Bengaluru boys ace it at world scrabble tournament

Bengaluru boys ace it at world scrabble tournament

Madhav Gopal Kamath and Suyash Manchali finished second and eighth at the 2021 Scrabble World Youth Cup tournament, held online recently

Madhav Gopal Kamath

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘scrabble’? An evening with your friends at a taproom, with Scrabble grid spread out on your table, the letters resting on the rack, and you sipping your lager as you try to beat your opponent with a new word? Or kids trying to outperform each other's vocabulary?

Speaking of word games, Indians have dominated the word-game turf for the last one-and-a-half-decade. In the latest feat, Team India gave its best-ever performance at the Scrabble World Youth Cup.

Young Bengalureans Madhav Gopal Kamath and Suyash Manchali finished 2nd and 8th respectively at the tournament. The competition featured top 72 Scrabble players aged under 18 from 14 countries, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Kamath ranked second and it's the best performance by an Indian scrabble player in the history of the Scrabble World Youth Cup. Kamath, who studies in class VI in New Delhi, says, “It feels wonderful to have managed to place 2nd in the tournament at the age of 10. I'm amazed at doing so well. Due to Covid, I could not get much practice playing games. The only person I could play with was my father. He was the one, along with my uncle. who introduced me to the game.”

Due to the Covid pandemic, the tournament was held online. He says, “In pre-Covid scrabble tournaments, playing the tournaments was a lot easier, and also more enjoyable as you got to visit lots of different places and meet people from other countries. This doesn’t happen in virtual tournaments, so I hope in the future, we will be able to have in-person tournaments again.”

Vidya Goggi, the governing council member for KSSA (Karnataka State Scrabble Association) and SAI (Scrabble Association of India) for 2018 to 2020, and currently a member of both associations, says, “Due to Covid, like every other thing, Scrabble tournaments also shifted online this year. While there is likely to be a hybrid format going forward, online scrabble is certainly better for skill development and healthy engagement than violent video games or OTT programmes.”

Suyash Manchali

Equally impressive was 12-year-old Suyash Manchali from Bengaluru, who is a class VII student. 

Manchali says, “Earlier, we preferred playing in physical tournaments over online games. Owing to the pandemic, we had to adapt. Over time, I have got used to online games and have started enjoying it. In a physical game, we count points for every move, note it down, press the timer and pick tiles from the bag during the game. But there's no need to do all that in an online game as the computer counts the score for every word, gives the cumulative score and also draws the tiles for us. That saves some time."

“The fun of playing in a physical scrabble tournament with the board, tiles, racks, timer and the score sheet is something I miss and want to get back to soon,” he added.

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