Tournament Preview

The Sri Lanka International Open Scrabble Championship (SLIO), which is being held for the 7th time since conception after a lapse of 4 years, has already attracted the participation of over 60 skilled Scrabble players from around the world. Among the entrants are several celebrated names that are familiar to all in the Scrabble fraternity. Nigel Richards, Sherwin Rodrigues, Goutham Jayaraman, Jakkrit Klaphajone and Naween Fernando, amongst many other renowned players from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and Pakistan, will be vying for the top prize of USD 3,000.

Nigel Richards needs no introduction as he is commonly acknowledged to be one of the greatest Scrabble players in history. As a 3-time winner of the World Scrabble Championship with numerous other tournament victories under his belt, he held the position of highest rated Scrabble player in the world for many years until 2018. Nigel participated in and won the previous SL International Open held in 2014.

Sherwin Rodrigues and Goutham Jayaraman, widely acclaimed as two of India’s top players, are notable names in the list of participants. Sherwin, who was placed 10th at WESPAC 2017, is no stranger to Sri Lankan scrabblers, having conducted a workshop for the youth team in 2017. Goutham, India’s 2nd highest rated player, was placed 4th at the MSI World Scrabble Championship 2017.

Naween Fernando, an Australian of Sri Lankan origin, is ranked 31st in the world by WESPA rating and has a number of accomplishments to his name, including the Australian National Championship in 2005.

Also taking part is Jakkrit Klaphajone, an eminent player from Thailand who was placed 5th at WESPAC 2017.

Joining this star-studded international lineup will be the 3-time- world champion Sri Lankan youth team, including the winner of the 2017 WESPA Youth Cup, Aabid Ismail, runner-up Janul de Silva and 8th placed Vignesh Pirapaharan. Many other members of the team have also reached the top 10 in previous world youth championships. Further, most top-rated Sri Lankan players are expected to participate at this tournament.

The Sri Lanka International Open Scrabble Championship will be held from the 7th-9th of September at the OZO Colombo. The tournament is WESPA-rated. Registrations close on 30th August. The event is endorsed and supported by the Ministry of Sports, Sri Lanka. The principal event sponsor is Akbar Brothers, Sri Lanka’s leading tea exporter and the corporate sponsor is Phoenix Industries, a diverse industrial group. The event is also supported by Sri Lanka Tourism and Pyramid Wilmar.

Preview with thanks to Ruvini Fernando of Scrabble Sri Lanka

Flyer for the Championship - click to expand

PART II - David Sutton looks at some of the words linked to the island nation

Sri Lanka, that island shaped like a teardrop hanging off the southern end of India, has a rich history of human occupation going back possibly half a million years. In that time it has had many names: Tapbrobane to the ancients, Serendip to the Arabs, Ceylon to the British. But what has it got to offer the Scrabble player, lexically speaking? Let us start with its two official languages: Sinhalese and Tamil. As far as words deriving from Sinhalese goes I know only two. One is ANACONDA, probably from the Sinhalese words hena (lightning) + kanda (stem). As anacondas are to be found only in South America, one may ask what are they doing with a Sinhalese name, and it's all a bit of a muddle: the answer seems to be that 'henakanda' was originally a name for a small WHIPSNAKE, which then mistakenly got applied to the python, and thence to the South American snake, which is a bit like a python on steroids. The actual South American name for the anaconda is SUCURUJU (not to be confused with SURUCUCU, the venomous BUSHMASTER snake). The other word of Sinhalese origin is WANDEROO, the name of a kind of macaque monkey, which comes from Sinhalese vanduru, literally forest-dwellers, from Sanksrit vanara. The other official language of Sri Lanka, Tamil, which is of course widely spoken in southern India as well, has been much more productive of words in English. Here are just a few of the shorter ones:

ANICUT (or ANNICUT) a dam made in the course of a stream for the purpose of regulating the flow of a system of irrigation. From Tamil anaikattu (dam-building)

CHAY (or CHAYA or SHAYA) an Indian plant of the madder family whose root CHAYROOT yields a red dye. From Tamil saya.

CONGEE (or CONJEE) water in which rice has been boiled; rice or millet gruel; (verb) to starch with congee. From Tamil kanji.

ILLIPE (or ILLUPI) another name for the MAHWA tree, producing nuts and oil. From Tamil illuppai.

NELUMBO (or NELUMBIUM) a name for a genus of waterlilies that includes the sacred lotus plant. From Tamil nelumbo.

PACHOULI (or PATCHOULI or PATCHOULY) a tree yielding a fragrant perfume oil. From Tamil pacculi.

PALAY a small tree of the DOGBANE family, also known as the ivory tree. From Tamil palay.

POONAC A kind of oil cake prepared from the coconut, and fed to cattle. From Tamil punnaku.

VETIVER An E. Indian grass; also, its fragrant roots which are much used for making mats and screens. From Tamil vettiveru.

VETIVERT An essential oil obtained from VETIVER, said to have calming properties (why not try some out during a tense endgame?)

There are many other words associated particularly, though not necessarily exclusively, with Sri Lanka. Names of its fauna, for example: LANGUR (a kind of monkey), LORIS (a name for the slender lemur), PANGOLIN (the scaly anteater), and the MUGGAR (or MUGGER or MUGGUR), a large freshwater crocodile found in marshes and pools. Or names of the many exotic and valuable trees that grow in its forests: BILIMBI, CALAMANDER, SATINWOOD, IRONWOOD.

One rather strange word that does seem to be exclusive to Sri Lanka is BEENAH. This comes from the Arabic binah (separate), and refers to an early form of marriage practised in Sri Lanka whereby the husband went to live with his wife's relatives. Well, I know at least one person who would have thought twice about entering a nuptial contract on those terms... And finally, though most of you will no doubt know this, the word SERENDIPITY derives from SERENDIP, the old Arabic name for Sri Lanka, and comes to us courtesy of a coining by the 18th century writer Horace Walpole, from the Persian fairytale 'Three Princes of Serendip', the point being that these princes had the gift of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

May your Scrabbling be full of serendipity, but don't rely on it too much...

With thanks to David Sutton