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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Cooper Komatsu and Jem Burch win the National School Scrabble Championship!

Cooper Komatsu and Jem Burch, two 13-year olds from the Los Angeles area, have won the National School Scrabble Championship! You can play along with the final game here: http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=23279#0 – thank you to Craig Beevers for the annotation.

This year, the championship was held at the New England Patriots stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Featuring over 100 2-person teams, this is the largest NSSC so far. The tournament consists of 7 2-on-2 games across 2 days, and each team is given 30 minutes to make their move. The rules are largely the same as those of “adult” tournament Scrabble, but the dictionary is an expurgated one with no curse words. Wouldn’t want to teach the kids any bad words!

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Cooper Komatsu and Jem Burch win the 2016 NSSC as part of team Lucky 13 (apparently a reference to their ages)

I (Cesar) remember the first time Cooper came to Los Angeles Club #44 with his mom Deborah. He was just 6 years old! And he already showed a lot of promise. Early in his club career he was already taking down expert players, making bingos and scoring left and right. I never got to play him, but I’m sure it would have been a good game. He became good friends with Jem Burch, another young player, in the coming years.

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The youngest and oldest members of Club 44 at the time – 82 years separate Cooper Komatsu and Ralph Crosby (who is sadly no longer with us, RIP)

Jem and Cooper came to a lot of our LA tournaments in the last few years, always placing well and often beating experts along the way. I remember at one tournament in Long Beach there was a little basketball hoop and rim where we were playing for prizes and Cooper and Jem were owning it.

Jem and Cooper both play quite fast and still make good plays despite this. I thought this would serve them well at the NSSC and I’m not surprised at all that they won it. They played the final game at a very high level – you can see some great plays in the board picture above. You can also see the stream of the final game here. Some plays of note: a natural 7-letter bingo AGNOSIA, making GESTATES. Also, the word QUARrELS, for what appears to be 101 points, AWAITED, JARINA, GOFER, and some other cool parallel plays.

Craig Beevers, 2014 World Scrabble Champion, had the following to say about their game in a Facebook forum:

I watched all the games today and caught bits of yesterday. They played a really great game in the final, pretty much flawless and kept their nerve in the endgame. Congrats and well played.

Very impressive, and looking forward to what Cooper and Jem achieve in the Scrabble world over the next few years.

Congratulations to Cooper and Jem!

The World Scrabble Championship – The Finals!

Looks like we called the two finalists: Wellington Jighere and Lewis Mackay. Lewis lost a few in the afternoon and was almost out of it, had he lost to Komol in game 32, but he was able to emerge victorious.

At the time of writing this article, the two finalists are starting their third game of the best-of-7 finals, and Wellington is up 2-0. Wellington won the first game, and the second game was neck-and-neck until the very end; Lewis missed his final play of CEILIDHS (the plural form of CEILIDH, a night of song, story, and dancing) and it cost him the game. You can follow the action live here:

http://www.cross-tables.com/annolistself.php
Search for Wellington Jighere and/or Lewis Mackay to see the latest game. Thank you to Evans Clinchy for annotating and providing these games for us!

The top 10, after the aforementioned finalists, were:

3. Esther Perrins (AUS) – Highest finish by a female Scrabble player in a WSC
4. Komol Panyasoponlert (THA)
5. David Wiegand (USA)
6. Marlon Prudencio (SGP)
7. Evans Clinchy (USA)
8. Nigel Richards (NZL)
9. Craig Beevers (ENG)
10. Austin Shin (ENG)

Some awesome talent in the top 10. Craig just won the 2014 edition of the WSC, in London; and we’ve all heard of Komol, Dave, and Nigel a few times in this blog.

A picture of the prizewinners, minus Nigel who had to leave early, and the top 2 finalists:

Prizewinners of 2015 WSC in Perth

Prizewinners of 2015 WSC in Perth

Who are the finalists?

Wellington Jighere

Wellington Jighere

Lewis Mackay

Lewis Mackay

In a previous blog post, we wrote about the best Scrabble cities in the world, and a couple of players pointed out to us that we left out Lagos, Nigeria. Whoops! There are some fantastic players in Nigeria, and although no one from there has won the WSC (yet), many Nigerians have come close. In Nigeria, Scrabble is basically a national sport, and there are actually Scrabble training camps where players hone their craft with the help of some top talent such as Femi Awowade, Sammy Okosagah (who resides in the US), Dennis Ikekeregor, and many other top players. Sammy came in 3rd at the 2013 WSC – he actually had the best record at the end of the regular tournament, but was eliminated in the best-of-4 finals. Wellington is another fantastic player who has come close in the past, and it looks like this might be his finals to take, thus making him the first African player to ever win the WSC. But we’ll wait and see.

