All eyes on Scrabble highlight of the year.
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”.