Welcome to our first report for 2017! Early in January, readers may recall, we posted two articles from Karen and Paul Richards about their travels to the Middle East to assist with clinics and tournaments: it is appropriate we should open our report with a summary of that fruitful trip.

The Middle East

As 2016 ended, Karen and Paul spent a brief time in Oman, where they had been invited by Megel Barker (pictured, right). A training clinic and tournament had been organized to assist in growing the scene in the country. The tournament, The Spar Oman Kelloggs Youth & Open Scrabble Tournament featured around 40 players in the two rated Divisions but there were around 50 participants over the time there. The tournament itself was generously sponsored and we look forward to hearing more about the growth in the Scrabble scene in this country!

From Oman, and again, following up on another local invitation, Karen and Paul made their way to Doha in Qatar to run a clinic and tournament, mostly for students and beginner players. This time, around 30 players took part, and although not to the same organizational level as Oman, the time spent was both enjoyable and constructive. The signs are indeed very encouraging for growth in the game in this part of the world and we will follow both nations progress with interest! You can read the Oman article here and the Qatar article here.

Back to the UK...

It looked like this year’s UK Open, it’s 10th, was going to be the final in this installment. By the time the tournament had ended, its future had been assured, with next year’s Open the first event for 2018 to be on the WESPA Tournament calendar!

This is really excellent news, for the tournament is a fantastic way to kick off a Scrabble year - a massive 10 countries were represented in the warm up event, headlined by the World Number 1, Nigel Richards. Stu Harkness’ 639 the high point game in the tournament with Nigel winning overall. His victory in the 18 game tournament, winning 12 games, was a preview of what was to come in the Main Event.

The Main Event is 30 games, and the number of countries represented had swelled to 13! There were three divisions with Nigel Richards, Jim Wilkie and Caroline McLaughlin victorious respectively. Five countries were represented in the top Division’s Top 10. Nigel’s 690 the high point game as one of his 24 wins (from 30 games), victorious overall by just the one game from England’s Austin Shin, who took to Instagram to share his result to the world. Kevin Synott’s 673 was another notable high point in the tournament in an event that featured four 600+ games!


Another tournament that always generates international presence is the Capgemini International (previously known as iGate) in India. Eight countries were represented and this event was also headlined by the World Number 1. 36 players featured in Division A, 56 in Division B and 21 in Division C. Any ratings points Nigel had lost from his wins in the UK were well on their way back after another strong performance in an equally strong field here. Gibsonized after winning 29 games, his nearest opponent, runner up Pichai Limprasert of Thailand, had won 23.5. Singapore’s Hubert Wee came third with Thai Thacha Koowirat 4th and the host nation’s Sherwin Rodrigues in 5th. Marlon Prudencio’s 649 the high game in Bangalore this time around. A comprehensive album from Shaik Ahmed can be found on Facebook - including the game photo you see on the left.

Meanwhile, in the US, Rob Robinsky emerged victorious in the Collins Division in New Orleans; there are a number of Collins tournaments on the calendar in the US and you can always keep track of events in the US via NASPA.

Final weekend tournaments

There were two WESPA rated tournaments occurring on the last weekend in January with both having victors by significant margins.

The Northern Ireland Scrabble Championship featured the 2016 World Champion, Brett Smitheram, in action for the first time since his win over Mark Nyman in Lille, and he emerged victorious here, dropping only 2 of his 15 games. It took until Round 11 before Rik Kennedy inflicted Brett’s first defeat, and even with another defeat by the end of the tournament, the overall gap on 2nd placed Kevin McMahon was 2 games. Phillips Owolabi finished third. Kevin McMahon had the top 2 highest game scores in the tournament, with games of 595 and 586.

On the other side of the globe, an Antipodean battle was playing out in the City of Sydney International Masters (CSIM). Joanne Craig’s early score of 666 was featured on our Facebook page and remained the highest score of the weekend. CSIM also saw a return to tournament play for Australian Chris May. Chris’ last WESPA rated tournament, according to the WESPA ratings file, was in November 2014: eager followers of the game in 2016 would have remembered Chris from Causeway 2016, where his keen observations helped provide an extremely memorable partnership in the commentary booth with Jesse Matthews.

CSIM is a 20 game tournament and, on return, Chris May won 16 of those 20, enough for a runner up position behind Andrew Fisher. Andrew dropped only 1 of his games over the 2 days - in Round 14 to eventual third place getter Alastair Richards. A tight 1 point win over former Australian Champion, John Holgate, secured his 19th win of the tournament and a well deserved victory. He is pictured here with runner-up Chris May and tournament organizer Bob Jackman.

A phenomenal - and record - turnout

A look at Scrabble in January would not be complete without mention of the phenomenal news from Pakistan and the turnout for their 18th Inter School Club Championships. We covered the PSA getting 750 players last year but 2017 has seen an exponential increase on even this impressive number! Over 1300 players in attendance over the final weekend of the month is a further sign this powerhouse Scrabble nation is intent on growing the Scrabble presence in their country. Deserved coverage on TV and newspapers followed, a testament to the hard work done by all the people involved in putting this together. You can get a glimpse of the members of the team who helped put this together on this Facebook post.


February, currently, has three WESPA rated tournaments occurring; the Asian English Olympics in Indonesia, the MCCO65 International Challenge in Malaysia and the 9th Israeli Open. Throughout the month of January, though, the remainder of the 2017 Scrabble calendar has been filling up: you can check the tournaments out on the WESPA Tournaments page and view by region or chronologically.

Plan ahead and make the most of your Scrabble year in 2017.

We look forward to presenting our February report to you in a few weeks - until then, Happy Scrabbling!


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