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Friday, July 11, 2003

Fine showing


GANESH Asirvatham has brought Malaysia’s forthcoming World Scrabble Championship 2003 (WSC 2003 KL) title hope many steps closer to reality by emerging runner-up at the 17th Brand Crossword King’s Cup played in Thailand on July 3-6. The Scrabble supremo, who has virtually qualified for WSC 2003, showed his talents in a field of top international players, including Kiwi Nigel Richards, arguably the best player in the world, 1993 World Champion Mark Nyman from Britain, and an elite group of potential stars from Thailand, to haul home 80,000 Bahts (RM7,200), his biggest cash prize to date.  

Here’s his story: “The first day I won four out of six games, losing to Jocelyn Lor and Jakkrit Klaphajone. I had an interesting first game against a 17-year-old Thai student (in uniform!) by the name of Nawapadol Sayavase. I scored first but after a few high-scoring moves by him, my huge lead was whittled down to 20 points. WAVEY for 54 sealed the game for me. I won 439-411, but what a close shave! 

“The next day I had an unforgettable encounter with Gerry Carter in game 7. He had a great start with high-scoring turns like LIZARD for 36 and MOJO for 50. After three moves he was a century ahead. I pulled the blank and with the other tiles on my rack (AEGNOR) I played VENOGRAM off a hanging V for 77. A few moves later I put down UNREINS and managed to pull the second blank to edge Carter 446-321. 

“I had two horrible games against Taewan Sutthasin and lost by big margins, no thanks for venturing into nonce-words. I also had a repeat match against Jakkrit and this time my plays of SAGGARD for 72 and a last bingo NAEVOID (78) helped me beat him 406-367. I ended day two at 4-2. 

“The third day was exhausting. We had to play eight games and I knew that my opponents could only get tougher. My first opponent was Andrew Fisher, Australia’s top-rated player who had migrated from Britain. He started with RETRAIN but I replied with DOOLIES for 73 and PROTIUM for 83. My third bingo was SHEITANS for 68 followed by ARETTING for 77 to wrap up the game. 

“My next opponent was Waiyapot Suthawassuntorn, another Thai schoolboy. We both started slowly but he made a mistake by playing VINI, which I challenged out.  

“Very soon I found myself on table three, which meant I was in the top 12. My next opponent was Odette Rio from the Philippines. I was fortunate enough to score with TOUZE for 75 after she had played ANTIMERE on the triple line for 68. Finally, I played RECEIVER to take an unassailable lead. 

“Game 16 was my most memorable. I had a huge win against fellow Malaysian Cheah Siu Hean.  

“Four more games to go for the day and suddenly I was on table one! My opponent now was Panupol Sajayakorn, another immensely talented Thai youngster. I played three bonus words RATTLINE, LINGUINE, ARAISED and scored big with HOAX to win 414-335. Now I was in the lead and I knew that I would have to keep on winning to qualify for the final. I had to play Nigel again. I started with OVATION for 78; he put down STRAUCHT. Two moves on I played ISSUABLE for 80 and he answered with NOTHING for 79. 

“At this point we were fairly even. I was lucky to pull two S letters which created DESCANTS for 63 to take the lead. The end game was very tense and I was stuck with the Q, an awful letter at this point! Nigel miscalculated and didn’t think he could win. He should have taken his time to score but played out in two moves and lost instead. 

“I lost my last game to Trevor Halsall from Australia and ended day three 7-1, with a one game lead over Halsall in the standings. 

“On day four I had to win at least five games to guarantee my entry into the final. I played Halsall again and won convincingly 478-344. I played three bonuses: WANTONED, REACTIVE, and RONTGEN. I next played Pakorn, Thailand’s number one. RESOWING, OILSTONE and TOWAGES brought me a 477-331 victory. My next opponent was Halsall, again. This time I made no mistake and won big time with a score of 595-266, thanks to LUXATES, EVIDENCE, LUNATIC, and RELENTED, ZIGAN and QUIPO. 

“My next challenger was Pakorn again and he won 500-448. We had three bingos each: BROWNIES, ODONATES, and TIERCEL by me and MELANITE, EIGHTIES and PROFANES from him.  

“Three games left and I had to win at least two out of three rounds to confirm my appearance in the final. Matched against Pakorn for the third time, I played LIONETS, CHIRLED, TOWNIER and BROCADE and went out 527-449. 

“My entry into the final was more or less confirmed. I was paired against Panupol. He had a good start and was well in the lead until I played SITUATE for 73, CINCH for 57, and CHURLISH for 89 to put the game beyond his reach. 

