Despite not speaking the language, New Zealander wins French scrabble competition

Three-time English scrabble world champion wins French language championship after memorizing most of the French dictionary.

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE, BELGIUM (JULY 25, 2015) (REUTERS) – Nigel Richards, a three-time world champion in English scrabble, claimed the winners trophy at the French Scrabble World Championships on Saturday (July 25), even though he doesn’t speak a word of French.

Richards won the ‘Classic scrabble’ competition on Monday (July 20), after beating Gabonese Schelick Rekawe-Ilagou.

Based in Malaysia, New Zealand-born Richards is well known in Scrabble competitive circles with three English-language World Championship and five U.S. Championship titles under his belt.

The fully booked auditorium at Louvain-La-Neuve in Belgium, where the final ceremony was held, witnessed three standing ovations for Richards, who participated in two different category.

As well as earning the first prize in the “Classic Scrabble” event, where two two participants play one against the other, he also came second in the prestigious “Scrabble Duplicate” event where all participants get the same letters and should therefore try to compose the most rewarding words each time.

Winner of the Duplicate competition, Switzerland’s David Bovet, was full of praise for Richards.

“Nigel Richards is what we have been talking about the whole week. He is real phenomenon. Without speaking French he obtained astonishing results. We had amazing players in the French Scrabble in the past, but nobody with such an amazing ability. It is just unbelievable,” he said after collecting his winning trophy.

The Vice-President of the Belgian scrabble federation, Yves Brenez, said it was the first time a player had made it to the podium in both categories of a world championship.

“The participation of Nigel Richards made the championship more exciting. The fact that he won without speaking French was a big surprise, he left everybody astonished. They tried to beat him, but even though, in the second competition he got the second prize, which is a huge achievement,” said Brenez, the events organizer.

Brenez had explained earlier that Richards learnt the French dictionary by heart within nine weeks to prepare for the competition.

Elusive Richards declined all interview requests during the competition but other contestants called him ‘very friendly’.

The International Federation of Francophone Scrabble is comprised of 27 affiliate federations around the world and over 25,000 members.