The Scrabble world was surprised when Allan Oyende of Kenya perched atop the leader board in Perth for two days in 2015. But in truth, Kenya has a storied and fabled history in world Scrabble, and has been the nexus of East and Central African Scrabble for more than two decades.
From the first national tournament in 1991 which was won by veteran player Onani Magwanga, the game in Kenya grew in quality and attracted a dynamic field of players who just four years later dazzled the world by bringing Kenya its maiden international (team) championship in 1995.
The team in London, 1995 consisted of Kenyan Scrabble luminaries Shaffique Thobani, Nderitu Gitonga, Dr Patrick Litunya and Dixon Assesa. Since then, Kenyan Scrabble players have strode the African and World Scrabble landscape like colossi with exceptionally strong showings in subsequent meets.
Presently, three of Kenya’s best players are in the top 100 WESPA ratings and Kenya is Africa’s second best Scrabble Nation after Nigeria.
From an initial tournament attendance in 1991 of 94 players, Kenya’s three tiered national scrabble tournaments have continued to attract more players and there are currently more than 800 rated players in Scrabble Kenya’s rosters today.
As the womb of East and Central African competitive Scrabble, Kenya’s Scrabble Players, especially Joash Oundo Manyasa have played a vital role in the conception and actualization of Professional Scrabble Associations in Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. Kenya has also been a key player in the creation of the East and Central African Scrabble Association and the Pan African Scrabble association.
Scrabble in Kenya is driven by a steady and consistent flow of new talent with a slew of youthful players eager to take the mantle from the veterans. Though the veterans such as Gitonga Nderitu, Francis Wachira, Patrick Litunya, Willy Mwangi, Onani Magwanga, Nicholas Mbugua, Michael Gongolo, Joash Manyasa and their contemporaries continue to dominate national scrabble tournaments, the youth have proven their resolve to take over.
Led by icons such as Allan Oyende, Mutahi Martins, Machanje Daniel, David Njenga and many more, they are keen to perpetuate Kenya’s dominance in Continental and World Scrabble.
Local and regional clubs such as the Nairobi Central Scrabble Club(Stima club), Busia Scrabble Club, Nakuru Scrabble Club and the Universities have spurred and supported the growth of the game in Kenya through identification and exposure of new talent and the organization of monthly national tournaments.
It is from this roost that Kenya hopes to upset the current order in WESPAC 2017 and the country is highly and realistically optimistic that Kenya can replicate and even better London , 1995.