Nigeria is the English-speakme Add Crazy world’s Scrabble superpower. Africa’s most populous kingdom is home not best to the global Scrabble champion, but crew Nigeria ranks as the sector’s top Scrabble playing kingdom — ahead of the U.S. In second region.
The Scrabble global champion is Wellington Jighere. He is 33, has a gentle voice, a slow smile and a penchant for fedoras, earning him the nickname “the Cat within the Hat.” Jighere acknowledges that he is taciturn via nature, but also has an explosive, infectious snicker, though he considers Scrabble is critical commercial enterprise.
“You cannot come up with the money for to waste an excessive amount of strength doing useless chatter,” he says. “At some point of a tournament, I see it as commercial enterprise time. And this is no time to be joking around.” Jighere plays chess to loosen up, “and for amusing,” he says.
Jet-lagged and weary, Jighere was topped the arena Scrabble champ remaining year in a grueling 32-spherical competition in Australia. As much as 30 of the top 100 international gamers are from Nigeria, which has the highest percent of any country inside the top 2 hundred. The Nigerians’ apparent collective strategy — quick words that rack up the factors.
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Nigerians were credited with perfecting that tactic under the tutorship of senior group coach, Prince Anthony Ikolo. He says Nigerians are captivated with Scrabble and the short word approach offers them a side. Many positioned Nigeria’s towering Scrabble prowess all the way down to its players capacity to “choke the board” as they say, with this protecting play.
“The sport of Scrabble is sincerely constructed around short words — specifically 5 letter phrases,” says Ikolo. “When you have this kind of word base, you then are proper to move. But it would be a completely huge mistake for the arena to think our gamers most effective recognize brief phrases, specifically 5-letter words,” he warns Network Posting.
The educate says “the quick phrases assist you to be shielding [by blocking longer words from opponents], however whilst it is time to be offensive, we recognise the ones long words additionally. Nigeria is a pressure to be reckoned with in terms of Scrabble,” says Ikolo.
Ikolo, who’s additionally a college mathematician, got here up with lists of five-letter phrases and dispensed them to his players, which includes Jighere the world champion, to teach them how to block the board. The educate says, armed with those, the Nigerians may want to tackle and beat competitors playing seven-eight- or maybe 9-letter words.
The other method became to accumulate his gamers at a motel, earlier than the event, and feature them play two days of nonstop Scrabble. It appears to have labored.
Jighere although says his non-public method is to have “no strategy in any respect. I play a fluid form of recreation. Yah. I truely do not have a particular type of favor that you can pin me to, “he says. So, while you are anticipating me to do the conventional aspect, I will simply pick out to do something that is uncharacteristic. It’s what units me apart from all of us else.”
Jighere should understand. He and team Nigeria triumphed at the sector English-Language Scrabble players Association international championship in Australia in November 2015. They completely intend to hang onto that fulfillment after they defend the ones titles next yr in Kenya, he says.
Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, phoned Australia to congratulate him, says Jighere with a huge smile. “It felt so heat to have him speak with me proper then and there. It turned into a totally, very crucial revel in. He informed me how proud he’s of my accomplishment and how proud I have made the kingdom as a whole, no longer simply the nation but Africa as a whole. And that it has certainly gone to show that we’re in reality the giants of Africa.”
Jighere bested a Briton in Perth, at the same time as team Nigeria dethroned the U.S., which have been on the top for about decade, with Nigeria yapping at its heels, decided to topple the People.
“We are currently ranked No. 1 state inside the international for Scrabble,” says the champ. “Inside the global we’ve the highest variety of persons inside the top 100 rated Scrabble gamers. We’ve got as many as 20 to 30 difficult masters in Nigeria that can honestly provide you with a hard combat any time any day.”
Ikolo, to educate, will attest to that. Jighere‘s buddies and fellow Scrabble masters reduce him no slack, within the jovial, noisy and garrulous environment For the duration of the Lagos tournament.
Ikolo gleefully advised NPR that, until the Nigeria Countrywide Scrabble gamers opposition, in the essential town Lagos, at the tail end of July, Jighere had done’t win any significant event after his achievement in Australia final year.
