Scrabble was a very popular social pastime in the fifties, sixties and seventies but it was in the 1980s that Malaysians were introduced to competitive scrabble. A small group of scrabble enthusiasts namely Mohd. Ali, Haji Abdul Majid, Mohd Idrus Ismail and Raja Fuadin started weekly scrabble meets to compete against each other in the homes and Kuala Lumpur YMCA. Ali and his friends (“fiends” might not be totally inappropriate a word to describe them) played almost every day – and night.

They learned about the inaugural World Scrabble Championship (WSC) from an article in the newspapers and promptly organised a tournament to select a candidate to represent Malaysia in London. In 1991, the first National Scrabble Tournament was held at the Bukit Bintang Shopping Complex. Not surprisingly, Ali won - edging out the late John Tan in a thrilling final game - and became Malaysia’s first representative at the WSC.

The Malaysian Scrabble Association (MSA) was born in 1991, thanks to a core of scrabble enthusiasts led by Mohammad Ali Ismail. Mohammad Ali was the first president, and Abu Bakar Samat was the first pro-tem secretary. MSA would not be formally registered until 1994. However, this did not deter its band of dedicated committee members from plunging headfirst into a whirl of activities to promote Scrabble. The first annual general meeting was held in 1995. YB Dato’ Dr. Abdullah Fadzil Che Wan was elected as the first president of the Malaysian Scrabble Association(MSA). The Deputy president was Dato’ Haji Matshah Safuan.

YB Dato’ Dr. Abdullah Fadzil Che Wan stepped down from his post in the second annual general meeting held in 1997. He cited his responsibilities as president of BAM(badminton Association of Malaysia) as the reason for not being able to hold the president of MSA.

Brother Michael Wong was elected as the second president of MSA with Raja Fuadin as deputy president. Two vice-presidents were elected, mainly Leon Rethual and Tengku Asri. 

After his return from the WSC , Ali and his friends continued to play scrabble regularly, both at his brother-in-law’s house in Kampong Bahru and at his office in Subang Jaya. Shortly afterwards, through the good offices of Puan Mahani, the P.R. Manager of Park Royal Hotel, the MSA was given a regular meeting place on the mezzanine floor of the Hotel. Many exciting tournaments were held in the basement floor of the Hotel during the next few years. Subsequently, the Hotel changed hands, the new management did not see fit to renew its support of scrabble and MSA members were without a playing venue for a while. Then, a couple of years ago, MSA, through one of its committee members, succeeded in linking up with the management of Berjaya Times Square, and MSA has been enjoying a section of the Food Court on the 10th Floor as its meeting place and playing area ever since.

Back to the WSC. In 1993 and again in 1995 Malaysia’s representative was Raja Fuaddin (“the King”). Then T. C. Tan (“the Master”) burst on to the scrabble scene. He became the country’s representative to the WSC in 1997 and he did so well in the Championship that he won an extra slot for Malaysia. Sad to say, the country’s representatives in subsequent events have not performed well enough to gain Malaysia a third playing-slot. Mention should, however, be made of A. Ganesh’s highly creditable fourth-place finish in 2005.

The MSA is affiliated with the Penang Scrabble Club (PSC). The PSC organizes the ICT Penang Open, an international tournament held at the enchanting City Bayview Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel (“E & O”). For a scrabbler, there can be nothing more satisfying and enjoyable than combining a visit to the “Pearl of the Orient” with participation in the ICT Penang Open.