Nigerian Scrabble players cheering for their countryman!

Nigerian Scrabble players cheering for their countryman!

Lewis Mackay is a perennially strong British player who has placed at Worlds several times, coming in 20th, 24th, 11th, and 19th in past years. He’s been playing great and having a great tournament this year, let’s see if he can turn this around in the final 5 games. It is a tall order as he will need to win 4 of them, but Scrabble has plenty of unpredictability.

Good luck to all playing! What a fun event. We will try to be at the massive event in Lille next year.

Want to write an article or blog post for Scrabble TV Live? Email us at scrabble.live@gmail.com.

-Cesar Del Solar

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The World Scrabble Championship 2015, Day 2

After round 12, our very own Dave Wiegand is in first place! Dave Wiegand is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and he has won the North American Scrabble Championship twice, once in 2005 and then in 2009. In 2009 he had to beat the legendary Nigel Richards 4/5 times to come out on top. When he’s not being a Scrabble hero, he enjoys hot sauce (no really, check out his player profile) and is known to toss back a good beer every now and then.

I (Cesar) have a fun story about playing Dave that happened a few years ago at a Berkeley tournament. This tournament was right before nationals of 2013. It also happened to be the highest rated division 1 tournament ever by average rating. The 6 top players had an average rating of 1997. It’s the only tournament I’ve come in last place in, but the competition was pretty stiff, so I’m not too bummed. Early on, Dave plays a 9-letter word, AIRMOBILE, through BI, and it stopped one short of a double-word score. Of course, I just assumed it was good, since he’s Dave Wiegand.

I never got to put an S on it as I bingoed elsewhere, and I lost by a few points as I could never quite catch up. But at the end of the game, he told me that he would have challenged if I stuck an S on it, since he knows that it doesn’t take an S! If you don’t know much about Scrabble, know that learning lower-probability 9-letter words is usually not done by anyone except top experts, and then knowing which ones of them can be pluralized is even crazier.

The current standings are here:

http://www.scrabble.org.au/events/15WSC/inv/round12.html

Tournament favorite Nigel Richards had a bad start, but he’s currently in 35th and there’s 20 games to go. Many of our friends are amongst the top 20.

Jesse Day played Adam Logan, the second highest rated player in the world, and came out victorious: 556-427. He made a nice play, QUAICHES, for 125 points. Fun fact: a quaich is a shallow drinking cup from Scotland.

Jesse Day vs Adam Logan

Jesse Day vs Adam Logan

As the days pass, people get more tired. Jet lag comes into play during the world championship, as many players travel from across the globe to compete. It may be fun and games before the competition starts, but once you’re in front of the board, your best friend becomes a competitor. Your first loss chips away at your psyche and it becomes important to maintain focus and not let that cloud your concentration because it becomes a slippery slope. Long tournaments are tough, and we send our good thoughts to everyone in Perth!

Want to write an article or blog post for Scrabble TV Live? Email us at scrabble.live@gmail.com.

-A collaboration by Cesar Del Solar and Emily Dowgialo

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The World Scrabble Championship, Day 1

The WESPA Championship 2015 (World English Scrabble Association) started today in Perth, Australia. As we write this, players are just completing the 4th game of 32; after 4 days the top two go to a 5-game playoff to determine the World Scrabble Champion.

Check out the event page here: WSC 2015

As of right now, the current results are not up, but we are following several of our friends via Facebook and Twitter. Top US expert (he placed second at this year’s North American Scrabble Championship) and good friend Jesse Day started the tournament out with a bang, beating Nigel Richards 438-413.

Jesse Day vs Nigel Richards, Day 1

Jesse Day vs Nigel Richards, Day 1

He started 4-0. Keep up with his progress and find frequent tournament updates on his twitter. Good luck to him and to the other contestants! The US has over 15 players, many of whom we know personally. Our good buddy Jesse Matthews from Canada, who has also been featured on this blog before, is also competing. He It looks like there are about 140 people playing at Worlds, plus another 120 in the Open Division (a smaller side tournament mostly for local players). We would love to be in Perth right now!

Word has it that tournament favorite Nigel Richards has lost his first three games. This may just be a rumor, but we’ll keep you informed when results start rolling in. Starting 0-3 in a 32-game tournament is not the worst thing in the world, especially when you’re Nigel Richards, so we hope he can pick it up soon.

We have been enjoying keeping up with the Scrabblers on their journeys down under. Jesse Matthews had a luxurious first stop in Dubai, flying first class on Emirates all the way. Several people spent a few days in Hong Kong where they made our taste buds envious by documenting their culinary adventures.

