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Young Scrabble Champion Criticizes the Promotion of the Game in UK

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This time Gerry Carter met a 16 year old UK genius who impressed him with his maturity and composure: The 2014 World Youth Scrabble Champion Jack Durand from London.

Jack is a shining light in the game, but sees shortcomings in the way Scrabble is being promoted to the youth in his country, especially when compared to Asia. Jack won the last UK National Youth Championships. The competition was attended by just six players, however, which was very disappointing. He would like to see more established players step up to the plate and help promote the youth scene.

Take a Glance at International Scrabble Players

scrabble with gerry carterEnjoy our feature at word-grabber in which Gerry Carter will be interviewing the top Scrabble players, up and coming players, and the movers and shakers in international tournament Scrabble.
We hope their stories will inspire a new generation of players to take up the game and play competitively, whether it is in person at tournaments or online.
Who knows, one day we may feature you!

“Scrabble for Youth Player is Poorly Promoted in the UK.”

Jack, you are a really young Scrabble player. How did it all begin?

I started playing with my parents in 2006 at the age of 6 and my grandmother suggested I look for a tournament when I was nine. That’s when I first met Karen Richards, who invited me to my first WYSC (Wespa Youth Scrabble). My Mum and Karen would be my primary inspirations, but nothing is more inspiring than the sight of seeing so many children playing at such a high level year after year.

Is there something that you think could be improved about the way the game is organised?

It is in the nature of Scrabble tournaments to be delayed, this can’t be helped. Ideally, I would love to see more kids playing in the UK, like in Pakistan or Malaysia. With the collaborative help of both MSI and the ABSP, I believe that this isn’t unrealistic.

What lessons could people in the UK learn from other countries in promoting Scrabble?

In terms of youth Scrabble, I think that the game is currently promoted poorly in the UK, but saying this I am unable to offer a better idea on how to get more people playing Scrabble myself. Having run a Scrabble club at my school for six years now, I am gradually realizing that very few people find Scrabble fun. Unfortunately, in the UK, youth Scrabble is almost non-existent. Other countries, most notably Pakistan, show that it is possible to get large numbers of children enthused about this game. The different educational culture of the UK and the prevalence of other alternatives to enjoy in your spare time make this a hard example to follow. Honestly, I think that anyone who could be interested in Scrabble only needs to be shown the rudiments of the game. Getting involved in schools is a wonderful way of doing this, but the goal should be to take only the most interested students – quality over quantity – as they are most likely to continue to enjoy the game, even to play competitively at some point. To encourage this we have tried to set up a network of coaches, but a surprising number of people are unwilling to give up their time to expand youth Scrabble. Hopefully the future will be more positive.

What advice would you give to new players starting in the game?

In terms of new youth players, the best advice I can give is to just have fun and see where the game takes you from there.

Jack’s Top Three Achievements in Scrabble

1. Winning the WYSC in 2014.
2. The ABSP Most Improved Player award in 2012.
3. The WSC 2016: Beating Wellington Jighere, Dave Wiegand, Jakkrit Klaphajone and Waseem Khatri in the same day.

Jack Uses Quackle and the Cardbox for Training

What benefits do you think playing Scrabble has brought to other areas of your life?

Where do I begin? Scrabble helps with everything from social skills to mental math and spelling. Most notably though, I think that it is of utmost importance that everyone has a hobby they truly enjoy for their own happiness. That’s what Scrabble is for me.

What is your favorite way of practicing?

Of course, there is no substitute for word study and regular ‘cardboxing’. Recently, however, I have taken to playing against Quackle, as it’s a fun way to analyse and correct the way you play, either by pointing out a gap in your word knowledge or strategic failure, such as the difficulty in playing a perfect endgame.
Learning vocabulary depends on the word length. For bonuses I, like most players, prefer Zyzzyva’s Cardbox. For smaller words, such as 3s and 4s, the word list books are excellent. In my opinion, the only way to learn these is by rote.

Favorite Move, Highest Game Score, and Highest Word Score

ESSAYED against Nuala O’Rouke at the UK Open a couple of years ago would be a highlight, playing out with a deficit of over 100 points to win by first.

My highest game score is 680 at one of the UKYSCs.

My highest word score would be 214 for ROCKIEST in practice and 185 for FIDDLERS in tournament play.

Many Admirable Scrabble Players

Do you play any other games apart from Scrabble?

Last year I had a brief foray into the Pokémon video games, winning the national championships in my age group – under 16 – and representing the UK at the world championships. Other than that, I enjoy chess and Go at a much lower level.

If you could wish for one “superpower” to give you an advantage in Scrabble what would it be?

In terms of purely giving me an advantage in Scrabble, that would be the ability to ask Quackle, discretely, about my every rack and move.

Who is the toughest opponent you have faced and why?

Who else but Nigel Richards? He is the best player in the world, reigning world champion or not.

If there is one thing you could wish for in connection with Scrabble, what would it be?

Becoming the world champion! I can’t imagine anybody giving another answer to this question.

Who is the person you most admire in Scrabble?

There are many admirable Scrabble players. In terms of prowess across the board, Nigel Richards comes to mind. My personal shortlist, however, would include Karen Richards, Gabriel Martin, Calum Edwards, and Lynne Riley for their outstanding contributions to youth Scrabble as well as for encouraging me personally.

Many thanks for taking the time to speak to me for

Trying to learn new Scrabble Words?

For learning new Scrabble Words allowed at international tournaments, just take a look at our other articles about Scrabble and of course use our Scrabble Helper to improve your word knowledge.

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I have been playing Scrabble competitively for 25 years; throughout the world using both the TWL and Collins lexicons. I`m an extensive writer on the game both in terms of news and features. I play for Thailand internationally and live in Bangkok since 1985. I was the 1998 Champion of Asia and the Pacific and I am currently writing a book about the quirky life of international Scrabble players featuring a broad spectrum of views about the world's favorite word game.

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