Moizullah Baig crowned World Youth Scrabble Champion in Dubai

Pakistan wins best team, hosts UAE place 2nd as a record 136 participants face off at the first ever World Youth Scrabble Championship held in the Middle East. Nikhil Soneja reports:

16 year old Moizullah Baig led the way in a dominant Pakistan performance at the 8th annual World Youth Scrabble Championship, organized by WESPA from December 12th-14th 2013 at the Etisalat Academy in Dubai. Javeria Mirza completed a 1-2 finish for Pakistan, while Nuttapong Pholthip of Thailand, Navya Zaveri of the UAE and Jack Durand of England rounded out the top 5.

The top 3
(L-R) Jishnu Warrier of Etisalat Academy; Nuttapong Pholthip of Thailand - 3rd place; Karen Richards, Youth Committee Chair, WESPA; Moizullah Baig of Pakistan, 2013 World Youth Scrabble Champion; Nikhil Soneja, Chairman - UAE Scrabble Club; Javeria Mirza of Pakistan, runner up

136 participants aged 17 and under from 17 countries competed in what was easily the biggest WYSC since the tourney’s inception in 2006. To put things in perspective, the 2012 Birmingham WYSC featured 60 players while the 2011 edition in Johor Bahru was contested by 84, making the playing field in Dubai almost as large as the last two combined. The increase was attributed to the rapid growth of youth Scrabble programmes worldwide as well as the ease of travel to Dubai, with the largest contingents from Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, the UAE, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Trinidad & Tobago.

The 136 participants at the WYSC
All the 136 participants at the WYSC

The format comprised 24 rounds of lagged Australian Draw (modified Swiss pairings), which meant well over 1500 games of Scrabble were played over the course of 3 days, with the Collins Scrabble Words 2012 dictionary and free challenge rules in force.

Games in progress
Games in progress

Moiz’s 19.5-4.5 record included a thrilling 413-413 tie in round 20 against countryman and early favourite, Muhammad Inshal Shahbaz of Pakistan, winner of the open division at the Scrabble Champions Tournament in Prague. With Mariam Arif also scoring 8th place, Pakistan were runaway winners of the team trophy, while hosts UAE took silver with their best finish ever as their top 3 players placed 4th (Navya), 6th (Sanchit Kapoor) and 24th (Varun Kasisomayajula), with the bronze going to Australia with 7th (Anand Bharadwaj), 10th (Tim Mason) and 22nd (Marvi Delfin).

Top 10 at WYSC 2013
1. Moizullah BaigPakistan19.5 - 4.5+1448
2. Javeria MirzaPakistan18-6+1725
3. Nuttapong PholthipThailand18-6+1377
4. Navya ZaveriUAE17-7+1935
5. Jack DurandEngland16-8+1845
6. Sanchit KapoorUAE16-8+1599
7. Anand BharadwajAustralia16-8+1581
8. Mariam ArifPakistan16-8+1025
9. Tim BryantUSA16-8+877
10. Tim MasonUSA16-8+781

High game: Janidu Karunaratne (Sri Lanka) - 685pts
High word: Pasith Teeka-Uttamakorn (Thailand) - TRIAZOLE (203pts)

The tournament, the first world championship to take part in the Middle East, was presided over by Karen Richards, chair, WESPA youth committee and veteran tournament director Amy Byrne, with Barry Harridge in charge of scores, pairings and live web updates.

In the age categories, under-8 champion was Ronnie Bennett of Australia whereas 8 year old Lewis Hawkins of New Zealand took both the under-10 and under-12 champion titles with a very impressive 27th place finish overall. 5th placed Jack Durand was under-14 champion and Navya Zaveri retained the under-16 title he won in Birmingham in 2012.

Tim Mason of Australia was adjudged the best novice for his 10th place finish, while 2011 champion while fellow Aussie Anand Bharadwaj received the encouragement award as the youngest in the top 25, having finished 7th place at just 13 years of age. A special prize was awarded to 70th placed Phillip Nsubuga of Uganda as the best player from a new country. The best game score was 685 points by Janidu Karunaratne (Sri Lanka) in round 2 (including 5 bingos: ENCODES, SEASING, TABORIN, VALIDER and TRIODES), while the best word was TRIAZOLE for 203 points by Pasith Teeka-Uttamakorn (Thailand).

Moizullah Baig vs Navya Zaveri in Round 24
Champion Moizullah Baig faces off against Navya Zaveri in the final round - Navya won 516:272

Full results for the tourney can be found on the Youth Scrabble website as well as on Aardvark.

Meanwhile, world no. 11 Alastair Richards from Australia took the WESPA-rated adult tournament running side by side with the WYSC in an impressive 30 strong field that included several players en route back from Prague. Australian team cohort and WYSC alumnus Cameron Farlow finished 2nd, two games behind Alastair on a 15-7 record and just ahead of UAE duo Ralph Lobo and Ronald Credo, with Pakistani number one Waseem Khatri in 5th place.

Images courtesy Faisal Khatib

December 2013


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