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A triple score

Players and organisers worldwide eagerly wait for scrabble tournaments. The competition is as intense as any other sport, followed by “after-hours” often replete with events as varied as poker sessions and karaoke gigs.

The scene is no different in India, where players from various walks of life and age groups congregate to match skills. The all-encompassing appeal of scrabble was delightfully represented by the sight of a seven-year-old taking on a 97-year-old at a tournament in Bangalore. These wordsmiths have always been pitting their wits against each other, face to face. Until March 2020, that is.

Travel restrictions, physical distancing norms and limits on gatherings combined to signal an indefinite hiatus on live tournaments. As the pandemic loomed, the foresight of a few contributed greatly towards satisfying the cravings of many a scrabble-starved soul. The Internet Scrabble Club (ISC) had long been a platform for virtual scrabble jousts. But its significance was realised in the wake of the need for online tournaments during the course of the lockdown. It did not take long for the “new normal” to kick in, and online tourneys became a way of life for many.

Virtual jousts

The online tournaments afforded competitive players a chance to stay in touch with the game. They have enabled “scrabblers” to interact with one another by virtue of the frequent doses of tournament games on the ISC. This has, in turn, helped maintain a semblance of the community feel that is the hallmark of any in-person tournament.

A standard in-person tournament in India involves a league format resulting in individual standings, generally played over two to four days. An exception is the annual Wordaholix Scrabble League (WSL), modelled on an exciting team format that brings a refreshing dimension to competitive scrabble. The WSL is unique, as it generates great bonhomie among the participants. However, the boom in online tournaments, borne out of necessity, has taken the innovation to another level, with a view to keep the players hooked.

Such new ideas for online tournaments have gone a long way in sustaining the players’ interest in the game. Multiple editions of a team tournament that introduced the concept of an IPL-style player auction, a “Casino” tournament that brought in aspects from poker to add to the unpredictability, a knockout tournament that drew over 100 players, a tournament modelled on city-based teams, a tournament exclusively for beginners, as also another for the top-rated players — you name it.

A major global tournament was the Virtual World Cup that saw teams from 16 countries, with each team having five players. The Indian team made it to the final before agonisingly falling short against the U.S.

(Rustom Deboo is the joint secretary of the Scrabble Association of India)

rustom_8992@yahoo.in


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 4:39:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-triple-score/article33768329.ece

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