The BBQ stingray looks particularly delectable

The BBQ stingray looks particularly delectable

It looks like everyone has been having some fun in the sun in the southern hemisphere, with photos of day trips to Rottnest Island and adorable run ins with quokkas (which apparently are only found on Rottnest. Fun fact!).

Quokkas are 100% cute

Quokkas are 100% cute and are a cool word to boot

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Jesse Matthews, Dave Koenig, Jesse Day, Cecilia Le, Jennifer Lee, John O’Laughlin, and Evans Clinchy splash around Rottnest Island

Games began early with Dave Wiegand and Evans Clinchy battling it out at ping pong

Games began early with Dave Wiegand and Evans Clinchy battling it out at ping pong

Good luck to everyone. We’ll be rooting for ya, mates.

Send us your pictures and we’d be happy to post them up! If you’d like to write an article or a blog about your experience at Worlds, contact us! We’d love any and all contribution.

-Cesar Del Solar and Emily Dowgialo

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Best Of the Bay

Every year, we in the Bay Area have a tournament called Best Of the Bay, or BOB for short. It was temporarily renamed to the LES (Let’s Eat Stuff), in honor of late Scrabble legend Lester Schonbrun, last year. It consists of eight games against other top players and is punctuated by delicious food cooked by Scrabble players and chefs extraordinaire Chris Patrick Morgan and KC Frodyma (or XKCP as we like to call them).

One of many delicious pizzas baked by team XKCP

One of many delicious pizzas baked by team XKCP

It is one of the only tournaments around that requires qualifying, and the criteria is simple – if you win a division 1 tournament in the Bay Area sometime in the year, you’re in! I’ve qualified the past three years and it’s been a great time – I even won the 2014 edition – however, I’ve already tried 9 times this year and been unable to qualify yet.

Sensing that there’s not many tournaments left in the year, I went to a smaller tournament in Mill Valley last week, run by a rival organization to NASPA called WGPO. There were still some experts in attendance, but I was by far the highest seeded – and still lost two of the six games, knocking me out of 1st.

Play my game against Mary Stevens here, who definitely deserved to beat me: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21734

My next try will be this coming Sunday in San Jose. The tournaments being just six games long makes this difficult, as there is a lot of variance, but I would think I should have won at least one already – I usually win 2-3 tourneys per year, but this year I have 3 second places and can’t quite win one yet. I gotta qualify soon!

Our post-tourney crowd last month at Jupiter in Berkeley. Some of these Scrabble players were just passing through town and visiting, including Gab Wong from Hong Kong!

Our post-tourney crowd last month at Jupiter in Berkeley. Some of these Scrabble players were just passing through town and visiting, including Gab Wong from Hong Kong!

Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

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Want to write an article or blog post for Scrabble TV Live? Email us at scrabble.live@gmail.com.

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

North American Scrabble Championship: Cesar’s Report On Days 3, 4, 5

Day 3.

At the end of day 2 I was 7-7 and very barely in contention, with a low cumulative point spread. To make the brackets I would need to win all 7 games the next day, or maybe even 6, but they would have to be by a huge amount on average. I calculated the chances of doing so; assuming I’m about 55% to win each game (reasonable since I was a high seed), I have about a 1.5% chance of making it to the brackets. So I was about as good as done, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try as hard as possible.

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Unfortunately my dream was dead after just the second game, in which I played Steve Bush, a nice guy from Kentucky. He opened with a bingo, and a few turns later plays another one, FROWNIER through an O, to go up about 80 points. I held him on this play for a long time, trying to remember whether this was a word or not, but the problem is that for some reason it looked very familiar, and I thought there was a very good chance it was good. If I had thought harder, I would have realized that I’ve never seen the word FROWNY before, and I’ve studied the high point 6s… so I let it go, and he bingoed 3 more times and killed me.

At the end of the game I checked and sure enough it was phony. Turns out I was thinking of the word BROWNIER. Oops. Too bad I’m not Nigel Richards. In prior years I would have been upset and probably played badly the rest of the day, but I took it very stoically, got over it super quickly, and moved on to the rest of the day. I think part of my success in this tournament was due to my successfully conquering the ability to quickly move on from mistakes. The difficulty of long tournaments is a culmination of many factors. Playing against incredibly skilled opponents, luck, lack of sleep, and increasing frustration contribute to a potentially lethal potion that in past years chipped away at my focus. This year I let things slide and kept my emotions in check.

