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2011 WORLD YOUTH SCRABBLE CHAMPIONSHIP

2011 Report by Karen Richards

The youngest champion ever!

What can we learn from eleven year olds? The main lesson is not to underestimate them! Over the six years that World Youth Scrabble Championship has been running, we have seen a succession of 16 and 17-year olds engrave their names on the perpetual trophy. We have seen an orderly bunch of players collect the age-group prizes, such that no one person was eligible to collect more than one age trophy. 2011 was different. The record books were rewritten. Just one player had taken out the Under 12, Under 14, and Under 16 category awards, as well as winning the Championship.

How Anand Bharadwaj benefits from coaching and word study

Anand Bharadwaj, the delightful eleven-year old from Melbourne, Australia played his first tournament (against adults) at the age of seven. A few weeks later, I had the pleasure of working with him at a Youth Scrabble Coaching Clinic. His rating starting rising shortly afterwards, and has never stopped. A while after the initial training, his father asked me how he could improve even more - I suggested he add more structure in his word study, and introduced him to Zyzzyva cardbox. Prior to that, I had underestimated the ability of such a young person to optimize this study method, but he proved me wrong. He has subsequently been working with Andrew Fisher, Australia's top player (runner up 2011 World Scrabble Championship) to improve his strategy. Anand is no "child" player, but simply an adult in disguise, a vertically-challenged professional Scrabble player and future world champion. How far in the future remains to be seen, but I suspect he could be the youngest ever (Panupol was still a teen when he became World Champion in 2003.)

Don't underestimate WYSC

Some people have made the mistake of classifying WYSC as just a "kids" tournament. These people have obviously never observed WYSC - the intensity and commitment of the young players increases each year. In 2006, none of the players used Zyzzyva (it didn't exist) and only a handful used similar word study programs. I am unashamedly biased about Zyzzyva - I believe it has made the difference between Scrabble for fun, and Scrabble as a serious pursuit for young people. Michael McKenna, veteran of 5 WYSC events, commented to me that the standard improves each year. As we walked together down the aisles of mini-adults concentrating on their endgames, a player at table 23 plonks down the cute ASTHORE, a word only likely to be known by someone with a "Cardbox" - and I stress, he was playing midfield. Approximately half those young Scrabble afficionados are now working their way to the top of Scrabble charts with brilliant memories, and the most effective word study tool available. We "oldies" should be very afraid that our hold over the game will be prized off by the youngest generation, and Scrabble will be seen as "a young person's game, in which a few old people are allowed to play", rather than "an old person's game where the odd child competes".

Watch out for these young ones

The full list of official winners is below. However, I need to mention some players not listed as official winners, such as the other "under 12s". When it became obvious that one player would clean up all awards except the Under 10 (which always belonged to Anand's female counterpart, Shrinidhi from UK) we decided to make some additional awards. Hence a prize was awarded to the second Under14 player, Cheong Yi Hua (Mal) and for the second and third Under 12 players, Alex Leckie-Zaharic (NZ) and Sanchit Kapoor (Dubai), followed immediately by Jack Durand (UK). These three players epitomise the face of Scrabble in future. Unlike Anand, who has been playing for 4 years, Alex and Jack only started a year ago, and Sanchit has been playing for about 6 weeks. I was involved in training them, and all showed their true colours from the start. Be very afraid, everyone, we are being taken over by eleven year olds.

The Determination Award

This year, a special award was made for "determination", in the name of my father J D Farmer. This award was originally intended to honour one of the many players who live with Aspergers, who have proven just how good they can be in the field of Scrabble. However, during the event, it became apparent that one player had to overcome more obstacles than most people with Aspergers, in order to play Scrabble, and even just to be there, having travelled all the way from Trinidad and Tobago - and I mean Amir Andi-Abdoerrachman, such a gentle lad, always smiling, whether he had won or lost, very determined to do well at his first and last WYSC. His wonderful mother Sue initially spoke to each of his opponents before every game, explaining that he is deaf and mute, and teaching them appropriate hand signals for challenge, holding, changing etc. Eventually the other young players worked it out themselves - they were all very understanding, and I thank them for their caring attitudes. The young Scrabble players of the world really are a lovely group.

Smiling and helpful

Another player who should have won an award for his wonderful attitude was Pang Rickson. Anyone who has seen WYSC photos will have noticed a cute little fellow, looking even younger than his 9 years. This was our local "reserve" player, called in to even up the numbers. I told him there was no pressure to prove himself, we just needed to ensure that no-one had to sit out each round. He did his job well, always smiling, made 24 players very happy in the process, and received a cool blue YouthScrabble t-shirt for his trouble. I'm sure he will be part of Malaysia's proper WYSC team in a year or two.

