New Aerolith feature!

Aerolith.org, the word study application created by Cesar Del Solar in 2007, has a brand spankin’ new feature!

Drum roll please..

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Historical stats on challenge correctness and time remaining can now be displayed graphically.

Thanks to Emily Dowgialo for creating this neat feature!

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North American Scrabble Champion Does A Reddit AMA

North American Scrabble champion Matthew Tunnicliffe did an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit today. A Redditor asked Tunnicliffe what his favorite weird word he has learned from Scrabble, and Tunnicliffe revealed that he could not answer that question because it was actually his Reddit password. We’ll see if he gets hacked.

Check it out here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3voegl/iama_north_american_scrabble_champion_ama_about/

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Matthew Tunnicliffe

-Emily Dowgialo

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Oakland Nerd Nite: War Of The Words

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Nerd Nite East Bay: 20K Leagues, Scrabble & Human Senses

I’m presenting at Oakland Nerd Nite tomorrow night! One of my buddies from college, Rick Karnesky, organizes the event, and asked if I’d be interested in speaking about Scrabble (apparently Scrabble is acceptably nerdy). Come nerd out and drink some brewskis with us! This event is 21 and up.

When: Monday, November 30th, 2015 @ 7-10:30PM (lectures begin at 8)
Where: Club 21 – 2111 Franklin St, Oakland, CA
Cost: $10

Check out the Nerd Nite website for information: http://eastbay.nerdnite.com/

-Cesar Del Solar

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Who Is Wellington Jighere? For The First Time In History Someone From Africa Wins The World Scrabble Championship

Wellington Jighere just took the win at the 2015 World Scrabble Championship. He beat his opponent Lewis Mackay 4 games to 0. He is the first player from Africa to ever win a world championship.

Wellington Jighere

Wellington Jighere

Wellington Jighere, besides having a pretty cool name, has been one of Nigeria’s best Scrabble players for a long time. In 2007, he was just one game away from making the finals of the World Scrabble Championship in Mumbai, but he fell in round 24 to, would you know it, Nigel Richards, who then won his first World Scrabble Championship.

The coolest Scrabble Champion ever?

The coolest Scrabble Champion ever?

Still, Jighere announced his presence to the world by finishing 3rd in his first Worlds ever. In 2008 he won the Africa Scrabble Championship, held in Nairobi, Kenya, and defended his title in 2010 in Accra, Ghana. He was 11th in the 2009 Worlds, being as high as 4th at one point but losing a few close games, and also won the prestigious Godswill Akpabio International Scrabble Classics that year. He purchased a brand new car with his winnings.

Jighere started playing Scrabble in 1996 after an older brother introduced him to the game. He has been hooked ever since. In his beginnings, he was a very strong player, but it seemed like he would always fall just short of victory. He had played in several major tournaments but seemed to lose steam towards the end. He would start off well then would start making mistakes. He began having more success in 2007, when he got third at Worlds.

Then, in late 2010, he retired. Citing a few disagreements with the way things were being run in the Nigeria Scrabble Federation, he hung up his boots (tiles?) and decided to focus on his studies. Wellington finished up his career in crop studies and performed his NYSC (National Youth Service Corps).

Luckily for the world of Scrabble, he came back with a fury in 2013, and the rest is history. He triumphed in the 2015 WSC, playing 4 nearly-flawless games:

http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=22364

http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=22365

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Wellington Jighere, 2015 World Scrabble Champion

Wellington Jighere, 2015 World Scrabble Champion

The winning Scrabble board

The winning Scrabble board

The president of Nigeria has called Wellington to congratulate him for his win and for making his country proud!

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-A collaboration by Cesar Del Solar of Aerolith.org, a Scrabble study site, and Emily Dowgialo, Scrabble Enthusiast

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Congratulations to Leesa Berahovich!

Berkeley Scrabble player Leesa Berahovich took the $25K Wordie Games championship! Massive congrats to her. The finals were exciting; you can take a look at the broadcast here:

On the way back from Reno Nationals last month, Leesa and I played a few practice games of Wordie while Emily drove. I think Leesa won all of them!

