2016 World Scrabble Championship – The Quarterfinals

The preliminary 24 rounds of the 2016 World Scrabble Championship are done, and we have 8 qualifiers for the quarterfinals. Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 11.33.44 PM

A few things to note. Some people think that 24 games is too short to determine the 8 quarterfinalists, and  5 of the 8 qualifiers are seeded 10th or higher (3 are seeded 20th and above!).  However, even the lowest rated qualifier, American Rob Robinsky, is a great player who just finished 2nd at the elite BMSC (British Matchplay Scrabble Tournament) last week, so he is certainly underrated.

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Pakistani youngster Moiz Ullah and a crowd are hushed over his round-24 game against Adam Logan, which he lost by one point. (Photo taken by Jesse Day)

The Pakistani Scrabble players are truly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Several of them finished at the top of division B at the championship. As with any tournaments with qualifiers, this tournament has its share of heartbreaking stories. Moiz Ullah lost by just one point to Adam Logan to get knocked out of the quarterfinals. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time for him.

Nigel Richards sadly finished out of the money, but even if he had won his last game to Brett Smitheram (a barn-burner I watched earlier on the train over the Twitch live stream), he would not have made it to the top 8 anyway, due to the way the other games turned out.

Kenji Matsumoto, a top American Scrabble expert, commented on Facebook that this year has not been too great for young players. Indeed, most of the quarterfinalists are in their 40s or above. Maybe the youngsters are getting surpassed again! Kenji is a top American Scrabble expert from Hawaii who has recently written a book called Breaking The Game, which is available for purchase through his website.

The best player in the top 8 is probably Canadian Adam Logan, who has won the World Championship in 2005, the US National Scrabble championship in 1996, and multiple Canadian National Championships.

Below are the expected quarterfinal matches, along with my predictions for how they will do — best of 3 for the quarters, which is very prone to high variance.

(1) Mark Nyman vs (8) Joel Wapnick – two former world champions. I’ll give Nyman a slight edge because he finished with the best record after 24 games, but it’s probably a coin toss since it’s just three games!

(2) David Webb vs (7) Lewis MacKay – Lewis made it all the way to the finals last year against Wellington Jighere before going down 4-0 in a series that was more hard-fought than the scoreline would indicate. David Webb is known for creating a series of YouTube videos in his Dweebovision channel, wherein he commentates on his online Scrabble games. I’ll pick Lewis to win this mini-series due to his experiences from last year.

(3) Allan Simmons vs (6) Adam Logan – Allan has won the UK National Championship once, and the BMSC multiple times, but I’ll give Adam the edge as he is possibly the 2nd or 3rd best player in the world currently. (After His Nigelence)

(4) Robert Robinsky vs (5) Brett Smitheram – I know Rob from our days on Yahoo! Literati (I need to write an article about my Literati experiences at some point…) and he’s always been a great player. Brett has more experience with the Collins dictionary, although Rob has been playing Collins for almost 5 years now. Although Brett might be the better player – he is seeded best out of the top 8 – I’ll give Rob the sentimental pick (he did just get 2nd in the BMSC).

The semifinals and finals will both be best of 5. Assuming the brackets are as they were in the 2014 WSC, my picks would be:

Mark Nyman vs Rob Robinsky – Mark gets the edge

Lewis MacKay vs Adam Logan – Adam gets the win

And our winner will be Adam Logan over Mark Nyman 3 games to 2. Mark my words… maybe.

 

 

 

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2016 World Scrabble Championship

The 2016 World English Scrabble Championship started in Lille, France, earlier today. This edition is the third held by Mind Sports International (MSI), a company based in the UK. They have been involved in the Scrabble scene for several years now, as well as poker, chess, Magic: The Gathering, and other mind sports. Among their innovations is an RFID-based Scrabble board that automatically keeps score, as well as their live camera coverage of games and annotation software. This particular tournament is extra special because it also features the championships for French and Spanish language Scrabble.

As you may know, Scrabble is quite an intense game and many people take it very seriously. We know of a particular player who has taken a several-month sabbatical (Scrabbatical?) from work just to prepare for this tournament and he is doing quite well as of day 1. This is the kind of obsession that makes Scrabble players unique and that makes the game so interesting.

The standings in the English edition so far are as follows (thanks much to Nicky Deco and the wonderful team in Lille who got these standings to us):

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Many of the old favorites are here, including Wellington Jighere, Nigel Richards, and a significant Thai contigent (Komol leading his compatriots with a 6-2 record). On top is the only undefeated player, and a former world champion himself, Englishman Mark Nyman.

There was a bit of a snafu earlier today with the MSI-developed tournament pairing software, which was not quite ready for prime-time. The organizers have now decided to switch to tsh, an old but stable and well-maintained tournament pairing software used in most large Scrabble tournaments worldwide. This software also has the ability to provide live results, so we’ll try to get you a link to follow your favorite players.

You can also follow live on twitch.tv – our good friend Jesse Matthews is in Lille providing live commentary. He has been doing great live commentary for major tournaments since the National Scrabble Championship in 2015. This is his first time doing this at Worlds, along with Robin Pollock Daniel, a top Canadian expert. Their dynamic duo are quite entertaining and worth watching. Day 2 begins in just a few hours!

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2015 World Champion Wellington Jighere playing against Shan Abbasi earlier today on the live board.

 

-Cesar Del Solar

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 – The Standings As Of Round 27

It’s the final day of games, and we are currently at game 28 of 32. The standings are as follows:

Lewis Mackay from England is a game and a half ahead of the field in first place. Wellington Jighere from Nigeria is a game and a half ahead of third place. It looks like they might be our most likely contenders for the playoffs on Sunday. However, you can’t count out Komol Panyasoponlert from Thailand and Dave Wiegand from Portland, Oregon who are in third and fourth, respectively. Komol got second at the 2013 world championship in Prague and is a fantastic player. We discussed Dave in our last Worlds update.

Nigel Richards is currently in 9th but with 5 games to go he is still mathematically in it – he will just need to win all of them and have some luck break his way.

Check the latest standings here: http://www.scrabble.org.au/events/15WSC/inv/latest.html

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

-Emily Dowgialo

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