Spe­cial event

All eyes on Scrab­ble high­light of the year.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LEISURE - By TAN JIN CHOR

THE 2nd Iskan­dar Malaysia World Scrab­ble Fes­ti­val will be held at Zon Re­gency Ho­tel in Jo­hor Baru next month. This is by far the most ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated event on the tour­na­ment player’s cal­en­dar.

More than 200 scrab­blers from some 20 coun­tries are ex­pected to take part. The fes­ti­val will kick off on Dec 1 with the 9th Cause­way Scrab­ble Chal­lenge. This will be fol­lowed by the inaugural Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons on Dec 7.

The Cause­way chal­lenge has evolved from its rel­a­tively hum­ble be­gin­nings into the rich­est Scrab­ble tour­na­ment in the world. This year’s edi­tion will have three di­vi­sions: Premier, Masters and Open.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Premier Di­vi­sion is by in­vi­ta­tion only, and is limited to 50 of the world’s best play­ers. They will be di­vided into teams of five and will play 45 games in the round-robin for­mat over five days. Mem­bers of the win­ning teams will be re­warded with gold, sil­ver and bronze medals. The over­all in­di­vid­ual cham­pion will walk away with the win­ner’s purse of US$30,000. There will be cash prizes down to the 10th plac­ing.

The Masters Di­vi­sion is open to play­ers with a Wespa (World English Scrab­ble Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion) rat­ing of 1600 and above who have not qual­i­fied or been in­vited by the Tour­na­ment or­gan­iser, Michael Tang, to play in the Premier Di­vi­sion. The first prize will be US$5,000 with prizes down to the 10th place.

The Open Di­vi­sion is open to play­ers with a Wespa rat­ing of un­der 1600. Top prize will be US$1,000 with prizes down to the 8th spot. With­out reser­va­tion, it can be said that the Cause­way chal­lenge has made Jo­hor Baru the most cov­eted des­ti­na­tion for scrab­blers ev­ery­where. Apart from the sub­stan­tial prizes to be won, scrab­blers can look for­ward to pit­ting their wits and their ana­gram­ming skills against fel­low “word-freaks” from all over the world over a stretch of 45 games spread over five days. What more could an ar­dent scrab­bler ask for?

This year’s Iskan­dar Malaysia World Scrab­ble Fes­ti­val of­fers more. It will con­clude with a spe­cial treat: the first-ever Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons which will take place from Dec 7-9.

The event, also the brain­child of Michael Tang, brings to­gether 10 WSC (World Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship) win­ners who will com­pete over 27 games, roundrobin, for a to­tal purse of US$10,000. The cham­pi­ons to be fea­tured are: > Peter Mor­ris (1991) > Mark Ny­man (1993), > David Boys (1995), > Joel Wap­nick (1999) > Brian Capel­letto (2001), > Panupol Su­j­jayakorn (2003), > Adam Lo­gan (2005), > Nigel Richards (2007) > Pakorn Net­mitr­man­suk (2009) and

> David El­dar (World Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pion 2006 and Cause­way Cham­pion 2008)

El­dar re­places the 1997 World Cham­pion, Joel Sher­man, who is un­able to make it to the event ow­ing to a prior en­gage­ment.

For the record, Peter Mor­ris, the first world cham­pion, will be com­ing out of re­tire­ment from com­pet­i­tive Scrab­ble to take part in this event, thanks in no small part to the per­sua­sive skills of Michael Tang.

How­ever, one can­not help but feel that he might be start­ing out at a slight dis­ad­van­tage, hav­ing not played for some years and not be­ing too fa­mil­iar with the new Collins dic­tio­nary (which deleted thou­sands of old words and added more than 24,000 new ones when it was adopted in 2007).

The hot favourite to win the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons has to be the “Kool Kiwi”, Nigel Richards. The Amish-bearded se­cu­rity an­a­lyst, who hails from Christchurch, New Zealand, has been liv­ing in Kuala Lumpur for the last 10 years. It is es­ti­mated that the widely-trav­elled Richards, who has won ev­ery ma­jor tour­na­ment in the world worth win­ning, has gar­nered prize monies ex­ceed­ing US$130,000 since he soared into the Scrab­ble fir­ma­ment in 1997. An eight-time win­ner of the lu­cra­tive King’s Cup in Thai­land, Richards will be out to show the world that he is, with­out ques­tion, nu­mero uno.

How­ever, Pakorn, the reign­ing world cham­pion, will have some­thing to say about that. The 35year-old ar­chi­tect (Al­fred Butts, the in­ven­tor of Scrab­ble, was also an ar­chi­tect!) from Bangkok, who has been hov­er­ing in the wings for some time, is all primed up and ready to take cen­tre stage. He was WSC run­ner-up in 2003 and 2005 be­fore win­ning the cov­eted ti­tle last year when the event was held in the Zon Re­gency, Jo­hor Baru.

Like Richards, Pakorn is a mul­ti­ple win­ner of his na­tive Thai­land’s King’s Cup, hav­ing won it four times. Like Richards, Pakorn has been trav­el­ling far and wide to play in tour­na­ments as far afield as Aus­tralia, Sri Lanka, In­dia, Africa and the United States. Pakorn is qui­etly de­ter­mined to prove to the Scrab­ble fra­ter­nity that he de­serves to be ranked right up there with the great Nigel Richards.

Then there is Mark Ny­man. One can only write off his chanc-

»The eyes of the whole world will be fo­cused on the two up­com­ing events in Jo­hor Baru next month«

es of com­ing out tops at one’s own peril. The 1993 world cham­pion would have be­come the only two-time win­ner of the world crown in 1999 if he hadn’t lost to Cana­dian Joel Wap­nick in the de­cid­ing game – by one point.

The most dec­o­rated ABSP (As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish Scrab­ble Play­ers) player on record, Ny­man has won four BMSC (Bri­tish Matchplay Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship), four NSC (Na­tional Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship) and five ABSP Masters ti­tles, not to men­tion the King’s Cup in Thai­land in 1999. Ny­man is, with­out doubt, the liveli­est “dark horse” in the field, and the one most likely to trou­ble Richards and Pakorn in the runup to the fin­ish­ing line.

What­ever the out­come may be, one thing is cer­tain: the eyes of the whole world will be fo­cused on the two up­com­ing events in Jo­hor Baru next month. No doubt, the many thou­sands of Scrab­ble en­thu­si­asts around the world who won’t be able to make the trip to Jo­hor Baru will be fol­low­ing all the ac­tion live on the Cause­way web­site, www.cause­wayscrab­ble.com.

In par­tic­u­lar, ev­ery­one will be watch­ing and await­ing with ea­ger an­tic­i­pa­tion the re­sult of the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons, to see who will emerge vic­to­ri­ous and walk away with the win­ner’s purse of US$5,000 and the rich­ly­de­served ti­tle of “Cham­pion of Cham­pi­ons”.

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