WYSC- Scrabble and More - Ong Suanne

The inaugural World Youth Scrabble Championship, first of its kind and of many to come, took place on the 1st to 3rd of December 2006. 51 Scrabble enthusiasts gathered from all around the world to participate in 20 games of intense wordplay.

The evening before the games, participants congregated for a short briefing. Australian rules were to be used throughout the tournament, which needed some getting used to. The draw for the first game was also held. Needless to say, many of us were praying fervently not to have the misfortune of meeting the likes of David Eldar, Austin Shin, Sherwin Rodrigues and the assorted Thais, just to name a few. After a spirited traditional dance performed by Nishi Shah of Kenya, participants retired to their respective rooms to get a good night's rest (or was it to get a last peek at their word lists).

Players hashed out numerous unusual words throughout the 3-day tournament , including ARVICOLE , which means a member of the water-rat genus of voles, and BALADINS, which are theatrical dancers (also BALADINE), both played by Joshua Sng of Singapore. Amusingly, there is a certain theory that Scrabble players often play words that are representative of themselves. Benjamin Chow, a fellow Singaporean, spotted the beautiful HALFTIME, a word soccer fans will have given the seal of approval to. Ever the sportsman, Benjamin was also familiar with the word REJONEO, which is the art of bullfighting on horseback using lances with wooden handles.

Nine-letter words were not lacking in this colourful tournament, one of them being Sherwin Rodrigues' PAGINATED, played through AT and meaning something which is marked by consecutive numbers or in short, paged. He also transformed AIIOBLGT, a rack I'm sure many of us would have preferred not to appear in the first place, into the bingo OBLIGATI, meaning the bingo, no I meant the musical instrument - that cannot be done without, or that which must be used in performance. Sherwin had MAUVEINE, an artifical organic base obtained by oxidizing a mixture of aniline and toluidine, valuable for the dyestuffs it forms and in all a rather tough mouthful to swallow for a non-chemist, therefore resulting in Sherwin's ABROSIA, meaning abstinence from food. Equally awe inspiring was Thacha Koowirat's FEODARIES, which he played through OD holding AEIRS??, as holding two blanks at once is usually more of a bummer than a blessing, contrary to public opinion. David Eldar was quick to note that another nine ..ARILLODES, was also playable at the same spot. Our very own Chin Hon Yew proudly added another one to the list, the yummy AUBERGINE through IN, to cries of "why can't he just call it eggplant?"

Singaporean Toh Weibin's DURGANS, meaning a dwarf or any undersized creature certainly wasn't undersized in score while his RITORNEL, a passage for the whole orchestra in a concerto, struck a resounding chord given that held an unpromising rack of LNORRT? during the time of play. Will Nediger of Canada extended Malaysian Gan Yi En's SQUAW to OLDSQUAW to the triple, countering Yi En's gargantuan 81 points with a more than respectable 63 of his own, much to Yi En's shock and went on to beat Yi En by 1 excruciating point. Incidentally, OLDSQUAW is the only frontal extension of SQUAW. Will's bingos FANDOMS and PRELATES also intimate that Will knows his prefixes and suffixes, which are arguably almost as important as learning the top 4k 7s and 8s.

David Eldar and Austin Shin plonked down PLACITUM and VERLIGTE respectively, PLACITUM meaning a decision of a court or an assembly: a plea or a pleading, while VERLIGTE indicates a person of liberal and politically enlightened attitude. Perhaps our two finalists will go hand in hand in the near future, one as a lawmaker and the other as a politician. Other inspirational plays from David include RANARIUM, a place where frogs are reared, FLORIGEN, extended from FLOR and meaning a postulated flower-forming hormone, SUBCOSTA, the subcostal nervure of vein of an insect's wing, all tributes to nature. Even then, David wasn't happy with more than one of his plays, saying that in his game against Lee Guan Hui of Singapore, MURRAIN would have been the better play while lamenting his choice of the conventional INTERNAL against Alastair Richards, his fellow Australian, over the more exciting ZELATRIX.

However, word knowledge alone , though important, is only half of the game. After zooming off to a solid start with an explosive spread of 178 against Sri Lankan Lahiru Elvitigala, hot favourite David Eldar slowed down shortly after to concede two games in a row to Thacha Koowirat of Thailand and Benjamin Chow of Singapore. This duly sparked hope that Eldar, regarded as the Ganesh of that particular tourney, was not as invincible as past records have proven him to be. Alas, those two losses were a mere prelude to a gasp-inducing 10 game winning streak, 7 out of 10 in which he achieved game scores above 450.

Austin Shin lost games 16 and 17 to Tanasak Suphaphibunkun and David Eldar by 8 and 5 points respectively. Many of us will agree that losing by similar spreads is much harder to stomach than losing by 100+ points in an unwinnable game. Austin fought on, successfully beating Tanasak in game 18. Before the finals, he had a 0-3 record against David , but even as the finals loomed before him, I can testify that not a hair was out of place. Austin went on to give David the biggest loss of his career before a defiant David beat him thrice in a row to deservedly earn the title and a place in the coming WSC 2007.

Throughout the tournament, both players displayed impeccable calm and tremendous fighting spirit, something many tournament players have admittedly not mastered. In essence, the best winners know how to lose, and more importantly, how to pick themselves up after a loss.

Top ten finishers in WYSC

  1. David Eldar (AUS)
  2. Austin Shin (ENG)
  3. Will Nediger (CAN)
  4. Joshua Sng (SIN)
  5. Benjamin Chow (SIN)
  6. Toh Weibin (SIN)
  7. Thacha Koowirat (THA)
  8. Tanasak Suphaphibunkun (THA)
  9. Sherwin Rodrigues (IND)
  10. Lee Guan Hui (SIN)

Test Yourself

These words were played by various WYSC participants, can you solve them all? (Answers at the bottom of the page : DON’T PEEK!)

  1. EEOMNRST ( 2 bingos)
  2. EIIUDNRS (2)
  3. AUDLNPS (1)
  4. EIBDLRT (1)
  5. AAEOLMST(1)
  6. AUFGRLLY (1)
  7. EEODFHRT (1)
  8. AEOBDMRT (1)
  9. IIOKLNS (1)
  10. AEFLLSY (1)
  11. AEIGWKST (1)
  12. AEIIFNRV (1)
  13. AEIDRVWY (1)
  14. AAEDHWY (1)

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1. storemen, sermonet  2.uridines, disinure 3.uplands 4.driblet

5. oatmeals    6. frugally   7. fothered  8.bromated

9. oilskin    10. falsely   11. gawkiest  12. vinifera

13. driveway    14. headway