The entire world has been abuzz with news about Nigel Richards recently. In an almost unfathomable feat of mental dexterity, Nigel memorized the entire French dictionary in 9 weeks, then entered the World Scrabble Championship, in French, and won the whole thing.
We in the English Scrabble world are out of superlatives to describe him; he has won 5 US National Scrabble Championships, two World Scrabble Championships, and numerous King’s Cups (the biggest English Scrabble tournament in the world, held yearly in Thailand during the summer), among many other prestigious worldwide tournaments. Seemingly wanting more of a challenge, he decided to learn the 386,000 French words in 9 weeks – winning the 2015 King’s Cup in between – and entered this year in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
For those who don’t believe he learned more than just the 7-letter words, he is known to have played a 9-letter word in Belgium. Even assuming he learned just 160K words (the approximate number of 2 through 9 letter words) that is an astonishing 2500+ all-new words per day. For reference, I usually study in 500-word chunks, and it takes me at least a couple of hours to go through one chunk, and these are mostly words that I have already seen before – it would take me significantly longer if they were all new!
In 2014, Nigel entered the U.S. National Scrabble Championship, a tournament he had already won 5 times; a friend of mine and his invited me and a small group out to dinner and I had a chance to sit next to and converse a bit with what has been described as an “enigmatic” figure. Of course, Nigel was a perfectly normal, nice, and witty guy. Much ado has been made about his “monkish”, “ascetic” or even “vegetarian” tendencies in the media, assertions he poked fun at as we enjoyed a delicious Thai dinner. Although I couldn’t let my fanboyism get the better of me, as I asked Nigel to take a selfie with me, I much enjoyed getting to know my Scrabble idol a bit.
The tournament did not go that well for him; he missed a cash spot by losing the last game, one of only a handful of times in 10 years he had not gotten 1st or 2nd at a major tournament. There were assertions made by some about Nigel possibly starting to get rusty, or that people are learning to play against his strategy, to which I say it’s just variance. His dominating performance this year proves it. Although he’s not entering the US National Scrabble Championship this year, I am picking him to take the World’s crown again in Perth in November.
–Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org