Nigeria is the world’s best team at Scrabble; SA aims to attract young players to the game

Nigeria won the Best Team trophy at the World Scrabble Championship 2019.
Image: Wellington Jighere via Facebook

Grooming talent from school level has paid off for Nigeria, which has taken the Best Team trophy at the World Scrabble Championship in Goa, India.

The country is known as a leading Scrabble-playing nation. Its best players are sponsored, playing the game at school, said Scrabble SA president Andrew Goldberg.

Nigel Richards, of New Zealand, won the Singles Title on Sunday to become the 2019 world champion, with more than 5,000 viewers livestreaming the match on YouTube, said Goldberg.

Another standout player was 15-year-old Tarin Pairor of Thailand, playing his first world championship. Even though he only started playing Scrabble two years ago, he was placed 13th.

A side tournament, the Indian International Scrabble Open, was won by Anthony Ikolo of Nigeria.

SA’s contenders included Harry Wiggins, a PhD mathematician and maths teacher, who placed 94th, and Jarrod Page, from Woodstock in Cape Town, who placed 99th.

Another SA competitor, Howard Rayner, who found love on the international Scrabble circuit, placed 111th at the weekend. The businessman met his wife, Susan Rayner, at a previous world tournament in Australia.

Nigeria and Kenya are the two African powerhouses at the word game.

In SA, there are about 10 clubs playing in the Cape and Gauteng.

To grow Scrabble in this country “we need it to be included at schools and combine it with mindgame competitions such as chess and spelling bees”, said Goldberg.

“We are looking for schools to teach at and kids to mentor.”




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