ASCI - A Tournament Evolution

ASCI - the tournament that evolved into the biggest international Collins event in the world

Ten years ago, ASCI was a small event organised by students of University of Malaya, aimed at bringing university students together in a team event (3 players from each university). They then added a school event alongside the university event. Standard of play was terrible. In the school event, most had never played, but it did serve as an introduction to Scrabble. It was also chaotic, trying to organise an event with 95% novices, where the organisers were not the usual Scrabble organisers, and had little concept of requirements. Being run by a student committee, the organisers changed from one year to the next, so there was little carryover of expertise. They also had some strange rules. The first time I attempted to enrol Alastair (once they dropped the team requirement, to allow individual entry), they decreed he could not compete in the school division because he was at university, and could not enter the university event because he was too young (16). asci playing room

When he was finally allowed to compete, we discovered a group of very enthusiastic young students from all different faculties, who were determined to put their university on the map, and to make this a premier event, attractive to people from all nations. It was here that I first met Martin Teo, and have since snaffled him every year to direct WYSC. The organising committee were forever looking for ways to improve the event. One of my suggestions was to seek WESPA rating, and open it up internationally. Over the years, they have also added an Open (i.e. adult section) because those who were not university students complained about being left out. This year, they removed the university category altogether, with four sections - Open, Under 18 (which should more correctly have been called 18 and under), Under 15, and Under 12.

The tournament has evolved into a very well run event with the standard of play much improved. I was chuffed to note that the winners of all 4 sections were veterans of WYSC.
Goutham Jayaraman (India/Singapore) - Open (Winner of University section in 2015)
Yong Jian Rong (Singapore) - under 18
Aabid Ismail (Sri Lanka) - under 15
Tengku Ariff Shah (Malaysia) - under 12

Prize for the best performer from University of Malaya went to a virtual unknown, Muhd Adham Abdullah who is studying Genetics and Molecular Biology. At least, he was unknown before last weekend. He caught me off guard, and many others, as he finished in the top 10 in the Open.

Top eleven in the Open Section were:-
1. Goutham Jayaraman (IND/SIN)
2. Toh Weibin (SIN)
3. Michael Tang (SIN)
4. Alex Tan (MAL)
5. Nigel Richards (NZ)
6. Jakkrit Klaphajone (THA)
7. Hubert Wee (SIN)
8. Muhd Adham Abdullah (MAL)
9. Vinnith Ramamurti (MAL)
10. Henry Yeo (MAL)
11. Karen Richards (AUS)

Number of players in each group this year were:
Under 12 - 76
Under 15 - 184
Under 18 -178
Open - 56

Organisers have endeavoured to keep costs low, e.g. accommodation (student dorms) and meals are provided cheaply. This allows young players to travel from many neighbouring countries - Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, and for the first time this year, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Singapore were the biggest winners, with residents of Singapore taking out the top three places in Open, and the top two in Under 18 (Leon Tan, second). However, I believe the world of Scrabble was the biggest winner- this event has grown steadily to 500 players. It is the largest international Collins event in the world. It is a melting pot for players of all levels and ages.

ASCI is also a good model of how to generate large numbers of new players. By starting in the university arena, it has given academic prestige to Scrabble. The organisers are all young, enthusiastic, and friendly, as well as being genuinely interested in introducing more people to our challenging game. The standard of play is excellent at the top end of each section.

This is definitely a tournament to add to your calendar.

Karen Richards
Youth Chair, WESPA