The Causeway Team Challenge Returns in 2017

Singapore vs Malaysia Preview

The word Causeway holds fond memories for many of the World’s competitive Scrabble players; the point which, as Michael Tang describes, is “kind of halfway between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur”, has given rise to two notable tournament structures on the world stage.

The second of those two would be the Causeway Team Challenge - a team event between two neighbouring countries which was started in Malacca by Michael Tang in 2002. Its inspiration was the biennial Trans Tasman Challenge (an event between fierce rivals Australia and New Zealand that continues to this day). We caught up with some of the players in the lead up to the event to get their thoughts on what promises to be an intense weekend of play.

In promoting the event, Michael Tang states, “the great news is that the Causeway Team Challenge is back for 2017 and pits the top 10 players from Singapore against the Top 10 from Malaysia.” Tony Sim confirms, “This will be the 6th edition of the Causeway Team SG v MY which started in 2002-2003 and revived in 2014 till now.”

It’s an event that both top Singapore player Toh Weibin and Malaysian player Alex Tan are sad to miss; and although there is no Toh Weibin (currently ranked 30th in the World), Team Singapore still features a strong team. The top ranked player representing Singapore will be Goutham Jayaraman, who finished 4th at the recent World Championships in Nottingham.

1. Hubert Wee
2. Andy Kurnia
3. Goutham Jayaraman
4. Yong Jian Rong
5. Marlon Prudencio
6. Michael Tang
7. Tony Sim
8. Lee Guan Hui
9. Ryan Wee
10. Dylan Sharma

Group photo from Causeway Team Challenge 2016

Top Seeds in play during the 2016 Challenge. Toh Weibin is unable to return but Nigel is back

Not to be outdone, Team Malaysia fields a team with some of the biggest names in Scrabble

1. Nigel Richards
2. Ganesh Asirvatham
3. Martin Teo
4. Khoo Beng Way
5. Henry Yeo
6. Andrew Chang
7. Vannitha Balasingam
8. Gan Yi En
9. William Kang
10. Kong Chock Heng

And the big news is with some of the “ins” for Team Malaysia.

As Michael Tang notes, “This year also marks the return of Ganesh and Vannitha to competitive Scrabble.”

Ganesh Asirvatham’s last WESPA rated tournament was the ICT Penang Open in 2008, an event he won (with Nigel Richards runner-up). He stopped playing sitting atop the WESPA ratings, and was a runner-up at the World Championships the year previous.

Vannitha Balasingam’s last WESPA rated tournament was the 2015 Kings Cup, where she finished 8th in a field of 65. She is also the co-holder of the record for highest combined game score in WESPA tournaments with 1157 (530-627 vs Phillip Edwin-Mugisha). This record, which occurred at the WSC 2009, is one of the longest in WESPA Tournament Scrabble history.

So, who will emerge victorious??

Yong Jian Rong predicts a tight battle, noting “I'm expecting team SG to claw back towards the end of both days. That's because we are by far one of the most intense players, who play up to 10 games a day - fatigue would have set in for most players by then (let's exclude Nigel)”

It’s a theory scotched by Tony Sim who replied “It will be 12 games on day 1 and 8 on day 2, so that will change the scenario”.

Alex Tan predicts that “Malaysia will win this time, of course”.

Goutham Jayaraman forecasts a Singapore win “thanks to Ryan beating Nigel in the last round”.

This is again disputed by Tony Sim, who believes that it will all be over by then. Based on WESPA ratings, he sees Malaysia win in Round 14. On Singapore ratings, a win to Malaysia in Round 19 and on Malaysian ratings, a win for Malaysia in Round 18.

Whatever the outcome, this weekend will no doubt feature tournament Scrabble of the highest quality, headlined by the current World Number One, a top 4 finisher at the World Championships in Nottingham and the return of two top players into the fold.

We are looking forward to this immensely!

With thanks to all players for their contributions and to Toh Weibin for the photos