Twenty eight years ago, the Sarit Centre in Nairobi saw 100 novel guests rack their tiles and brains as the first formal Scrabble tournament in Kenya kicked off under the auspices of the Kenya Amateur Scrabble Association (KASA).
After the knockout phase and semifinal games, two UoN graduate teachers: Onani Magwanga & the late Edmond Okubo from Homabay faced off in the final with Onani emerging victorious.
Fast forward to 2018 with Mwalimu Onani as Chairman of the Homabay County Scrabble club played host to the final round of the qualification events towards ECASA 2018 in Livingstone, Zambia. The county government supported the club with the County Sports director Francis Guma as guest of honour.
The location for this tournament was iconic because of the intricate connection between Homabay County and the game of Scrabble in Kenya.
Hillary Busienei (left) wth JC Auka travelled 500 miles to play this tournament
Homabay Club including runner up Magwanga Onani
The story of this tournament was the battle for the final ten slots in Kenya’s team of 25 to the 14th edition of ECASA in Livingstone, Zambia
The 8 month Grand Prix qualification saw players travel the country from Mombasa, Machakos, Eldoret, Nairobi, Kisumu to Nakuru before a return to the capital and a final foray to the shores of Lake Victoria (Homabay)
It took coast based Julius Auka & Hillary Busienei two days to get from Mombasa to Homabay, a distance of 846kms!
Auka came agonizingly close to qualification but had to settle for the first reserve position as Kiambu’s Fred Magu edged him out of the final spot on tiebreak.
Part of Kenya's team for ECASA 2018
Allan Oyende receiving his trophy
Top seed Allan Oyende was in imperious form averaging 459 a game on his way to wrapping up the tournament with a round to spare. His 526-521 win against fellow club mate Bernard Amuke featured as the highest combined score throughout the 18 rounds.
Their 1047 aggregate game was one of three for this tournament, together with Nick Okioma’s 534-490 win over David Kimani in Round 8 and the Round 6 victory of Macharia Kimani 587-428 against Tobias Outi.
Oyende finished this tournament three wins ahead of three players (Magwanga Onani, Bernard Amuke and Nicholas Kamunyu) with the Homabay’s top 2 seeds cheered on by the County Sports Director.
Tom Mboya emerged victorious ahead of home favourite Gilbert Angila in the Open Section - highlighted by two of his games featuring in the top three highest game scores for the Division.
Players will now head to Eldoret in the North Rift region on 3rd & 4th March, for the 3rd qualifier for the African Scrabble Championship.
ECASA 2018 will run from March 30 to April 1.
Additional text with thanks to Muema Muumbi, from Scrabble Kenya.