One of the real blessings of competing in tournaments all over the world, is the opportunity to make interesting friends. Godswill Akpabio International Scrabble Classic in Nigeria was no exception – or maybe it was an exception.
It was a great surprise to discover there was only one other female tin the Masters group where I competed (over 50 players, of a total approximately 400 in the event) - and what a female! Lady T is known by many names in her native Nigeria, including “Iron Lady”, “the great Amazon”, and sometimes even by her real name, Tuoyo Mayuku.
Her countrymen obviously love and admire her, judging by the cheering as she fought her way to the top of the field. Eventually, she secured second place with a win over Nigel Richards (World Number 1) in the final game, to make it a Nigerian quinella with Wellington Jighere (current WESPA Champion).
Tuoyo started playing with her siblings during high school. When she first competed in a National Championship (1996 at the first edition of Shell Warri National Scrabble Championship), she made history as the first female in Nigeria to be amongst the top 12 in the opens category.
Four years later she won the intermediate category at the same championship (2000), and was promoted into Masters competition thereafter. She first competed in an international championship in 2006, when Nigeria hosted the African Scrabble Championship in Abuja. Finishing in the top 15 players in that event elevated her to the position of top female player in Africa. She cemented the title of African Queen of Scrabble in 2008 with a similar performance in Kenya, and has never relinquished that crown. In the 2012 African Scrabble Championship in Zambia, she finished eighth overall.
Tuoyo’s appearances in other continents have been limited, often by the difficulties in obtaining visas. In 2016 she intended to compete in Lille, France, but her visa was refused. She did, however, compete in the Premier Division in Causeway in 2011.
I look forward to meeting up with her again at WESPAC in Kenya next month. We will be seeing much more of this dynamic player in future, and hopefully over many different continents. Apart from being a nice and interesting person, and an excellent Scrabble player, she is a fantastic role model for all the younger females who we are encouraging to compete in Scrabble worldwide.
Tuoyu Mayuku at the GAISC
Winning the final game against World No.1 Nigel Richards