Although our good buddy and 2014 Scrabble Nationals champion Conrad was eliminated prior to the final round, he did a great job, playing a pretty flawless semifinal game, which you can also see at the link above. This version of Words With Friends is extremely volatile and anyone could have won it, so we’re glad it went to one of our own 😉

The Top Three Scrabble Cities in the World

Where are the best English-language Scrabble players in the world? The top answer may surprise you.

3. The San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco, CA, USA

San Francisco, CA – the 3rd best Scrabble city

9 out of the top 10 players in California live in the Bay Area. The top 5 include Jesse Day, who placed 2nd in the National Scrabble Championship this year (and has placed in the top 10 in the last 5 years), John O’Laughlin, who won the Collins Division of the NSC last year, as well as Mike Frentz and Jerry Lerman. Mike Frentz has won a few top-tier tournaments, including the California Open, and Jerry is a perennial top player, placing 2nd in the 2007 Players Championship. Rounding out the top 5 is myself, Cesar Del Solar, who would do better if he spent more time studying and less time writing blogs and word-study web apps.

We have about 18-20 tournaments a year – 12 Berkeley tournaments, 1 Mill Valley, 6 San Jose, and our flagship yearly tournament is the California Open, held in downtown San Francisco.

Our Berkeley July 2013 tournament was the strongest tournament field ever by average rating: 1997!

Jesse Day, John O'Laughlin, Mike Frentz, Jerry Lerman, Cesar Del Solar

Jesse Day, John O’Laughlin, Mike Frentz, Jerry Lerman, Cesar Del Solar

2. Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon - our #2 Scrabble City

Portland, Oregon – the 2nd best Scrabble City

Portland’s top 5 players include Dave Wiegand and Conrad Bassett-Bouchard; Dave has won the National Scrabble Championship twice, including beating Nigel Richards 4 out of 5 games to win in 2009. Conrad just won Nationals in 2014 and recently qualified for the $25K 2015 Wordie finals; he has also been ranked the #1 player in the world before. Peter Armstrong, recent Bay Area transplant, won the Collins division in Reno Nationals 2015 as well as several other major tournaments (Dallas Open, California Open).

Evans Clinchy and Noah Walton round out the top 5; they are both players with very strong finishes in various Nationals and other major tournaments.

Portland has tournaments almost every month with very fearsome top divisions. They are also hosting the 2015 Word Cup next weekend; we’ll keep you posted on results.

There was a Cal-Pac tournament in 2013, in which the top 7 players of California vs the top 7 player in the Pacific Northwest faced off – California emerged victorious by just half a point, I believe. At that point, California had Conrad and Kenji Matsumoto – two of the best ever Scrabble players.

Team California emerges victorious over Team Pacific Northwest at the 2013 CALPAC!

Team California emerges victorious over Team Pacific Northwest at the 2013 CALPAC

Dave Wiegand, Conrad Bassett-Bouchard, Evans Clinchy, Peter Armstrong, Noah Walton

Dave Wiegand, Conrad Bassett-Bouchard, Evans Clinchy, Peter Armstrong, Noah Walton

#1 – Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand - the best Scrabble city in the world

Bangkok, Thailand – the best Scrabble city in the world

In the 1980s, Amnuay Ploysangngam, a Thai businessman, went to grad school at Stanford and got hooked on Scrabble, playing it every chance he got. When he got back to Thailand, he started selling a Scrabble clone named “Crossword” in Bangkok, marketing it mainly to children as a way to teach them English. His dream was to see a Thai player eventually become the number 1 in the world.

For whatever reason, the game took off. Thousands of children spent many hours memorizing the English-language Scrabble dictionary and when they started competing in prestigious tournaments around the world, they would often take the top spots. Their vast knowledge of the English-language Scrabble words almost never include the definitions. They memorize the strings of letters. The game became a national sport and put Bangkok on the map as a top Scrabble mecca.

