Five Moments from Cape Town

Highlights from the 2nd Cape Town International

After the great reception the first Cape Town International received in 2016, this year's follow up was eagerly anticipated.

We present five (of what were many) highlights from the event, the first WESPA rated African tournament on the 2018 calendar.

1. Action before the tournament had even commenced!
The pre-tournament news surrounding Nigel Richards not being allowed into South Africa is a cautionary tale for all Scrabble players wanting to travel to play the game they love.

Regulations for entry into countries can change at any time and it is always wise to check to ensure safe entry wherever one may go.

The upshot of it all had meant that the original top ranked player for the tournament was now no longer able to take part.

As John Chew reported on the his excellent website for the event: “This year's event features a prize pool in excess of ZAR 200,000 (~USD 17,000), and with defending champion Nigel Richards unable to attend at the last minute due to visa issues, there's no telling who will emerge victorious on Sunday.”

2. A convincing victory for Lukeman Owolabi!
Less than a week before heading to Cape Town, Lukeman Owolabi was battling it out with 34 other players in Northern Ireland for the Northern Ireland Championship, winning 7 of 15 games.

Heading into this tournament, Lukeman was the new number one seed after the visa issues affecting the world Number 2, Nigel Richards prevented him from taking part.

Reflecting his top seed status, Lukeman put in a dominating performance. A high game of 658, winning the first 28 games of the event (quite possibly a world record for WESPA rated events!) and leading for 35 of the 42 rounds.

Even allowing for the fact that he dropped three of his last 6 games, his victory was emphatic seeing him win by 3 games from Zambia’s Patrick Mulumena Mpundu (in 2nd spot) with the top local performer being Trevor Hovelmeier a further 2 wins back in third.

3. A true World Scrabble traveler.
Australia’s Karen Richards is currently the world’s most traveled Scrabble player so far for 2018.

The Cape Town International was Karen’s sixth tournament for the year, played on four continents (Europe, Asia, Australia and now Africa) for a total of in excess of 150 games of WESPA rated Scrabble.

With February not yet over, there are still plenty of air miles to cover around the world... and plenty of Scrabble to play.

Like Lukeman, 48 hours prior to this event, she was playing in a tournament across the other side of the world (in Karen’s case, Sydney Australia). At Round 13, Lukeman and Karen met across the board (pictured, right)

Lukeman was victorious 552-435.

4. Congratulations @ShieWamz !
Kenya’s sole representative at the Cape Town tournament was Wamucii Irungu, playing as part of the Bronze division. First playing in 2011, she started playing at inter-university sports where she met officials from Scrabble Kenya and things took off from there.

Scrabble has seen her play in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and, now, South Africa.

Even a last game loss to local Angela Cohen could not deny her third place in the Bronze division with 23 wins from the 42 games. The news of her placing was greeted on social media with much celebration and congratulation as many players took to Twitter to offer their best wishes at her performance.

Speaking on Twitter, Wamucii (handle @ShieWamz) described it as “The longest tournament I’ve played… I’m so exhausted but happy”.

She is pictured here with Karen Richards mid tournament.

5. 600s and 1000s....
Cape Town managed to provide some top level scoring when it came to Scrabble.

There were six scores in excess of 600, with Lukeman Owolabi’s 658 the highest of the six. Local players were on the receiving end of five of those massive scores with the sole exception being Karen Richards, who fell foul of Trevor Hovelmeier in Round 11 by losing 633-279.

However, none of those games featured in the high combined scores for the tournament. The accolade for the highest combined game score went to Zambia’s Isaac Mwape and South Africa’s Jarrod Page with a splendid 1044 game (527-517 to Isaac Mwape). Israel and South Africa swapped victor and vanquished in the 5th and 6th highest, both occurring in Round 36. Naomi Landau’s 540-462 win over Debbe Hossy evened out by Denise LeBron’s 517-478 over Omri Rosenkrantz.

Omri would again feature in the high combined stakes, this time victorious 507-503 over Mpakaboari Jack. His winning board is featured, right.

Photos: John Chew, Omri Rosencrantz, Lukeman Owolabi