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

Wordie Games Update!

Our buddy Conrad Bassett-Bouchard, 2014 Nationals Champion, made it to the $25K Wordie finals, starting this Thursday in Burbank, CA! Check out this YouTube highlight video from the semi-finals.

Our Bay Area Scrabble friend Leesa Berahovich is also among the final four. The other two semifinalists are not tournament Scrabble players, but they might surprise us!

Wanna contribute to Scrabble TV Live? Get in contact with us!

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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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