World class

Our youths rise to the chal­lenge at the World Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship 2010 held in Manila last month.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By GABRIEL MARTIN

Our youths rise to the chal­lenge at the World Cham­pi­onship 2010 held in Manila last month.

Ker Jen Ho, who won the CIMB Na­tional Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship in June last year, ended the year on a vic­to­ri­ous note when he was hailed the 2010 World Youth Cham­pion. STU­DENTS from pri­mary, sec­ondary and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions are in­vited to take part in the AS­TAR Scrab­ble Chal­lenge In­ter­na­tional which aims to cre­ate his­tory in the Malaysia Books of Records for hav­ing the most par­tic­i­pants in a Scrab­ble tour­na­ment. With a to­tal cash prize of RM24,000, this is a tour­na­ment not to be missed! Reg­is­tra­tion ends on Jan 31 For de­tails, please visit: www.asci-scrab­ble. co.cc/

THE Malaysian con­tin­gent head­ing to the World Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship 2010 in Manila last month, had a rough start.

First, their flight was de­layed by a few hours be­fore they were in­formed that the flight was can­celled. That started off a frenzy of sorts as par­ents rushed from counter to counter, fran­ti­cally en­quir­ing about the ear­li­est de­par­ture time for any avail­able flight.

Fi­nally, the team boarded an air­line past mid­night and ar­rived at Ni­noy Aquino In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Manila about four hours be­fore the start of the tour­na­ment at 8.30am.

All the team had was a few hours’ sleep be­fore they faced their biggest Scrab­ble chal­lenge. The kid who was stuck in KLIA for hours, hop­ing for an avail­able flight early enough to not miss the tour­na­ment, went all the way to clinch the World Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship (WYSC) 2010 ti­tle, mak­ing Malaysia the only coun­try to have won the ti­tle back-to-back af­ter our Scrab­ble princess Ong Suanne clinched the ti­tle in 2009.

The whiz kid is none other than 16-year-old Ker Jen Ho.

Karen Richards, the or­gan­iser of the World Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship, once again pulled off a big suc­cess as she gath­ered 82 as­pir­ing play­ers from 14 coun­tries for the most an­tic­i­pated tour­na­ment among teen Scrab­ble play­ers. This year also wit­nessed two new coun­tries that were roped into the World Youth Scrab­ble fra­ter­nity – South Africa and Pak­istan.

Hail­ing from a coun­try where Scrab­ble is rapidly gar­ner­ing in­ter­est among youths, Pak­istani player Jave­ria Arshad Mirza, 13, said: “Scrab­ble is a game of vo­cab­u­lary, an­a­lyt­i­cal skills and strat­egy; these are the very things that in­ter­est me.”

The Scrab­ble cham­pi­onship be­gan amidst an air of an­tic­i­pa­tion and nerves.

Oluwafemi Akin­losotu from Nige­ria po­si­tioned him­self as a front-run­ner when he gar­nered a 12-point win­ning streak, sur­pass­ing all ex­pec­ta­tions from the crowd. With 2 points clear from the player next in line, all he needed was to be in the game and win all his matches be­fore the draw re­set in Round 16 to give him a com­fort­able lead and put pres­sure on the other con­tenders to catch up.

How­ever, Oluwafemi suf­fered a shock de­feat to up­com­ing Thai player, Siri­napa Sri­nornil. Her vic­tory over the Nige­rian was the talk of the day.

The de­feat could have greatly af­fected Oluwafemi as he fin­ished Day 2 with an­other three losses to Malaysians, Ja­gan Narayanan and Jen Ho, twice. As the Nige­rian fal­tered to fourth place, Preedee Khongth­a­narat (Thai­land) and two Malaysians, Wil­liam Kang and Jen Ho, leapfrogged to the top three spots.

Wil­liam led the pack at the end of Day 2, fol­lowed by Jen Ho who shared the same num­ber of wins, with the for­mer hav­ing a slight ad­van­tage on spread.

With just half a point ahead of Preedee, Wil­liam and Jen Ho had to win all their fi­nal six games to yield a 1-2 vic­tory for Malaysia. The boys did not let their sup­port­ers down. Af­ter the penul­ti­mate round, Jen Ho was ahead of Wil­liam by a mod­est amount of spread. All the for­mer had to do was to win his last game, while the lat­ter had to win by a large mar­gin to grab the ti­tle.

Wil­liam was pit­ted against fel­low com­pa­triot, Vin­nith Ra­ma­murti, while Jen Ho had to deal with ex­pe­ri­enced Jes­sica Pratesi from Bri­tain. In the end, Wil­liam lost 357-460 to Vin­nith and fell one spot to third place, while Jen Ho beat Jes­sica 418-334 in style to lift the cham­pi­onship ti­tle. Preedee white­washed Yasiru Fer­nando from Sri Lanka 417-251 to fin­ish sec­ond ahead of Wil­liam by half a point.

Two other Malaysians who fin­ished in the top 10 were Vin­nith Ra­ma­murti (7th) and Looi Yih Feng (10th).

Estatic

Jen Ho was not picked as one of the early favourites. He had his share of tough luck in the pre­vi­ous WYSC but he brushed off chal­lenge af­ter chal­lenge posed by early favourites, Oluwafemi, Michael McKenna (Aus­tralia) and fel­low Malaysian Wil­liam Kang to clinch the pres­ti­gious ti­tle.

The 16-year-old champ was ec­static, es­pe­cially since this was his fourth at­tempt.

The 2010 World Youth Cham­pion will be rep­re­sent­ing the youths in the 2011 edi­tion of the World Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship.

When asked about his plans post-WYSC and his prepa­ra­tions for WSC 2011, Jen Ho said: “I will prob­a­bly en­ter fewer tour­na­ments in 2011 due to my mock ex­ams in Jan­uary and O-Level ex­ams in May, but I will re­view as many wordlists as I can and prac­tise on­line as part of my prepa­ra­tion for the big tour­na­ment.”

Dur­ing the prize-giv­ing cer­e­mony, the Best Un­der-16 player went to Wil­liam Kang, while Vin­nith Ra­ma­murti won the Best Novice award as a first-time com­peti­tor.

The En­cour­age­ment Award for the youngest player in the Top 25 went to Pe­nan­gite Cheong Yi Hua, 12, who fin­ished 19th over­all in the tour­na­ment. This very promis­ing and tal­ented lass will surely taste more vic­tory in fu­ture WYSCs as she is el­i­gi­ble to take part for the next five years.

Sheer joy:

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