Malaysia.

Regional round

City finals for Chennai were held last Saturday at the Barista Café on RK Salai and it saw 16 finalists taking part in Duplicate Scrabble, where instead of the usual one-on-one format, contestants played individually with the same tiles. Their moves were scored against the theoretical best move the computer makes and the highest scorer was declared the city finals winner. This was the first time such a competition was held and according to Mr. Saurabh Swarup, Head of Marketing and Product Development, Barista Coffee Company, “The response has been very encouraging. Over 100 participants have registered (in Chennai )”. Assisting in the programme that day was the Chennai Scrabble Club, a small group formed in the house of Chitkala Govindaswamy in 1998, where according to another founding member Mohan Chunkath, “We just play Scrabble at the house, or now at the Velachery swim club.” They were helping with the layout and the running of the tournament; director Chitkala Govindaswamy herself was a finalist.

Participants

The participants that day were mostly in their 30s and 40s, with a few in their 60s and one as young as 14. For Aaditiya Vannan, the youngest of the bunch, his family of four are avid Scrabble players, where they would play once or twice a week. The teenager is a seasoned competitor who has taken part in quizzes in school, but for Barnali Talukdar, 34, and Indira Hande, 50, this is their first such competition. They both have strong interests in word games though, where Indira plays Scrabble on Sundays with her mother and Barnali likes to pick up crossword puzzles in the newspapers too.

Runner-up of the competition is Srivatsav Murthy, 32, a consultant who has been playing the game for five years, says, “I play mostly online, at this website with millions of visitors”.

It is clear from the response of the participants that the love of the game was what made them join the competition, so it should come as no surprise that the winner of the competition was Chitkala Govindaswamy herself, the 69-year old ex-teacher and founding member of the Chennai Scrabble Club. She walked away with a Barista Lavazza gift hamper and a deluxe Scrabble set from Mattel.

By the way, for those who are still interested, “igapo” actually means a flooded forest.

Adeline recently graduated from Singapore Management University with a B.Sc. (Economics) degree.