Running tournaments, young people do it well

Last year, the theme for WYSC had been that we should not place limits on young people, that they are perfectly capable of running tournaments for older players to enjoy, rather than vice versa. I explained that we had been doing that for years in Australia, asking all WYSC team members to run a tournament each year. This has greatly increased their usefulness in the general Scrabble community, with players like Michael McKenna able to assume command of the Scrabble Software etc in emergencies. Other countries, like Pakistan, have followed suit, with their young players getting actively involved in Scrabble administration. Singapore Scrabble is virtually run by the youth contingent. This year, to back up my words that it is best to have youth doing things for youth, we invited Martin Teo (Malaysia) to be the Tournament Director. He was very popular with the players, kept them suitably under control, and handled with finesse and sensitivity the issues which arose (whilst Cheah Siu Hean lurked in the background, to assist with Rules Adjudication). The only thing at which Martin failed was in getting the lights to work on the final morning. He pleaded with the lights, yelled at the lights, invoked magic spells, threw his (figurative) boots at them, and even called in the hotel repairman, to no avail. By the time someone found a workable solution, we were 20 minutes late starting. This was not good enough for Martin, who negotiated a free lunch to be delivered to the playing area, such that games could resume faster, and no-one would miss their plane. Way to go Martin - you are welcome to TD any time. Martin bemoans the fact that he was one year too old to compete in the first WYSC (so you can work out his age!)

Some things we could have done better - one player decided that, since there were only 3 games before lunch the first day, it would be the same the second day. She disappeared early for lunch, hence forfeiting a game. Next year, the timetable will be printed on the back of nametags instead (they don't carry around their souvenir booklets - too precious.)

There were other things we wish hadn't happened. Someone removed Nigel's 10-year old tile bag. (We ran an internationally-rated side-tournament for adults, won by Nigel Richards, with another Richards as runner-up). If anyone sees a much-loved, very long green tile bag (NZ style, up to the elbows), you know who owns it.

The Youth Subcommittee of WESPA

Many of WESPA's Youth Subcommittee were present at WYSC, so an informal meeting was held - apart from myself as chair, we had Robin Rubin (Phil), Martin Teo (Mal), Nikhil Soneja (UAE), Tariq Pervez (Pak), and Senaka Jayasinghe (SriLk). One of the inevitable questions discussed was future locations for WYSC. We have endorsed both Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Dubai (UAE) as suitably safe locations for a future WYSC. The organisers in these two countries have a large number of young people already competing in adult tournaments, plus thriving school groups. I thoroughly enjoyed my stays in both countries, as I am sure the young WYSC people will. Eventually we will advise which country will hold WYSC in which year, but look forward to both those locations in 2013/2014. Before then, we fulfill a promise to take WYSC to UK, once they had a strong enough youth presence to justify us taking the rest of the world to them. This time has come, after the performance of their 7- member team this year (which I'm pleased to say was half female, unlike most other teams). Planning is under way to run WYSC 2012 in Birmingham (Midlands), just a short distance from one of the more efficient international airports in the world. Timing will be 6th to 9th December, so start knitting beanies and gloves. We hope that being closer to America will make it easier and cheaper for players from there to join WYSC 2012, and remind them this is a penalty-free event, to reduce the disadvantage to anyone who is used to playing with a restrictive dictionary rather than the full CSW (ie they will not be penalised for challenging words which are everyday to Collins players)

Youth Scrabble, promotion and coaching

The other major issue discussed by the Youth Committee was how to reach more young players. WYSC gives them something to aim for once they have started playing. However, we need to market Scrabble wider, to those who have never heard of competitive Scrabble, and who only consider Chess when looking for an intellectual challenge to supplement their education. We believe the answer lies in selling Scrabble to teachers and parents. Therefore, Nikhil and Tariq will be working on a small brochure aimed at adults, telling them why Scrabble is good for young students for many different reasons, not just an aid to increasing vocabulary (on the other hand, we can tell the students that Scrabble is just plain fun!). Nikhil and Tariq have both been enormously successful at marketing Scrabble to teachers and parents in their respective countries. When Alastair and I visited Dubai, expecting up to 40 students at our workshop, we were shocked to see busload after busload arriving, sent by supportive schools - three times the number we had expected. This workshop was sponsored by Amity University, who had also grasped the value of Scrabble to enhance problem-solving and logic skills, improve mathematical computation, plus the myriad of other learning criteria it satisfies (eg developing memory techniques). This is the vision I have for all countries - hordes of children clamoring to learn Scrabble, and their teachers encouraging them, with the basic learning centers being universities or similar, giving Scrabble the prestige it deserves.

Karen Richards
Chair, Youth Committee
WESPA (World English-language Scrabble Players Association)

AGE BAND AND SPECIALIST PRIZES


>Under 10Shrinidhi Prakash (UK)
Under 12Anand Bharadwaj (Au) Alex Leckie-Zaharic (NZ) Sa nchit Kapoor (UAE) Jack Durand (UK)
Under 14Anand Bharadwaj (Au) Cheong Yi Hua (My)
Under 16Anand Bharadwaj (Au)
Encouragement Award (youngest player in top 25) - Cheong Yi Hua (My) aged 13
Best Novice Award (no previous WYSC experience) - Oliver Ga rner (UK)
Best Player, new countryAlex Leckie Zaharic (New Zealand ) NB. Omari Atiba Blake could almost have taken out this award, as Trinidad and Tobago have only ever fielded one contestant prior to this event
JD Farmer Award for Determination Amir Andi-Abdoerrachman

