WESPA Monthly Report - November and Causeway

An Amazing Month in Scrabble

"I wanted to set a new benchmark for a Professional Scrabble tournament with Causeway 2016."
Michael Tang

A 5 day Scrabble tour de force called Causeway features heavily in what was one of the most eventful months in World Scrabble for 2016!

Our report covers news from three continents this time around, though the focus this month is predominantly - and understandably - on the Asian region as the World's best converged on Johor Bahru in late November.

Before we end there, let's take a look back at some of the other events on the Scrabble Calendar.

Wexford hosted its 25th Annual tournament at the start of November: 15 rounds that saw Feargal Weatherhead win by 1 game over Mark and Andrew Goodwin. For players in Ireland who want to know more about the tournament or just want to know more about the Irish Scrabble scene, you can find more at the All Ireland Scrabble Association Facebook page.

Lewis Mackay, Wayne Kelly and Ed Rossiter finished 1, 2, 3 at the UK's Winter Matchplay tournament in mid November. Harshan Lamabad's 619 the highest score for the tournament. Both Harshan, and 4th place Austin Shin, completed the month in Johor Bahru, each getting in the money at Causeway.

Scrabble on the Nile, featured left, is an inviting event and was hosted by Scrabble Uganda. This year's event occurred on the weekend of the 26th featuring a battle at the top that saw Kenya's Gitonga Nderitu emerge victorious by three games from Uganda's Edgar Odongkara. Kenya's Allan Oyende topped the high game scores with a nice 616. As always, the Twitter banter between Kenya and Uganda kept social media followers enthralled as well as updated.

However, it was the Asian Scrabble scene that was filled with many events through the month of November and it is there where we will remain.

A Causeway Teams event between Singapore and Malaysia started the action off in November, with Nigel Richards - based in Malaysia - taking out individual honours from Singapore's Toh Weibin and Hubert Wee. Alex Tan proudly announced the Malaysian win on the Malaysian Facebook group. Malaysia's Yi En Gan 659 the high game highlight.

It is worth noting that, although Nigel came out on top in the individual ratings, there was a hit to his ratings points. This started a trend that would continue through the month.

A week later, Nigel was victorious again at the Singapore Open, winning 11 of his 16 games and edging out Hubert Wee and Marlon Prudencio on margin. However, again, his ratings points slowly declined to the point where there was a gap of 5 points from his Number One ranking to the second rated David Eldar from Australia. Jeremy Khoo's 682 the high game highlight here.

All eyes would still be on Causeway soon enough and whether there would be a changing of the guard at the top. Ardent followers eagerly awaiting the return of the classic event that had had a 5 year hiatus but there was more Scrabble on offer prior to this.

The WESPA Seniors Championship took place in Bangkok and is an event for players over the age of 55. Controversy occurred on the final day: Singapore's Tony Sim took out the title from the UK's David Webb and Thailand based Gerry Carter; Webb's 596 the high game at the event.

Before Causeway, The Princess Cup saw representatives of 9 countries battle out for the Open division prize, though it is a tournament celebrating youth play predominantly. 2015 World Youth Champion Nic Hong from Singapore won here with Nigel continuing his winning ways in the Open. Not only was he Gibsonized but his win on spread in the two game final against World Number Three Komol ensured his Number One ranking was assured barring a disaster at Causeway.

We move on to the festival of Scrabble that was Causeway! Michael Tang's quote that began our piece certainly delivered on his promise as players, supporters and even casual observers were treated to the highest quality Scrabble available. This was the first of these to have four divisions - over 200 players took part.

The first tournament at Johor Bahru was the Youth Tournament, and this was taken out by Pakistan's Abdullah Abbasi from Leon Tan and Poh Ying Ming.

Thailand's Thacha Koowirat's 724 a splendid effort and a major highlight of the Warm Up events, with Daniel Milton, Ebikeme Adowei, Russell Honeybun and Caroline Scowcroft winning their respective divisions over the two days.

Michael Tang spoke with WESPA after the event and he said that one of his highlights was the live streaming of games on Table 1 throughout the event. These games are available on YouTube and showcase Scrabble of the highest quality. It means that keen students of the game can pour over the games uploaded accompanied by the commentary of the brilliant team of Jesse Matthews and Chris May - pictured left, two players whose ability to discuss plays and analyse the game was a treat to follow as they presented their take on what was transpiring and engaging in the chat of those who could not make the tournament.

If you want to start somewhere with the games, start with two from Nigel and David later in the tournament. Game 38 featured both amazing word knowledge and very noteworthy plays that provoked discussion amongst the commentary team and the group in the chat.

Contrast it with Game 43, a very different affair and one that did not cease to amaze. It is also the tournament that delivered Nigel Richards the title in the Premier Division; an event of this sort meant that to win, you had to do against the best in the game.

There were many ways to experience Causeway if you were not there: the Causeway website kept one updated through the tournament for all four divisions and each day, Michael's daughter, Brenda, put together a portfolio of excellent Scrabble photos that were shared on Facebook. Michael also included his daughter's photos amongst the highlights and we certainly concur with that!

If Twitter was your preferred method of following, then two of the players, Jesse Day and Austin Shin would have kept you up to speed with their board photos. Both would end in the Top 10 of the Premier Division!

David Eldar ended 2nd in Premier and Ayorinde Saidu 3rd. The Masters Division was won by Chang Ching Wei, and the Intermediate and Open Divisions won by Ehibudu Chukwudi and Ejenas Douglas respectively.

This was truly an amazing week of play and we hope everyone enjoyed it. Thank you to Michael Tang for speaking with WESPA after the event but also thank you for more than meeting your objective of setting a "new benchmark for a Professional Scrabble tournament".

Happy Scrabbling and these reports will return early in 2017!!

1. Nigel, David and Ayorinde with Michael Tang, 2. Chang Ching Wei, 3. Ehibudu Chukwudi with Russell Honeybun, 4. Ejenas Douglas with Cheah Siu Hean.

Photos: Brenda Tang


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