August 2017 always promised to be one of the most - if not THE most - eventful months on the Scrabble calendar and it did not disappoint!
This month’s report starts in Pakistan and the Independence Day Tournament: Abdullah Abbasi won the 18 game event on spread from Ahad Riaz. A game further back were Tariq Pervez and Waseem Khatri.
It would be a prelude to sending a strong contingent to events in the UK soon after as the Worlds beckoned.
Before looking at the events in Nottingham, history was being written in Martigny, Switzerland, and the French Scrabble Championships.
It would have been difficult to miss the events of two years ago surrounding Nigel Richards’ victory playing French Scrabble and the extensive, global publicity that followed. If anything, though, his initial achievement was arguably bettered in 2017 as, this time around, Nigel was victorious in three separate events across the Championships!
There was even time for a spot of English Scrabble as, along with Karen Richards, took part in the French/Swiss qualifiers for WESPAC later in the year. Seven games later, and Nigel remained undefeated: 7 wins and a high game score of 707. Those who qualified for the event were Serge Emig and Pierre Calendini for France; the Swiss team is still being determined, subject to confirmation of attendance.
Nigel Richards playing an English language tournament between French Tournaments
Previous events aside, the focus of the month was always going to be the UK, with three WESPA rated tournaments occurring in Nottingham at the end of August.
The first of these was the Junior World Scrabble Championships. There was a large Pakistani contingent for the event which also featured top young players Matthew O’Connor from the US and Daniel Henriques from Trinidad and Tobago.
The tournament belonged to O’Connor, whose victory makes him the first American to win a youth title. The runner up position went to Moiz Ullah Baig, the 2013 Youth Champion with Daniel Henriques finishing third. Henriques’ third place was recognized in the local media for another national first and celebrated in the T&T Guardian.
Matthew O'Connor, winner at the Junior World Scrabble Championship
The drama continued into the MSA World Scrabble Championship - would defending champion Brett Smitheram make it two in a row? Would Nigel make it Number 4? Or would someone else take the title?
Karen Richards scored an early upset by defeating the defending champion in a live streamed game but by the day 1 conclusion, Brett had made his way back into the Top 10. David Koenig and David Eldar were top two, each on 7 wins from 8: all up, 35 points of spread separated 1 from 4.
Koenig and Eldar would play twice on Day 2: games 11 and 15. This second game, the antepenultimate of the day would result in the third highest aggregate game of all time (1150) and a highest ever losing score (574 to David Eldar). You can play through this amazing game here.
A final game victory over Nigel Richards would mean David Koenig ends the day leading the pack again, this time from the UK’s Austin Shin.
The top 8 were to proceed to the quarters and beyond - Day 3 saw a dramatic change to the leaderboard as, at day’s end, it read (in order), Richards (Nigel), Shin, Eldar, Smitheram, Koenig, Jayaraman, Carter and Gallen.
However, more changes were ahead… and a 504-384 win by David Eldar over the defending champion saw him squeak into the 8 and ensuring a new Champion would definitely be crowned.
The top eight after 35 games of Scrabble in Nottingham
The top 8 (as pictured) were Nigel Richards (leader with a massive 26.5 wins and +2093 spread), Austin Shin, Harshan Lamabadusuriya, Neil Scott, Goutham Jayaraman, Mark Nyman, Elie Dangoor (who went on a five game winning streak on Day 4 to secure his spot) and David Eldar.
All the quarters ended 2-0 to the winners, which meant the semis were David Eldar v Goutham Jayaraman and Austin Shin v Harshan Lamabadusuriya.
At this point in time, it was looking like a repeat of the top 2 from the very first WYSC may have been on the cards however it was not to be; for, whilst Eldar defeated Jayaraman, Austin Shin was not able to win in his semi.
The best of 5 Grand Final was decided 3-0 to David Eldar, making his victory the first for an Aussie at a World Championship, and ensuring global publicity for a new champion. The word of focus in the media was CARRELS, in recognition for David's bonus play near the end of game 3.
The first Australian World Champion, David Eldar
The tournament Scrabble did not end there for most, though: as the WSC final was playing out, the British MatchPlay Scrabble Championship had started.
England’s Chris Vicary (10 wins) had won the warm up with three players all on 8 wins right behind him and the Main Event was well under way.
Fitting for such an intense month of Scrabble that the final game of the tournament would determine the winner. 2015 WESPAC Runner-Up Lewis Mackay and David Koenig, who had led the World’s for two of the days were locked in a battle for victory.
A win by Lewis (whose games for the tournament included a massive 687 earlier) by more than 88 points would see him victorious. Lewis did win(click here to play through)
, but ultimately it was not enough!
A victory for the US David Koenig ended a thrilling month of Scrabble; a month that featured historic firsts and will be remembered for a long time to come.
David Koenig, winner BMSC (Photo: British Scrabble)