Yesterday I visited the UK Scrabble Open in Coventry. It was interesting to compare the event with a poker tournament. It certainly didn’t look much different (although the average age of the participants was somewhat higher) and the sound of tiles being rattled in bags echoed all the toying with chips that goes on in a poker room. The event is taking place over five days, which is the same length as the top poker tournaments, but the prize money isn’t in the same league. The winner will receive £3,000, compared with the £500,000 Vicky Coren received for winning last year’s European Poker Tour event in London.
The elite end of the room
Paul Allan & Nigel Richards – the start of a 975-pointer
Azu Ogbogu and Mark Nyman discussing their game
Still, the sight of 100 people simultaneously cogitating against the clock was pretty impressive, and even a little exciting. It’s a shame that there’s no giant scoreboard displaying everyone’s progress – statistics always give me a thrill!
While I waited to have a chat with Mark Nyman – the only Briton ever to have been world champion – I made myself useful by ferrying word-challenges to the adjudicator. One of these was when current world champion Nigel Richards – who’s flown in specially from New Zealand for this event – made the play “pheesing”. (I’ll let you find out whether it’s valid.) Some of the challenges on other tables seemed a bit desperate – “yam”?? – as did some of the plays, proving that Scrabble-players can be bluffers too.