Scrabble champion with a difference

This, from the Guardian, is definitely filed under “i” for impressive:

New Zealander Nigel Richards racks up remarkable victory after reportedly memorising francophone Scrabble dictionary in nine weeks

Nigel Richards’ command of the language of Molière, as the French like to call it, stretches to “bonjour” and being able to count. However, the New Zealander who has been called “the Tiger Woods of Scrabble” certainly has a way with words – even French ones. Despite his linguistic handicap, Richards has just won the francophone world Scrabble championships after reportedly memorising the entire French Scrabble dictionary in just nine weeks.

“He doesn’t speak French at all – he just learned the words,” his close friend Liz Fagerlund told the New Zealand Herald. “He won’t know what they mean, wouldn’t be able to carry out a conversation in French, I wouldn’t think.”

Richards, 48, who has won the English world Scrabble championships three times, the US national championships five times and the UK Open six times, beat a rival from French-speaking Gabon in the final held at Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium on Monday. During the match, which he won by two games to nil, he even successfully challenged his rival Schélick Ilagou Rékawé’s use of a form of the verb “fureter” (to snoop). He was given a standing ovation by the mainly French-speaking crowd.


Read it all, here.

Shabbat gaming

Not a good hand!

Not a good hand!

Gidon, Hannah & Lori (a team), Rafi, Susan, and I played Ticket to Ride Europe on Shabbat afternoon. It was a first time experience for Hannah and Gidon, but both seemed to enjoy it.

The Hanah and Lori team, Rafi and Susan, seemed to have drawn tickets in the same area and were building across and around one another. Susan and Gidon were largely unaffected, and I was largely ineffectual, making a bad choice of initial tickets – I was too ambitious – and then failing to remedy the situation with poor card choices.

Susan built the long 8 piece route and for a while was in the lead. But we all kept in touch, and at one point, despite the blocking, anyone could have won. However, in the last few rounds, Susan picked up a ticket she could not complete, Hannah and Lori gambled on the game going on longer, Gidon made some unlucky card draws, and I switched strategies too often. The net result was that the Better family representative, the unassuming Rafi, claimed the win. Well done Mr Better!

After that, Hannah and I played a game of Scrabble. I enjoy the occasional game of this classic, but am always at a disadvantage, having never bothered to learn the two and three word lists that are essential for good scores. However, this time around I managed to keep in contact with Hannah right up until the last couple of turns, losing by about 20 points. Hannah plays a nice, steady game. My guess is that if she took up the Facebook version, she would do rather well!  Meanwhile, I can claim a morale victory, as I think I successfully blocked any of Hannah’s potential seven word monster scores! Good fun, and a pleasant way to round off Shabbat gaming.

Drawing a blank

I’m not a regular Scrabble player and so, whenever I play it normally ends in a heavy defeat, albeit often an entertaining and educational experience. And so I have often wondered what I would need to do to get better at the game, without swallowing the dictionary, and lists of two and three letter words.

According to this report, one USA youngster developed his own technique. Unfortunately for him, he was caught:

One of the top young Scrabble players in the US has been kicked out of his national championship in Florida after he was caught hiding blank letter tiles.

John Williams, executive director of the US National Scrabble Association, said a male player was ejected in round 24 of the 28-round event.

The cheating was spotted by a player at a nearby table, who noticed the ejected player conceal a pair of blank tiles, which can be used as wild card letters, by dropping them on the floor. When confronted by the tournament director, he admitted it, organisers said.