“Due to the fact that he became the world champion, he has been overwhelmed blue and black by his colleagues. It tells you how sturdy Nigeria’s Scrabble is. It tells you that the Scrabble scene we’ve right here is a totally difficult one. It is distinctly competitive and no one can boast day after today that I’m going to win this, I am going to win that in regard to Nigerian Scrabble gambling.”
So why Scrabble? “Ah, I failed to exactly choose Scrabble,” says Jightere. “I bumped into some friends who had been event gamers and that I beat them. They advised me ‘Ah, if I could do that nicely in opposition to them, meaning I have to come to the next event.’ ” He adds, “And I used to be like, “Ah, you mean they play this in tournaments? Ok, permit’s go. And the relaxation, as they are saying, is records.” And he laughs.
That turned into in 2002. Nowadays, Jighere sits atop the global Scrabble match ladder. He describes how he had to triumph over fatigue and jet lag to win in Australia. Study the ones words, dedicate them to reminiscence and live cool – and awake.
Scrabble turned into given respectable reputation as a game in Nigeria in the 1990s. However local players, coaches, parents, officers and event organizers say authorities assistance has been patchy and more must be accomplished to help, sponsor and finance Scrabble.
“Why will the government and corporate firms not look the way of Scrabble?” laments train Okolo. “Authorities and company corporations ought to come to the aid of Scrabble.”
The Lagos Kingdom government provided the venue — Teslim Balogun stadium for indoor sports activities — for the latest event, as well as organizing a little logistics.
However senior group train Ikolo says while coins prizes are welcome, the authorities — and company sponsors — have to do more to capitalize on Nigeria’s worldwide success at Scrabble. “We do not feel that Nigeria is ranked the first-class Scrabble playing kingdom in the international,” says Ikolo, “and we’ve got the arena Scrabble champion, Wellington Jighere.”
And yet Scrabble has caught on in Nigeria in a massive manner, among veterans and adolescents. There are scores of clubs up and down the 36 states of a country of a hundred and eighty million people. Daylong and weekend tournaments are held regularly and young players, like 10-year-vintage Angela Osaigbovo, are champions in their very own proper.
She’s been playing Scrabble Seeing that she turned into 5 and began competing at age 6. “Scrabble for me is a laugh manner of using my lecturers, to help me in my hobbies and afterschool lifestyles,” says Angela with a huge smile. Thrusting her Scrabble board into the air, she then shakes her bag of tiles, and tells me, “I am appropriate in Math and Literacy. And that I think It’s due to Scrabble.”
As a scrabbler, she likes using “charges, or bingos, that are 7-letter words – together with zaniest, quiting and players.”
Comfy and assured, Angela sits after Vincent Okere, who’s thirteen. The youngster received the neighborhood gamers championship and the trophy within the adolescents class in Lagos. He spent most of the event weekend prowling around the Masters, watching every Scrabble pass with the aid of the veterans and, absolute confidence, mastering.
however, no difficult feelings, says Angela, who got here in 2d. She become running difficult within the build-As much as the adolescents’ championship at the Thoughts sports Worldwide (MSI) global event in Lille, France, beginning Saturday.
Every other yr, MSI organizes a championship for all-comers, at the same time as WESPA holds its tournaments The opposite years.
“Yes, I am very excited. I’m aiming to win the WYSC – that’s international teenagers Scrabble Championship” in Lille on the give up of August, Angela advised me, including. “I am no longer very shy!”
Her mom, Toyin Osaigbovo, is overjoyed that Angela loves Scrabble and tells her daughter possesses what Nigeria has in abundance — consciousness and determination.
“Nigerians are very determined and dogged people,” says Osaigbovo. “And as soon as we set our minds to some thing, we reap it.”
Angela had this caution for their worldwide competitors — “Be careful, due to the fact Nigeria is coming, with pressure!”
However, Angela’s dissatisfied mother told NPR her daughter became refused a French visa, so might not be able to compete in Lille since the adolescents championship started Saturday.
The champ, Wellington Jighere, announced the day before today that maximum Nigerian gamers who applied had additionally been denied visas to tour to France. Social media has been twitching with outrage. Now Jighere says they have been told to document to the French Embassy on Monday morning to be issued with visas.
So Scrabblers, you’re warned, Nigeria’s champions are on the warpath!