Tenth edition of the World Scrabble Championship kicks off in city

Scrabble lovers know that the word board game, even when played among family and friends, can bring out their competitive dark side. But what is it about the game of alphabets that makes it a good professional sport?

Those gathered at the 10th edition of the World Scrabble Championship, which kicked off on Thursday on the iGate campus in Whitefield, will tell you that while it all started off being about words and vocabularies, it’s now like any other sport.

Take for instance, 13-year-old Samrath Singh Bhatia, among the youngest participants here who was ranked 36 (among 136 participants) at the World Youth Scrabble Championship in Dubai last year.

He and his brother, Rehet (16), who was ranked 63, practise for about 30 to 45 minutes a day, sometimes by playing online, sometimes by learning words from lists.

“What draws me to Scrabble is the thrill of learning new words, many of which we don’t otherwise encounter in daily life.”

Are there enough opportunities or support for professional Scrabble playing here? Rehet says that he has noticed that in foreign countries such as Thailand and Nigeria, Scrabble is often part of the school curriculum. “We need that kind of encouragement in India.”

Scrabble veteran P.C. Jose has flown into the city from Mumbai for what will be his tenth professional scrabble tournament.

He first started playing 35 years ago, when he was employed in Saudi Arabia. He thought he’d stop when he returned but ended up starting the Mumbai Scrabble Club with a few other friends. Members, he concedes, don’t meet often; they mostly play online.

Champion speaks

India’s Scrabble champ ranked No.9 in the world, Sherwin Rodrigues, played against 10 players simultaneously on Wednesday. He told The Hindu that he first got interested in words when he watched his family play the game. “I remember watching the adults play Scrabble once, and I suggested a move which none of them thought of. I haven’t looked back since.” Having been associated with the game professionally for about 12 years now, the 24-year-old Mumbaikar recently initiated ‘Wordaholics’, a venture aimed at coaching the youth to improve their Scrabble skills.

The four day event will see 112 participants from 17 different countries, including world champion Nigel Richards, battle it out in 35 rounds for the title as well as the prize money of Rs. 9 lakh.

What’s new?

For the first time in an international Scrabble competition, a Newbie division has been introduced.

Speaking about the new division for beginners, tournament coordinator Radhika Mahalingaiah said it would see 15 gruelling rounds with 18 participants. “The objective behind this was to encourage those who are new to the game; this format allows them to play with those at their own skill level.”

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