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Friday, May 30, 2003

Local players shine

By WONG SIANG HUME

MALAYSIAN Scrabble took an unprecedented step forward on May 24 when it was officially declared host of the next World Scrabble Championship (WSC 2003) in a signing ceremony between Mattel World Scrabble Championship manager Philip Nelkon and project director Nik Zamri Majid, representing Scrabble Masters Malaysia and the Malaysian Scrabble Association (MSA) as president. 

The historic ceremony took place at the launching and declaration of Kuala Lumpur as the official venue for the Seventh World Scrabble Championship at Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur. It was by far the proudest day in the local Scrabble scene, easily eclipsing even the best of international Scrabble events held in the country so far.  

There was also a second signing ceremony between Nik Zamri and the hotel’s manager Geoffrey Haywards, on behalf of general manager Robert Frager, on Renaissance Hotel as the official playing venue for WSC 2003.  

Guest of honour, the esteemed mayor of KL Datuk Mohmad Shaid Mohd Taufek was visibly moved by the proceedings. Showing that he was attracted to the charm of the game he said, much to everyone’s delight, that it was his vision and mission to make KL a city of sports. Then followed the sounding of the gong by him and the spirited shouts of “Malaysia Boleh” led by top player Ganesh Asirvatham.  

The launch was witnessed by the local fraternity of Scrabblers and international players from Singapore and Thailand and invited guests. Also present were representatives from Mattel Southeast Asia, benefactors and sponsors Alam Flora, chairman of UOP Land Dr Nik Abdullah Nik Mohammad , and manager of Golden Hope Furniture, Mohd Nasir Wan Idrus, the last of whom will undertake to make good off any shortfall in the projected cost of organising the meet. WSC 2003 is the seventh edition of the most prestigious tourney in the world. The inaugural was held in New York in which Mohd Ali Ismail took part. Malaysia was given only one playing slot then, but maestro Tan Teong Chuan increased that to two in 1995 because of his fine showing in London. 

WSC 2003 will be held on Oct 19-23. It is being organised by Scrabble Masters Malaysia in collaboration with MSA. More than 100 Scrabble supremos from both sides of the Atlantic and the Third World are expected to take part. As the host, Malaysia has the right to field four players or more in case invited Scrabblers from other nations cannot keep their date due to unforeseen circumstances. 

The launching ceremony seemed to inspire local players who, still embroiled in the race for the four playing slots, got immediately into action for the third leg of the qualifying select rounds to WSC 2003.  

This edition saw a record number of competitors including Nelkon who made full use of his short stay in Malaysia for some competitive Scrabble. Understandably, everyone I knew wanted to have a go against the four-time UK National Scrabble champion. 

And the first-round random draw was such that the youngest Malaysian player, Lower Six student Aaron Chong was given the honours of showing what a great future Malaysia has in the game.  

It was a good first-round for the wunderkind who managed to beat the affable Englishman (and in great style too!) after some anxious moments before the start of the game. It was a win Aaron would relish for a very long time.  

Somewhere in the thick of the game, there was on the board two dislocated letters N and L on the same line, with six spaces between them. Aaron had OTARIE? (? representing the blank).  

Nelkon played an A to form NA, reducing the number of empty squares between NA and L to five.  

Aaron was tempted to put down the nice-sounding but surely a phony VENTORIAL (using the blank for the letter V), but after a quick consultation with his inborn wit, weaved his tiles into the yawning spaces to form SENATORIAL (using the blank for the letter S) for a rare gem of a 10-letter bingo which sent the mercurial visitor into deep thought. As luck would have it, Aaron was again paired against Nelkon in the last round of the tourney. Nelkon did not make any mistake in showing the kid a thing or two about the game on which he has written so copiously. 

The fight for the top 10 places was unrelenting and some leaders in the series fell off a few rungs. Kiwi Nigel Richards emerged champion followed by Ganesh Asirvatham , Cheah Siu Hean, Kong Chock Heng, Nelkon, John Lam, Pui Cheng Wui, Vannitha Balasingam, Alex Tan and, in 10 place, Jocelyn Lor. 

Word power 

Cymbeline may not be among the more popular plays of Shakespeare. All the same, it contains a wealth of words worth learning for the game.  

Here are extract of speeches from the tragedy with a short explanation of the words in italics. 

1st Lord (Act I Scene II): Hurt him! His body’s a passable carcass if he be not hurt: it is a throughfare for steel if it be not hurt. (THROUGHFARE: same as thoroughfare, a passage or way through.) 

Queen (Act I Scene V): ? I have given him that / Which, if he take, shall quite unpeople her / Of liegers for her sweet? (LIEGERS: singular lieger, a resident, especially an ambassador.) 

Iachimo (Act II Scene II): How bravely thou becom’st thy bed! Fresh lily! And whiter than the sheets! That I might touch: But kiss; one kiss! – Rubies unparagon’d? (UNPARAGONED: unmatched.) 

Iachimo (Act II Scene II): Ah, but some natural notes about her body / Above ten thousand meaner movables / Would testify, to enrich mine inventory (MOVABLES: singular movable, a portable piece of furniture: a piece of movable or moveable property.) 

Posthumus (Act II Scene IV): Here take this to; / It is a basilisk unto mine eye, / Kills me to look on’t. (BASILISK: a fabulous creature, about a foot long, with fiery death-dealing eyes and breath so named to Pliny from its crown-like crest.) 

Cloten (Act II Scene IV): The precious note of it with a base slave, / A building for a livery, a squire’s cloth, / A pantler, - not so eminent. (PANTLER: the officer in a great family who had charge of the bread and other provisions.) 

Imogen (Act III Scene IV): Obedient as the scabbard. – what is here?/ The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus / All turn’d to heresy? (SCABBARD: a sheath, especially for a sword.) 

Aviragus (Act IV Scene II): The azure hare-bell, like thy veins; no, nor / The leave of eglantine, whom not to slander / Out-sweetened not thy breath: the ruddock would / With charitable bill ? (EGLANTINE: the sweet brier: perhaps the honeysuckle; RUDDOCK: a redbreast) 

1st Brother (Act V Scene IV): Like hardiment Posthumus hath / To Cymbeline perform’d .. (HARDIMENT: a deed of hardihood, that is a deed of boldness.) 

Posthumus (Act V Scene V): Ay, so thou dost, / Italian fiend! – Ah me, most credulous fool, / Egregious murderer, thief, anything ... (EGREGIOUS: prominent, distinguished.) 

All words highlighted above can be found in the Chambers English Dictionary. 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!). 

The Malaysian Mensa Scrabble Challenge 2003 will be held on June 14-15 at the Executive Dining Lounge Penthouse One Menara Choy Fook Onn, Petaling Jaya. It is organised by the Malaysian Mensa Society and sponsored by Mattel Southeast Asia. The major categories are Masters (15 games, RM50 for Mensa members and RM55 others), Non-masters (10 games, RM45 for members and RM50 for others), and the Fun Category (RM10 per day). 

For more information on the tourney please contact Goh Siu Lin fax: 03-2031 1775/8/9 or % 017-885 8398.  

Mark Nyman comes closest to combining the British and American ways of Scrabble.  

Fearful of being portrayed as an American-style Scrabble weirdo, Nyman takes pains to minimise his commitment. Despite his demurrals, though, Nyman has crafted a life around anagrams. It began when he appeared as a teen on a popular television game show called Countdown.  

Two contestants are shown nine letters and have thirty seconds to find the longest word.  

Mark won eight shows. Later, he was offered a full-time job as a contestant researcher.  

Today he produces the show. – Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis. (Mark Nyman was World Scrabble Champion in 1993.)




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