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Players in the age group of 7 to 96 would be participating in the International Scrabble Tournament from January 9 to 12, says Shankar Prasad, President of Karnataka State Scrabble Association

The Karnataka State Scrabble Association has been organising an international scrabble tournament every year which sees participation from students across countries, including world champions such as Nigel Richards. The 16th Chapter of the tournament is to take place from January 9 to 12 at Whitefield. Ahead of the International Scrabble Tournament 2020, Shankar Prasad, President of Karnataka State Scrabble Association, says scrabble is no more discussed just for the improvement it brings about in language and vocabulary. “Dedicated players find scrabble going beyond casual gaming. It is analytical, with the ability to strengthen one’s strategy, memory and concentration skills. We are keen to encourage people taking up playing scrabble in the city too,” says Shankar Prasad in an interview with Metroplus. Excerpts

What is the biggest rush for a Scrabble player?

One thing common for scrabble participants is the excitement of finding the right word and out-scoring opponents in tournaments. The better ranked your opponents, the bigger is the pleasure of outwitting them. The rush of having spotted a great word to score big is huge. Most regular scrabble players spend considerable time studying words. Besides the thrill of competing, its the scrabble-bond for four days which brings players from across states and countries.

How many countries are participating in the tournament?

The Mu Sigma - International Scrabble Tournament 2020 will be the 17th International Scrabble Tournament in Bengaluru. So far participants from 12 countries have registered with players from New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, England, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Singapore, Canada and India taking part. Nigel Richards from New Zealand is the current world champion and he is also participating in this tournament. Sherwin Rodrigues who is India’s number one player will also be there. Players from age 7 to 96 would be participating in the tournament.

Could you tell us about the format of the tournament?

There are four divisions in the tournament based on player’s rankings. The top ranked players will be in Division A, and newcomers to the tournament will be in D division. 34 games will be played by every player in the A, B and C divisions over four days. 15 games will be played by players in D division over 2 days. The winners in each division would be the ones who have the most wins and have the best spread. (Spread being the difference in scores of a player and his opponent in each game). The divisions are not based on age or gender but by playing capability. Hence it is possible that a 10-year-old will play a 50 year old and beat him comfortably too.

Is there an organisation that rates Scrabble players?

The agency WESPA – World English Speaking Players Association - rates players globally. Besides that, there are various country organisations that rank players nationally, with the Indian one being the Scrabble Association of India (SAI). Scrabble is as serious as Chess. In fact many national level chess players like Manisha Mohite, Ishika S also play scrabble and are very good at it.

How many rated scrabble players do we have in India?

India has about 300 rated players. However, only the ratings of players who are active members are published on the website of Scrabble Association of India.

How many Scrabble tournaments are held in India and how many abroad?

Karnataka is the only state that organises an international tournament in India. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, and Delhi hold national tournaments every year. Besides these Gujarat is starting a tournament this year. Scrabble is played in more than 121 countries and in 29 languages. According to the latest WESPA calendar for 2020 besides India, USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, Malta, Malaysia, Kenya, Canada, Israel, Romania, Germany have international tournaments already listed for 2020. Besides these countries Pakistan. Sri Lanka, Nigeria and a few other countries also conduct a lot of events.

You always stress that scrabble is beyond language and vocabulary...

Scrabble is not just about vocabulary, obviously if you know more words you have an advantage. But there is more to scrabble than just that. It is a very analytical in terms of deciding what word to play or what letters to leave behind for having a better word bag more points. It’s a strategy to see where on the board one has to play a word or block the opponent from scoring to optimise your points. One has to observe the letters used and the ones available in the bag and the opponent’s rack. Scrabble is recommended for keeping dementia at bay. Obviously, concentration comes into play to ensure that you stay focussed.

Would it help if India were to declare scrabble as a sport (like Thailand and Nigeria) rather than a game?

Yes it would be good if India declares scrabble as a sport. It would get notice by the Government for promoting the game, and help generate more interest among people and sponsors to be covered by media as a sport.

How did the Bangalore Scrabble Association grow into the Karnataka State Scrabble Association?

Bangalore Scrabble Club was started in 1998 as an informal space for friends and family to get together and play. We had regular one day tournaments and in 2005 started the international tournament with help from Capgemini who were the sponsors for 15 years. There were 20-25 members in Karnataka till 2017. The Bangalore Club expanded its scope to include all of Karnataka and become the KSSA to attract more sponsors, who obviously would not support an informal organisation. We have nearly 100 members now with players from Belgaum and Bellary too.

Participants for ‘Mu Sigma International Scrabble Tournament’ or joining KSSA can write to KSSA.scrabble@gmail.com or call 9739890000 (Shankar Prasad)

The avid scrabble player

A graduate from XLRI, Shankar Prasad has worked in management roles with companies such as AIRTEL, TATA Communications and RedBus. Being an avid scrabble player himself, his often talks on the nitty-gritty of the game and the benefits the players gain. “I moved away from the corporate world to become an entrepreneur in 2013. Once it stabilised, I had time in 2016 to take part in the international scrabble tournament in Bengaluru and there I was hooked! I got active in the club and organised numerous one-day tournaments. I was elected the President of KSSA in 2018. The KSSA is affiliated with the Scrabble Association of India (SAI) and the World English Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) The KSSA organises one Global and one National event each year.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 6:08:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/karnataka-state-scrabble-association-kssa/article30522083.ece

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