Making this even more interesting is the fact that while they play the North American TWL dictionary in smaller tournaments, the top tournaments in Thailand are played with the much larger Collins dictionary. This means that players are constantly learning and unlearning words for individual tournaments. The top players even fly to the North American championship yearly and must keep the dictionaries straight in their heads.

Bangkok’s top players include Komol Panyasophonlert, Panupol Sujjayakorn and Pakorn Nemitrmansuk. Komol has yet to win a World Championship, but has come extremely close several times. In 2013, Komol placed 2nd in the King’s Cup (more on that below). Just a week later, he was on his way to Las Vegas to play in the National Scrabble Championship. He unlearned thousands of words and placed 2nd again. Finally, a couple of months later, he placed 2nd at the World Scrabble Championship in Prague. Of note: Nigel Richards won all three of those tournaments.

Panupol and Pakorn are both former World Champions, Panupol being the youngest ever to win it at 19 in 2003 (he played Pakorn in the finals). Pakorn won it in 2009, beating Nigel Richards 3 games to 1. They have both placed in the top 10 several times at US Nationals as well; Panupol was one game away from winning the whole thing in 2005 but placed 2nd to Dave Wiegand. They have also both won the Thai King’s cup multiple times.

Rounding out the top 5 in Bangkok are Thacha Koowirat and Pichai Limprasert – both very good players with top finishes in major tournaments. There are even more incredible Thai players that I haven’t mentioned because I’m not sure they live in Bangkok, such as Jakkrit, Charnwit, Nawapadol… the list goes on.

King's Cup in Bangkok, Thailand

King’s Cup in Bangkok, Thailand

As far as tournaments go, Thailand hosts the biggest one in the world. The King’s Cup, held in Bangkok yearly in a mall, draws many thousands of players. The majority are schoolchildren, but the world’s top players also congregate here, and the King of Thailand even makes an appearance at the award ceremony.

Amnuay, Komol, Panupol, Pakorn, Thacha, Pichai

Amnuay, Komol, Panupol, Pakorn, Thacha, Pichai

A collaboration by Cesar Del Solar and Emily Dowgialo

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Wordie $25K Championship

This weekend, 64 Words With Friends wordsmiths will have a battle of wits at Zynga headquarters, for a chance at $25,000. This is quite exciting as the Scrabble community has not seen prize money that high in a long time. Zynga is trying to promote their new game, though, which is basically a very volatile version of Words With Friends, and to do so they are holding an invitational tournament.

Unfortunately, I did not get invited, but our good friend and 2014 National Scrabble champion Conrad Bassett-Bouchard will be there, along with at least two other Scrabblers. We met up with Conrad for dinner last night in Berkeley and wished him good luck.

The tournament has just six games today, with two minutes per side per turn, played on a tablet. The top 4 players will go on to play the semifinals and finals in Burbank in October for a chance at the 25K.

An 11x11 board, used for the WWF fast play 25K championship

An 11×11 board, used for the WWF fast play 25K championship

The regular 15×15 Words With Friends plays a lot like Scrabble, the only real differences are in the bonus square distributions, tile distributions and values, and dictionary. The dictionary is very similar to TWL1 (the Scrabble dictionary used in 1998), plus a bunch of extra words.

One of the main factors that has made WWF so popular is that it is much more volatile than Scrabble – a lot of tiles are worth more, the bonus square distribution encourages shorter words, and the bingo bonus is 35 instead of 50 points – so players who don’t spend many hours memorizing the dictionary have more of a chance. The version of WWF used for these championships is even wilder – 11×11 size, just 38 tiles and bonus squares all over the place! We believe our friend Conrad will be the favorite, but it’ll be tough due to the increased luck factor. Conrad is known for his defensive play style, however, and this may suit him well.

We will have more updates for you as the tournament progresses.

Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

Cesar Del Solar

That One Time I Had Dinner With Nigel Richards

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 author's dinner selfie with Nigel

The author’s dinner selfie with Nigel

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

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