“I was already confirmed for the final. My last game against Pakorn would decide the other finalist. It turned out that Pakorn would play against me in the final after he beat me 467-462 with words like CARIERES, ENTAYLED, OVERHEAT and GRADINE (against my GUNWALES and TORNADOS).  

“The final was a lacklustre affair on my part. Owing to a sudden case of nerves I screwed up the first game too badly to have a chance of winning the King’s Cup. Pakorn had the better of me 2-1 and he deserved to be champion!” 

Up next  

The Grand Prix qualifying rounds to select representatives to WSC 2003 KL will continue with its final leg on July 26-27, at PNB Darby Park Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The 5-series competition, open to both local and international players, will be played over 16 games, 12 without repeat (not meeting the same player more than once) and four King of the Hill (pairings according to computer rankings after game 12 and after each subsequent round). Registration opens at 8.30am and competition proper starts immediately after. For more information call Rose Lina at 016-612 4863/ 03- 9283 2572 (or e-mail Rosli Abd Majid at 012-384 3528 (e-mail mika040701 or Ganesh Asirvatham at 016-628 8742. 

The Gurney Plaza Scrabble Contest 2003 will be held at Central Atrium, Gurney Plaza Shopping Complex in Pulau Pinang. Two categories will be contested, namely the Open category (above 18 years) and the Junior category (from 12 to 18 years). Entry fees: RM10 for the junior category and RM20 for the senior. For registration and more information on the tournament, call the Gurney Plaza communications department at 04-222 8222/04-222 8111 or e-mail  

Word Power 

Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary contains many impressive words which should thrill word-lovers and Scrabblers alike. Here are extracts from the internationally acclaimed book, together with a brief explanation of the words in italics: 

So when a fusillade of three revolver shots rang out shortly after two o’clock on the moonlit Saturday morning of Feb 17, 1872, the sound was unimagined, unprecedented, and shocking. (FUSILLADE: simultaneous or continuous discharge of firearms: anything assaulting one in similar way.) 

To see a play that would not pass muster with the London censors, to be able to drink absinthe into the small hours of the morning ? (ABSINTHE: a liqueur containing extract of wormword.) 

Moments later came the footfalls of Constable Burton, who found the man, lifted him, and attempted to comfort him. (singular FOOTFALL: the sound of setting the foot down.) 

He belongs to the class which German writers ? have denominated Polymaths. (Singular POLYMATH: a person of much or varied learning; one acquainted with various subjects of study.) 

These men swiftly turned the amateur dabbler and dilettante into a serious philological scholar. (DILETTANTE: one who loves the fine arts but in a superficial way and without serious purpose: a dabbler in art, science, or literature.) 

One of his friends at Yale had written a letter of introduction to Mr Ruskin; he would doubtless be able to charm the artistic demimonde for the British capital. (DEMIMONDE: a class of women in an equivocal social position, the kept mistresses of society men: the shady section of a profession or group.) 

They abhorred the idea of diktats – about the language, for heaven’s sake! – emanating from some secretive body of unaccountable immortals. (Singular DIKTAT: a harsh settlement forced on the defeated or powerless: an order or statement admitting of no opposition.) 

Yes, nodded a number of members of the Philological Society, as they gathered up their astrakhan-collared coats and white silk scarves and top hats that night and strolled out in the yellowing November fog ? (ASTRAKHAN: lambskin with a curled wool from the Middle East; a rough fabric made in imitation of it.) 

Thus does the vast emporium of words begin to display itself, through acatalectic and adhesion ? (ACATALECTIC: having the full number of syllables.) 

He likes the word buckwheat too – and its French translation ble noir – and finds such niceties as “ointment of buck-wheat”. (BUCKWHEAT: a cereal plant with seeds used for fodder and for flour to make bread and pancakes.) 

(All words highlighted above can be found in the Chambers English Dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary. Since they are composed of seven or more letters, they can be used in the game as bingos (in Scrabble a bingo is play of a valid word of seven letters or more made in one move and scoring a bonus of 50 points!). 

Scrabble corner  

The De La Salle Institute, KL, (next to St John’s Institution) is opening its doors to Scrabblers who wish to spar with each other and for fellowship every Saturday starting tomorrow at 2pm. Principal Brother Andrew Loke hopes the project will enjoy the support of the Scrabble fraternity. There will be a minimal fee to defray the cost of using the air-conditioned playing area. Scrabblers are advised to bring their own Scrabble sets and clocks and to enter the Institute by the side gate before 2.15pm. The Scrabble Corner will remain open until 8pm. For more information, please call Shamani at 03-2031 2599.

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