A local “word nerd” who thrives in the world of competitive Scrabble will be hoping for some power tiles and a little bit of luck during a major competition this week.
Andrew Twiddy is best known in Parksville for leading the Sunday service at the Anglican parish of St. Anne and St. Edmund but the Reverend is currently in Scotland where he is a member of a three-person team representing Canada in a tournament inspired by the sporting Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The 28-game tournament put on by the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) has 20 teams representing Commonwealth countries and takes place from Aug. 7 to 10.
Twiddy has been playing the classic American board game since he was a young boy but about seven years ago he took it to the next level and now he is somewhat of a Scrabble genius.
“In 2007 I noticed that the world Scrabble champion was a UBC student and there was a Vancouver club. I thought this could be fascinating because I played Scrabble so much for fun that I would like to look into competitive Scrabble,” he explained.
He went to Vancouver and joined the Scrabble club where he did exceptionally well in one of the tournaments.
He then competed in the Western Canadian championship in the entry level division.
“I got really nice scores and some first place finishes so I started to move up the ladder a bit.”
He has progressed a lot since that first tournament and this week will be taking on some of the best Scrabble players in the world.
Twiddy’s language skills would put most people to shame. He agrees he has a way with words and credits his university education for his vast vocabulary.
“A lot of my time was spent on ancient manuscripts studying the bible. Latin and Hebrew are the foundations of the English language,” he noted.
He said pitting his wits against others in a game of words and numbers is a lot like poker and while Scrabble doesn’t qualify as an official commonwealth sport he stated the game is certainly as intense and the Mind Sports Association is working towards getting mind sports like Chess and Scrabble included in the games.
“Just as an athlete trains physically to run 100 metres, you are training your brain at the same level of intensity for top players. There are 260 thousand official words in English speaking Scrabble,” he pointed out.
It is estimated that the average English speaker has a working vocabulary of 5,000-6,000 words but world class Scrabble competitors have the ability to store tens of thousands of words in their head and pluck them out at will.
One of Twiddy’s favourite words is scholia in which he got 108 points for in a game.
It is defined as an ancient annotation upon a passage in a Greek or Latin text made by a scribe.
More than 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold, according to Mattel, which owns the rights in most countries.
It is estimated that some 30,000 games are started across the world each hour.