Word war at the World Youth Scrabble Championships!
This was not just a war waged on words- we also managed to cement our impression as a Pakistani team here to stay!
We’re talking about war here! Well not exactly war - but the World Youth Scrabble Championships (WYSC) is definitely no laughing matter.
Nikhil Sonejo, World English Speaking Players Association (WESPA) chair member and organiser from the UK says,
“Pakistan is a major force in youth scrabble now, and I think the final results, though still very good, don’t do justice to the quality of the play of the Pakistani youth in this tournament... Javeria Mirza in particular deserved to be higher, she was outstanding. Will be very happy to see one and all in Dubai next year, and will definitely think along the lines of having something for the adults too.”
For numerous contingents travelling from all over the world to wage word war, this is hardcore stuff. The World Championship of Scrabble was held this year in Birmingham, UK, hosting participants from countries all the way from Trinidad and Tobago to the UK, India, Nigeria and many more. It was an exciting three day tournament, in which Pakistan finished at third place!
The entire journey for the Pakistani team was an unforgettable adventure.
We played some amazing games against equally amazing players, made many friends and learnt a great deal on the way, whilst creating priceless memories.
Our Scrabbling experience in England started on December 5, when we had a workshop conducted by Alastair Richards, who is currently one of the best players in the world, and Karen Richards who is chairwoman of the Youth Committee in WESPA.
We got a chance to play some games with Alastair, always an incredible way to get pulverised and learn a handful of new words, and meet up with the teams from other countries who had come for this event. Some of us had been together at the same championship two years ago too, so it felt great to see old friends again.
The following day we had a warm-up tournament for the participants, which was won by Arham Abidi of our team. Arham won all 10 matches, and this feat further cemented the impression that everyone had of our team; that we were very much in the running for this year’s title of champions, and also that we were a superior team in the arena of International Youth Scrabble, where we had participated for the first time only two years ago!
And finally, on December 7, at 9am - after the chair introduced themselves to us with Amy Byrne as our tournament director, Steve Perry from the Association of British Scrabble Players (ABSP) and others - the WYSC commenced.
The WYSC kicked off to a very good start. A total of seven matches were played out of which most of the Pakistani players won a decent number, making them all position holders in the top twenty for the first day.
I found this to be a very good day as I managed to beat Michael McKenna of Australia (who later became champion) by a large margin scoring 578 against his 442, whilst in the same match I made a word of 158 points (“SHUNTERS”) - the move that honoured me with the High Word of the Tournament trophy.
Scrabblers entered the toughest leg of the journey that day since they were to play 10 matches, with only one break of thirty minutes at midday for lunch. As three of the strongest contenders of the team Inshal, Javeria Salman and Jahanzaib found themselves doing not-so-well, I was fortunate enough to have made my way up to the top- as, thankfully, by game 12 I had retaken the first position.
This was a nail-biting show as players lost matches by as little as under five points and at the same time had themselves pulverised and the outcomes got as unpredictable as ever.
As the day ended, the participants were done with 17 matches out of the 24 in the tournament. The first and second positions were in the hands of Michael McKenna and William Kang respectively and I had accomplished getting the third place.
All three of us had 12 wins each.
The final day brought with it the most pressure; the young players were entering the last leg of the tournament, this was where the entire WYSC for them would make or break.
With only seven games remaining, the hardest battle began with the Pakistani team climbing its way back to the top. Javeria S, Inshal and Jahanzaib displayed a show of great temperament and skill as they made commendable comebacks to place themselves at 14th, 17th and 21st positions respectively.
At this point, unfortunately, I was going through a very tough patch and despite maintaining a strong winning run, had slipped out disappointingly after having lost six matches in a row out of seven.
The tournament ended on a good note for the team as two of the Pakistani players finished in the top twenty. Not only did they play well, the Pakistani scrabblers were able to create a great impression of Pakistan with their behaviour and performance. Chaperone and team leader Mr Tariq Pervez received various compliments on manners and attitude of the Pakistani players from all the other players and organisers throughout the tournament.
Cheong Eway of Malaysia, who took second place in the WYSC commented;
“Congrats to the Pakistan players who in my opinion have shown the most enthusiasm and are all great sportsmen :)”
All the kids agreed that the week they spent in England for the WYSC was an incredibly wonderful experience and that the Pakistani team is now recognised as one of the strongest in the world alongside Malaysia and Thailand, who have been kings in the Scrabble Arena for decades now.
At the end, I would like to thank Mr Tariq Pervez for his instrumental role in bringing Pakistan into the limelight in international youth scrabble, as well as being a wonderful team leader and chaperone to all of us.
PHOTOS: JAVERIA MIRZA