Master of  all words uses but few

Nigel, known as world’s best scrabble player and a recluse, chats with CE

Published: 15th January 2017 10:40 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th January 2017 03:58 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: For many of us, Scrabble is a family past time, but it’s an obsession for this 49-year-old. Nigel Richards, who is the best of the scrabble players in the world, was in the city to participate in the Capgemini International Scrabble Tournament 2017.

This master of words is known to speak little and rarely gives interviews. In a conversation with the City Express, he shares how he mastered the French vocabulary and his strategy in the game.
Nigel Richards, also an avid cyclist, started playing competitive scrabble at New Zealand’s Christchurch Scrabble Club in 1997.

He has won World Scrabble Championships thrice. He is a five-time U S National Champion, an 11-time champion of the Singapore Open Scrabble Championship and a 13-time winner of the King’s Cup in Bangkok, which is said to be the biggest scrabble competition in the world.
In spite of not being fluent in French, he became the first player to win the championship in both English and French in the World Championship Tournament in 2015.

The New Zealander says that it was the love for the game that made him participate in the World French Championships. “It took about nine weeks to memorise the French dictionary,” he says. “It was very challenging and despite not knowing the language, it was a zest for playing the game that made me participate.”
Known for his photographic memory, he memorised 4 lakh words in the French dictionary in little more than two months.

According to The Huffington Post, Nigel is not guided by semantics (meanings of words) or morphology (the formation of words). The grandmaster of Scrabble breaks down words into their bare bones or strings of alphabets.

He follows the principles of Method of Loci (a memory enhancement method which uses visualisations with the use of familiar information about one’s environment, to quickly and efficiently recall information).
Nigel sees words as strings of letters and once he memorises these strings, he is able to recall them when he sees the alphabets on his scrabble tiles. Nigel then proceeds to unscramble the mix of letters on the scrabble tiles and then plays his word.

Ask him what his strategy for winning is and he says it is mostly the same for all games.
He adds, “Playing the game for maximum points at the best places on the board where I can score more points at each turn and also stop the opponent from scoring more,” he says “It does not matter if it is French or English, all that matters is the strategy and the word power in the game. Anagram plays a key role in the game.”  
After French, does he have any plans to memorise dictionaries of any Indian languages? “Scrabble in Indian languages is yet to be made,” he says.   
Nigel’s favourite word is Chlorodyne (which means a preparation made from choloroform and morphine, used to relieve pain) and calls it one of his best placements.

He says, “I would like to highlight one of the most important plays using the word - Chlorodyne. This was one of the best placements where all 7 letters from the rack were used on three others letters present on the board to form the word Chlorodyne.”
What is his tip for future players? “Young players should start playing in the Scrabble tournaments,” he says.

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