Jamberoo’s Graeme Lock Lee is in Goa at the moment, competing at this year’s Scrabble world championships.
He qualified as one of the thirteen Australians to compete at the bi-annual event, having traveled to Nairobi for the previous championships in 2017.
The Bugle spoke to Graeme just before he left for India to find out what’s involved in world class competitive Scrabble.
While he modestly doesn’t expect to return with the world crown, he is in good form.
“I scored my highest ever game, 604 points, this week so I’m in peak condition,” he said with a smile.
“I hope it is a good sign. You need the right tiles to fall into your rack to score like that. It doesn’t happen very often for anyone.”Graeme discovered competitive Scrabble in 1996 when he dropped in to a meeting of the Wollongong Order of Really Dedicated Scrabblers (WORDS).
“I’ve always loved word games and I like competition.
“I love sport and I see Scrabble as a mental sport.
“You need a lot of word knowledge and good tactics.”
His time with WORDS has increased his average points per game from 300 to 410-420.
His highest scoring word ever was worth 226 points, but disappointingly he can’t remember what it was.
The world championships are run by the World English Language Scrabble Players Association, without the sponsorship support of the game’s owners, Hasbro and Mattel.
The over 200 competitors from 24 countries need to use words from the Collins Dictionary, which now has the official rights to the game.
“There are around 277,000 words, up to 17 letters long,” said Graeme.
“The best players in the world have learnt them all, which is astonishing.”
While the UK and the US dominate the sport, the last champion was from Bahrain.
Thailand has become a phenomena, having produced several world champions.
“Even if they can’t carry out a conversation in English, they manage to learn all the words they need to use as ammunition,” said Graeme.
The Americans are at a disadvantage, as the dictionaries they use domestically contain only 185,000 words.
While countries have quotas of players, it is an individual sport. After four days of competition, the top two ranked players will play off in the best of five.
As for tactics, Graeme explained the primary goal is to empty the rack of all seven tiles at once to pick up 50 bonus points, and you need to know all the two and three letter words.
The highest scoring opportunity is if you are able to cover both triple word squares.
Graeme encourages people to give the sport of individual tournament scrabble a try.
“You’re competing against yourself as well.”
Details: WORDS meets every Monday at Collegians in Wollongong, 7-10.30pm. New players welcome. Kiama Library also hosts a Scrabble club on Tuesdays at 3pm.