I won 3 out of 4 games in the morning, and had a great lunch at a super good tortas place (if you ever happen to be in Reno you must go – it’s across the street from the Reno Ballroom). In the afternoon, I won 2 out of 3, for a total of 5 games for the day, a good average. My sole loss came to Joel Sherman, and I made a very serious word mistake, playing a phony bingo when I had a 50-point play that also blocked the board and put me up by a bunch. Joel, being a former National and World champion, challenged very quickly and controlled the board afterwards. When I finally bingoed, he was able to triple-triple through it and I was done after this.

I had avoided looking at how close I came, but it turns out that if I had just won one more game by enough, that I could possibly have made it to the Elite Eight. If only one more of those games had gone my way, especially early on when I was facing lower seeds! Why did I have to start 1-4? Still, I wasn’t too upset and I filled out my bracket that night, guessing that my good friend Jesse Day would win it all over Thai wonder Panupol Sujjayakorn.

My stomach hurt a bit, mostly from nerves, so I didn’t have dinner until late, and it was just half of a deli sandwich. We had a NASPA town hall meeting that night and I attended; most of the questions ranged around the controversy of the bracket format. More to come on that in a later post.

Day 4.

While the Elite Eight in each division started their bracket playoff games, the rest of us were forced to play another 10 meaningless games. Just kidding, but that’s what some people thought! In order to give us something to play for, there were prizes for 9th through 12th place, and since I had missed the bracket by a game and change I was playing all the other players who had also just barely missed. As a result, I had what has possibly been my toughest Nationals day to date, in terms of my matchups – and it was a great challenge. Scrabble players take the game very seriously, and certainly no one seemed discouraged by not having made the playoffs; we were all playing super tough.

In order, my lineup was: Trey Wright, Ian Weinstein, Chris Cree, Charles Reinke, Joey Krafchick, Rafi Stern, and Doug Brockmeier. That field includes a former Nationals champion, the number 2 seed, and several other top-notch players who have all won far more events than I have. I was lucky to finish day 4 with a 4-3 record, losing to Ian, Chris, and Rafi. More annotations on these games will come soon.

Cesar Del Solar (me!) playing on day 4 against Joey Krafchick, a top player from Texas

At the end of the day, since it was our last Reno dinner together, I went with a group of 6 good friends to an Italian restaurant called Johnny’s Ristorante. I had a classic spaghetti and meatballs, recommended by my friend, food aficionado, and local Reno resident Kenji Matsumoto. It was a wonderful yet bittersweet last night in Reno. It’s the one time of the year so many of my friends are all together in one place, and it’s great seeing everyone, but it’s always a little sad when it’s over.

Dessert.

Dessert

The final day.

My field on day 4 was so tough that even though I tried my best I could not win more than 4 games.. which meant that I would have to win all 3 games on the final day to cash. Again, this was possible, but unlikely, yet I gave it my best.

The day 5 field consisted of Jason Li, Charles Reinke (for the second time), and Conrad Bassett-Bouchard. That is the same Jason and Conrad who played for the title in last year’s Nationals in Buffalo, and Charles, an excellent player who was looking for revenge for the previous day’s loss.

Charles got me this time after I tried a ridiculous phony of PALEWEED*. Why would I try that? No idea, but it seemed a little familiar. In North American rules Scrabble, challenging a valid word costs a player their turn, and maybe I felt bravado from winning our previous match on a challenge, that I thought I could get away with it. Unfortunately for me, Charles smacked it off the board pretty quickly and then got his own massive bingo a few turns later, which I had to challenge out of desperation. So a completely deserved loss and good play by him.

I did beat both Conrad and Jason, though, getting admittedly pretty lucky in both games – although at a high level, a lot of games do come down to luck. It is playing consistently well over the 31 rounds that cause good players to rise to the top, and I came up short again by one game and didn’t cash.

I was still very happy with my final result; 16th is the best I’ve ever done at a Nationals and I feel like next year I can actually cash. I am planning on studying all the words now. During this whole tournament I was very focused and I think if I can channel this focus again but with good word knowledge, I can finally prevail.

At the end of our three games, we took a quick break for lunch then headed to the awards ceremony room, where they live-streamed games 4 and 5 of the finals games between Matthew Tunnicliffe and Jesse Day. Matthew ended up prevailing in the very exciting game 5. You can see the videos on Youtube, starting with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU9z6CvM1kI.

It was an amazing tournament and I was so glad to see so many friends again and partake in all sorts of fun activities after-hours. Reno is a pretty cool city and there was always something to do. There was a big car show the final day we were there so I got to wander around a bit at lunch and check out the endless rows of candy-colored roasters.

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Hot August Nights car show on the Reno strip

My next big event will probably be the California Open in San Francisco, sometime in late October. I’m feeling good about my game, and I actually had the highest average score at nationals (437). I just have to keep my head in the game and stay focused.

Until next year.

-Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

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