New Zealander becomes fourth-time World Scrabble Champion at final in Shepherd’s Bush

New Zealander Nigel Richards became a fourth-time World Scrabble Champion in the 2018 final at Westfield London on Sunday.

Mr Richards, 51, beat American Jesse Day, 31, to win the English language world title and $8,000 in prize money after four tense rounds.

Mr Day won the first round with 541 points to Mr Richards’ 391 but the latter came back strong in round two with 536 points to Mr Day’s 307.

The third round was close with Mr Richards winning by just 22 points with a score of 445 against Mr Day’s 423.

In the fourth round, the word ‘groutier’ meaning ‘cross, sulky, sullen’ was played by Mr Richards scoring him 68 points and helping him clinch the world title with a score of 575 to his opponent’s 452.

After seven days of competing against players from 25 countries, Mr Richards said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won two world championships this year including French and English. It was a closely fought championship and Jesse was a very impressive opponent to play.”

The world champion, who currently lives in Malaysia, started playing Scrabble in 1995 and has previously won the English world tournament in 2007, 2011 and 2013 and the French world tournament in 2015.

Runner-up Mr Day, who currently lives in New York and is a data scientist, said: “The first two games were kind of one-sided either way but honestly the third game was the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of. I didn’t win but it was just really exciting. It felt like we both pulled out the stops and came up with some crazy stuff.”

High scoring words played included 100-pointer ‘zonular’ meaning ‘like a zone’ played by Mr Richards, ‘maledict’ scoring 95 points meaning ‘utter a curse against’ played by Mr Day, and 84-pointer ‘phenolic’ meaning ‘a synthetic resin’ played by Mr Richards.

SAY WHAT? The board that won Mr Richards his title. Photo: Michael Bowles

For each play, the board was spun around so that the tiles faced the player whose turn it was. For each new game, the players swapped seats so they were on the opposite side of the board.

To celebrate the final and mark 70 years of the board game, a free, interactive Scrabble event also took place on the day.

Visitors could try out the new special edition black, grey and gold Scrabble sets and take home a free piece of merchandise such as a jumper, mug or ice tray if they played for at least 15 minutes.

Guests who visited the pop-up Scrabble exhibition could choose a word of eight letters or less to be printed onto a t-shirt in Scrabble tiles.

Despite losing, Mr Day said: “There’s hundreds of people here spectating and playing themselves. Nothing makes me happier. It makes me think that there’s a future for Scrabble even in the age of Fortnite and League of Legends.”

Feature image shows Nigel Richards. Photo: Michael Bowles

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