MAJOR PRIZE WINNERS

  1. Anand Bharadwaj (AU) 19 1322
  2. Victor Gwee (SG) 17 1146
  3. Michael McKenna (AU) 17 1001
  4. Yeshan Jayasuriya (SL) 16 1280
  5. Premkumar Nimalan (SL) 16 714
  6. Oliver Garner (UK) 16 505
  7. Sinatarn Pattanasuwanna (TH) 15 1076
  8. Mohammad Suma (PH) 15 759
  9. Jessica Pratesi (UK) 15 654
  10. Sompong Phosai (TH) 15 590

OTHER PLACINGS

  1. Tawan Paepolsiri (TH) 15 573
  2. Choo Zi Wei (MY) 15 264
  3. Javeria Mirza (PK) 14 1158
  4. Cheong Yi Wei (MY) 14 1063
  5. Eden Choo (SG) 14 891
  6. Sitthichoke Boonsiripan (TH) 14 779
  7. Jeremy Khoo (SG) 14 670
  8. William Kang (MY) 14 377
  9. Cheong Yi Hua (MY) 14 345
  10. Omari Atiba Blake (TT) 14 202
  11. Kevin Ketagoda (SL) 14 200
  12. Jahanzaib Khan (PK) 14 67
  13. Arvinran Rajendran (MY) 13.5 196
  14. Timothy Tan (SG) 13.5 189
  15. Jamin Dispanya (TH) 13 724
  16. Yong Jian Rong (SG) 13 689
  17. Nathallie Cabaluna (PH) 13 373
  18. Inshal Shabaz (PK) 13 355
  19. Jayden Kuhne (AU) 13 295
  20. Migara Jayasinghe (SL) 13 158
  21. Visarut Ariyakajorn (TH) 13 136
  22. Kitty-Jean Laginha (AU) 13 118
  23. Hamza Sheikh (PK) 13 92
  24. Natasha Pratesi (UK) 13 17
  25. Marvi Delfin (AU) 13 -253
  26. Shaini Wilson (SL) 13 -433
  27. Amir Andi-Abdoerrachman (TT) 12 774
  28. Matthew Malitao (PH) 12 401
  29. Javeria Salman (PK) 12 328
  30. Vinu Wijesekera (SL) 12 297
  31. Dylan D'Souza (UA) 12 151
  32. Alex Leckie-Zaharic (NZ) 12 35
  33. Minhaj Uddin (PK) 12 -41
  34. Asad Merchant (PK) 12 -45
  35. Yash Gandhi (PK) 12 -127
  36. Joe Leqoalane (ZA) 12 -167
  37. Shrinidhi Prakash (UK) 12 -173
  38. Sasika Jayasuriya (SL) 12 -503
  39. Muhammad Adham (MY) 12 -509
  40. Taha ul Huda (PK) 12 -521
  41. Talal Amjad (PK) 12 -561
  42. Shahzaib Khatri (PK) 11 398
  43. Sanchit Kapoor (UA) 11 185
  44. Jack Durand (UK) 11 175
  45. Anisha Bandaranaike (SL) 11 -26
  46. Nishan Perera (SL) 11 -100
  47. Joe Knapper (UK) 11 -138
  48. Naravit Nathapukdi (TH) 11 -172
  49. Neo Wei Sheng (SG) 11 -269
  50. Chang Ching Yet (MY) 11 -426
  51. Wan Mohd Azril (MY) 11 -540
  52. Tim Butcher (UK) 10 480
  53. Siriwat Suttapintu (TH) 10 319
  54. Clarence Tew (SG) 10 7
  55. Tanvi Binani (IN) 10 -208
  56. Arunan Sethu (MY) 10 -327
  57. Pranav Rao (OM) 10 -347
  58. Faraad Moyce (ZA) 10 -472
  59. Pasith Teeka-uttamakorn (TH) 10 -547
  60. Johnston Tan (MY) 10 -548
  61. Shiidheswar Ravich (MY) 10 -592
  62. K. Sudharsan Surya (UA) 10 -851
  63. Prema Maniam (MY) 10 -1099
  64. Kim Rubina (PH) 9 -283
  65. Kukiat Khunpanitchot (TH) 9 -354
  66. Norathep Sripasit (TH) 9 -385
  67. Maree Farlow (AU) 9 -593
  68. Erica Tablan (PH) 9 -655
  69. Wilson Kang (MY) 9 -819
  70. Navya Zaveri (UA) 9 -865
  71. Harendraraj Mohanraj (MY) 8 111
  72. Calvin Kong (MY) 8 -790
  73. Vikram Ajith (UA) 4 -3235
  74. Pang Rickson (MY) 0 -4815

TEAM PERFORMANCE (average placing)

  1. Singapore 17
  2. Australia 20
  3. Trinidad & Tobago 28
  4. Sri Lanka 32
  5. Pakistan 33
  6. Thailand 36
  7. UK 38
  8. Malaysia 39
  9. New Zealand 42
  10. Philippines 45
  11. South Africa 57
  12. India 65
  13. UAE 65
  14. Oman 67