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Brain games: Scrabble anyone?

Brain games: Scrabble anyone?

By Mirza Abbas Baig

MBAQANGA! Many of you must’ve been confused after reading this first word. Well, ask a Scrabble player and he’ll know it. Surprised?

Scrabble is a board game portrayed to us as a game which consists of words. True, but not entirely. Its major part is making words but it requires game strategy, arithmetic skills and a bit of luck too. But as many high level scrabblers say, “A good player makes his own luck”.

Scrabble is a game which is gaining fame in Pakistan at the moment and is growing at a very fast rate. Scrabble, as an activity, creates positive learning through entertaining events that instil skills related to strategy, creativity, English, time management and discipline amongst its players. Its popularity has created a huge demand in Pakistan for more events, and participation has only grown over the years.

Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA) is the body that looks after all the scrabble affairs in Pakistan. It has managed to hold 26 National Championships since 1989. Regular Monthly Ranking tournaments and weekly Friday games are also conducted at Hotel Beach Luxury, Karachi.

There are two major scrabble events in a year. One is the “National Scrabble Championship” that is going to take place on October 4, 2015, at the Expo Centre, Karachi. This is an open event and anybody and everybody is eligible to play.

The other tournament is the hugely popular “Inter-school Scrabble Championship” that, as the name depicts, is open to all educational institutions — schools, colleges and universities. The inter-school championship happens to be the most-awaited tournament of the year for two main reasons. Firstly, school rivalries and secondly, PSA shortlists players to be a part of the camp for the WYSC (World Youth Scrabble Championship), and from this members for the Pakistan Youth team are selected after playing two different qualifying tournaments. This year the youth team will be flying to Perth (Australia) to be a part of WYSC 2015.

Our youth team happens to be strong from the very beginning. Participating in the event for the first time in 2010, the team returned with the Best Emerging Nation trophy and in 2013 Pakistan not only won the World Youth Scrabble Championship as a team but our very own Moiz Ullah Baig won the individual championship. We also had three Pakistanis in the top ten as Moiz Ullah Baig stood first, Javeria Mirza was the runner-up and the eighth position holder was Mariam Arif, who now happens to be our best youth female player as she ended third at the 2014 Championships in Colombo.

Waseem Khatri who happens to be the current and seven-time National Champion was discovered in one of these inter-school championships.

If playing with words — literally — interests you, then scrabble is the game for you and who knows, you could be Pakistan’s next youth champion. And if you are still wondering what mbaqanga means, it is a style of South African music with rural Zulu roots that continues to influence musicians worldwide today. An interesting word to add to your vocabulary bank, no? n

Did you know?

• Alfred Mosher Butts, who was an architect in New York, invented scrabble — a board game in 1933. The game is now sold in 121 countries with 29 different language versions. Here are some of the facts you might not know about the popular board game.

• Each year National Scrabble Day falls on April 13, the day that Alfred Mosher Butts was born in 1899.

• Scrabble was originally called LEXIKO and was referred to as Criss Cross Words in the 1930s and 1940s. It wasn’t trademarked Scrabble until 1948.

• S-E-L-F-I-E and H-A-S-H-T-A-G along with 5,000 other words were added to the official Scrabble Players dictionary issued by Merriam-Webster in 2014.

• There are 187,632 words on the official tournament and club word list.

• X-E-R-O-X. X is considered one of the hardest letters in Scrabble, but the tiles that will gain the most points, 10, are Q and Z. The tiles with the fewest points, 0, are blank tiles.

• G-E-O-C-A-C-H-E, the game where people scavenger hunt using a GPS, became the first fan-voted word in the game of Scrabble in April 2014. Other top contenders were the words E-W and B-I-T-C-O-I-N.

• Scrabble is ranked as the second best board game in US History, second only to Monopoly.

• The world’s largest game of Scrabble took place in Britain’s Wembley Stadium to mark the game’s 50th anniversary in 1998. Each tile measured an enormous 6ft square and took two strong men to lift. The game is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.

• If all the Scrabble tiles ever produced were placed end to end they would reach the equivalent of eight times around the earth.

• There is a version of Scrabble themed to the Simpsons TV programme.

• Underwater Scrabble was played at Portsmouth University on December 12, 1995 in aid of Children In Need. Special laminated boards were used and the tiles had lead weights attached.

• It’s not possible to play Scrabble in Japanese or Chinese, but they play in English with a rule book in their own language.

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