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

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!

Scrabble Chat: Cesar Del Solar

ScrabbleTVLive’s very own Cesar Del Solar took home the victory at the California Open in San Francisco last weekend! We talked a little bit with him about what it was like to win his first big tournament, and he gave us a play by play of his final game against Rafi Stern.

 


Starring Cesar Del Solar, creator of Aerolith.org
Directed & Edited by Emily Dowgialo

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

The 8th Annual California Open

Players from all over are making their way to beautifully foggy San Francisco where games start at 9:30am sharp.

This year there are only 42 entrants. They announced the tournament a bit late this year, which made for difficult planning for some players, but the turnout is still pretty decent for being last minute and during the holiday season.

The California Open started in Santa Nella in 2008, a small town known for Pea Soup Andersens, a favorite pit stop of travelers driving down Interstate 5. It then migrated to San Francisco, first at Fisherman’s Wharf and has been at its current home, the Parc 55 hotel in Union Square, ever since. No Californian has ever won the California Open.

I’ll be there taking pictures and schmoozing with everyone, and most likely dining and boozing in the evening. I will also be posting updates so check back for those.

More information about the tournament can be found here.

Live coverage is hosted on Cesar Del Solar’s site Aerolith.org: https://aerolith.org/co2015/html/.

See you there! I’m a native Californian myself, so I’ll be rooting for my home team to finally take home the gold.

-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.

Oakland Nerd Nite: War Of The Words

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

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

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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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.

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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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