Baltimore Sun

Hanging on every word

North American Scrabble champion crowned in Baltimore as game turns spectator sport


Contemplat­ive murmurs gave way to a chorus of realizatio­n and shouts as spectators watched the action unfold. Several clapped. One announced: “I think we have a new champion, everybody.”

Orry Swift, the No. 2-rated Scrabble player in North America, had laid down the word

“FER,” and in doing so — as the more than 100 spectators watching on a livestream in an adjacent room noticed — left the room for opponent Michael Fagen to play “LEVIRATES.”

That final play left Swift with his hand on his forehead and Fagen as the 2022 Scrabble Players champion.

Buoyed by the support of an impassione­d Maryland state senator, Scrabble enthusiast­s from 42 states and nine countries descended this week on Baltimore for the board game’s North American championsh­ips. The two finalists competed head-to-head in a best-of-five series

Wednesday at the Marriott Inner

Harbor for a $10,000 first prize and bragging rights as the continent’s top word nerd.

Swift, a 35-year-old accounting professor at Lamar University in

Texas and also a nationally ranked “Magic: The Gathering” card player, spent roughly eight hours a day for the past month preparing for the tournament, studying a list of more than 100,000 approved words.

Above, Michael Fagen, of Montreal, celebrates his victory in the 2022 Scrabble Players Championsh­ip, which was held in Baltimore for the first time. At left, Orry Swift, of Houston, stares at the board after losing to Fagen in the fourth game of the best-offive finals of the North American Scrabble Players Associatio­n Word List championsh­ip.

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