Newcastle Upon Tyne
Extraordinary story - how is this even possible?!
New Zealand's Scrabble genius Nigel Richards has stunned lovers of the game by winning the francophone Scrabble world championship without being able to speak any French. The 48-year-old has been labelled a "freak", "enigmatic" and "amazing" by those in the Scrabble world. He claimed the title in Brussels after memorising virtually the entire francophone Scrabble dictionary, and then needed a translator to thank the audience.
Federation spokesman Antoine Rousseau said Richards had just nine weeks to prepare for the competition.Richards beat Gabonese player Schelick Ilagou Rekawe in a three-hour final match to take the title.The New Zealander already dominates English-language Scrabble with three world championships, five North American titles and 11 wins at the prestigious King's Cup in Thailand, sponsored by the Thai royal family.
Nigel Richards fast facts:
Ranked No.1 in the world at Scrabble according to World English-Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA)
1,927 victories from 2,549 games — a winning percentage of 75.59.
Average score of 461.37
"Nigel's a word freak," said John Baird, secretary of New Zealand's Christchurch Scrabble Club. "He is already recognised as the best Scrabble player in the world and this [win] certainly cements that position."
A trained engineer, Richards reportedly began playing Scrabble at 28 years old at the request of his mother, who was frustrated that his photographic memory was making their card games too one-sided. He proved dazzling at the word game, even though he favoured mathematics at school and was never much of an English student.
"My understanding is that Nigel can look at a page and retain the whole thing, it sticks like a photograph," Mr Baird said. "On top of that, he's obviously got a very good ability to mix up the letters and see the word possibilities."
Mr Baird feels the great chess masters are a more valid comparison to Richards, who like many of them, appears awkward in the spotlight, refusing interview requests and sharing little of his personal life. It is believed Richards travels the world competing in Scrabble competitions, keeping largely to himself, with bicycle riding being his only other known hobby. "He's a very elusive character," Mr Baird said. "I think the American press get very frustrated with him when he wins over there because he's a man of few words. "He only comes out with one or two-word answers, which is completely ironic."
Richards remains number one on the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association ratings after amassing 1,927 victories from 2,549 games, a winning percentage of 75.59.
I love the quote "he's a man of few words" !!!