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

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

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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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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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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!

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-A collaboration by Cesar Del Solar and Emily Dowgialo

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Made it to Best Of the Bay!

I wrote last week about trying to qualify for this year’s Best Of the Bay (“B.O.B”) tournament and not having many more opportunities to do so. To qualify to play in B.O.B you have to win at least one tournament in the Bay Area. Luckily, I was able to qualify at this past weekend’s San Jose tournament. Since most of the tournaments in the Bay Area are only 6 games long, it takes a lot of focus and some luck to be the one chosen by the Tile Gods on that given day.

After losing the first game to Chris Patrick Morgan, mainly by chickening out on my opening-rack bingo of HUMPIER, my mental state declined and I did not feel like I had a chance to win. However, since I had no choice but to keep playing, I decided to make the best of it. I won the next 2 games, and then faced off against Jesse Day, one of the top players in the country and recent 2nd place at Nationals. This game was actually pretty well played by both of us, with few mistakes, and I felt fortunate to come ahead with a victory at the end:

Game 4, vs Jesse Day: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21931

The final two games were against the two lowest seeds of the tournament, but they both put up a hell of a fight:

Game 5, vs Aditya Kini: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21930

Game 6, vs Jeannie Wilson: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21929

For dinner, a group of us went to Smoking Pig BBQ Company, a super-delicious restaurant a short walk away from tournament host John Karris’ home, and celebrated with a beer and an abundance of Texas-style barbecue food.

Look at those ribs

Look at those ribs

As you can see, the Bay Area is super strong, and I hope my good luck continues into the Best Of the Bay tournament.

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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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