Scramble over scrabble

Call them Wordsmiths or word warriors, scrabble players across the globe have been fine-tuning and polishing their skill sets in unjumbling letters to make valid words, writes Manisha Mohite

Suyash and Yash

A family recreation game created by an out of work American architect Alfred Butts way back in 1938 has slowly and steadily captured the imagination of around 121 countries covering 29 languages.

The 15x15 square scrabble board with 100 alphabet tiles, tests a player’s problem-solving skills, logic, calculating ability, risk management and memorisation — all requisite skill sets for pursuing academic excellence or application at place of work. Call them Wordsmiths or word warriors, scrabble players across the globe have been fine-tuning and polishing their skill sets in unjumbling letters to make valid words and placing them for maximum points on the scrabble board.

In schools

The game now for quite a while has moved out of the drawing room with numerous tournaments scattered across the world. Apart from USA and Britain, Thailand has been promoting it big time, introducing it as an activity in all schools from the kindergarten level. In fact the annual ‘King’s tournament’ enjoys funding and royal patronage of the king with about 10,000  participants. Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka are other countries which have been doing exceptionally well, while in India, the game has really picked up in the last decade. The rising popularity and increase in tournaments are indicators that the alphagram and anagram rich game is heading towards the status of a ‘mind sport’.

India walked away with its biggest and best haul in the recently concluded, WESPA Youth Cup 2019 Scrabble at Malaysia with 18-year-old Yash Potnis of Bengaluru bagging the third place, the best ever Indian finish. City mate Suyash Manchali waltzed with the Under-12 World title and Madhav Kamath from Delhi was crowned the Under-10 Champion.

A class 12 student of Chetana College, Yelahanka, Yash admits that it has been a jugaad (legal scrabble word) to manage academics and scrabble this year. A dedicated two hour scrabble study regime every day for three weeks before the event paid rich dividends.  A splendid 600 plus point victory in the first game in Malaysia did not leave a sweet taste  as four defeats followed  and had him disastrously dipping down the standings to a lowly 70th. A classic comeback on day two and a fantastic finishing effort on the final third day ensured a third place and a glittering trophy. A moment to cherish was the memorable win against freshly crowned World Junior Scrabble Champion Syed Imaad of Paksitan. Triazole for 101 points, Banister for 80, Segolate for 75 and Teosinte for 77 were some of Yash’s exemplary bingo placements (using all 7 letters from the rack). Interestingly Collins Scrabble dictionary boasts of a whopping 2,80,000 words and is periodically updated to include new words.


‘Wavelets’ a 104-point scoring bingo by 10-year-old  Suyash on the other hand, put the youngster in a good frame of mind but failed to create any big ripples on the first day.

He too picked up wind on the second day with an 8/11, played solidly on the last day to finish overall 37th, enough to garner the Under-12 title. For the shy and soft-spoken Suyash, a student of MESKKPS, Vidyaranpura, his mother Shubha, a Japanese translator and A-rated Scrabble player is the motivation and the reason behind his momentum right from the time he picked up the game as a seven-year-old.

Both Yash and Suyash admit that pressure was plenty on the final day as they needed maximum victories for a podium finish. Yash, the more mature and experienced of the duo, confesses. “I was the India captain and quite a few of my Indian scrabble group friends were top 10 finishers in previous editions and I too didn’t want to let my country down.” Incidentally Yash’s parents Suchindra and Vidya too are rated scrabble players. The tall and lanky Yash is considered a tough player to beat in Bengaluru circles and reveals that he uses the software tool ‘Zyzzyva’ ( the last word in most dictionaries) to study words even though the scrabble word is flooded with assisting apps to study on the go. Suyash on the other hand always creates a buzz of excitement with his penchant for bingo words at the Bangalore Scrabble Club which was founded way back in 1998 by retired Merchant navy Captain Rex D’Souza and his wife Lenny.

Suyash explains, “a bingo attracts a bonus of 50 points in addition to the word score. It’s a great feeling to spot the bonus, find an optimum placement on the board for a valid word. If I have E_E_I_G_N_R_T on my rack, I can make the word INTEGER and if have the choice of a floating  ‘s’ on the board, I can make ‘STEERING’ from the same set of letters.”

The game, beginning with a handful of people in Bengaluru, has now become official with the registration of the Karnataka State Scrabble Association (KSSA) last year and plans are underway to promote and popularise it in schools.


DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)