Schooled in Scrabble

Schooled in Scrabble

Fifteen-year-old Nitya Chahti, a standard X student of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Delhi, is preparing hard for a tournament scheduled later this year. She’s studying rigorously for her board exams too, but makes it a point to play a few matches every day. She may skip her lunch or evening snacks, but does not forget to practice
her game.

No, we are not talking about women’s cricket, tennis or a badminton tournament here, but the World Youth Scrabble Championship slated for December this year in Dubai. Like Nitya, hundreds of youngsters in Delhi are now playing scrabble at homes, in schools and hobby clubs. Mind you, they are not just playing it like rookies but professionals ready to blaze their way through competitive international events. And all of this has been possible thanks to the efforts of Scrabble Association of Delhi, also fondly called SADeL.

SADeL was established only eight years back by an environment consultancy professional Dr Marisha Sharma. Marisha was a PhD student at IIT Delhi and an active member of its scrabble club. After winning the annual scrabble competition at IIT’s popular fest Rendezvous (2005), she started to look for a professional club to take her passion forward. She says, “That is when I got in touch with the Scrabble Association of India (SAI). Its secretary Sam Joseph encouraged me to start a Delhi wing and SADeL came into existence.”

Though initially Marisha had to call up her friends and inform them about SADel, as word spread, people started approaching her for tutorials and membership. Today, SADeL runs four centres of scrabble teaching (Daryaganj, Raja Garden, Pitampura and Saket), clubs in schools (Apeejay Pitampura, Laurel High Pitampura, Springdales Dhaula Kuan etc.) and workshops for institutions and companies. “The situation is such that schools now vie to hold our Delhi Scrabble Championship every year,” she informs us.

The Delhi championship is, of course, their pride. No less than 200 kids participate every year and the best are then taken to the Mumbai national tournament where they have to cross words with scrabble players much older and experienced than them. If they do well here, the next level is the World Youth Scrabble Championship. Marisha says, “The competition is held in far and wide countries and sometimes, getting sponsorship becomes difficult. But I am happy that parents, kids and even corporates who lend us money have started taking scrabble seriously.”

“There was a time when people could think of only chess as a respectable board game. But the fact is that scrabble is equally challenging. It requires one to have a good vocabulary, memory, mathematics and strategising skills. Many good chess players fail to win a match of scrabble. That’s the power of the game.”

Deeksha Goel, a student of Ryan International, Rohini, and member of SADeL, is also preparing for the next Delhi tournament. She has already passed the beginners, intermediate and advanced levels and is further sharpening her skills. She says, “I love scrabble and the fact that I am good at it. This time, I am certainly going to win the tourney. I hope to become like Nigel Richards one day – the Rafael Nadal of scrabble. I wish that day comes soon.”

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