The other World Cup: the Scrabble championship in Spanish starts in Buenos Aires

The other World Cup: the Scrabble championship in Spanish starts in Buenos Aires

Scrabel fans gather in Buenos Aires (Photo: Eliana Obregón).

The city of Buenos Aires is the scene of another world championship, that of Scrabble in Spanish, which returns to face-to-face attendance after two years of the pandemic and brings together 130 players who agree that chance is the least important in games where “talent, preparation and vocabulary study” come into play.

The championship of this game that arouses passions in 130 countries and 29 languages Thus, it resumes its usual annual meeting organized by the International Federation of Lexicon in Spanish (FILE) and the Argentine Scrabble Association (AAS) with a peculiarity: it will be “open” participation for the first time.

“Scrabble is more than a board game, it is a sport of the mind like chess, bridge and Go, because it has regulations, national and international competitions, a ranking and books on strategies,” he began by telling Télam accountant Horacio Moavro (65), two-time national champion and the player who was in the top ten of the World Cup the most times, while unfolding the board in a bar in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Colegiales.

Teams from 17 countries participate Photo Alfredo Luna
Teams from 17 countries participate (Photo: Alfredo Luna).

The competition, in which they will participate 130 players (individually) from 17 countries, including Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, the United States, France, and even Japan, will be held at the NH City Hotel, located at Bolívar 160, a few meters from Plaza de Mayofrom this Monday and until next Saturday.

It will have 24 rounds, six per day, and the rounds will not be eliminatory, each competitor will play the 24 games.

Moavro has been playing Scrabble since he was 10. He started on Sundays as a family, “after the ravioli in nona.” He then continued with his teenage friends on vacation until he first came across a competitive player, the father of a friend, whom he listened to with great attention, so much so that he took him as a “disciple”.

From that moment on, the young Moavro began to “beat everyone”. Some time later, in 1998, he saw an AAS ad in the newspaper that read: “Scrabble tournament next Saturday.” “And here we are,” said between laughs who will also compete in this World Cup and coordinated the Organizing Committee as a member of the AAS.

“Scrabble is an activity that allowed me to be a national champion of something and it is a source of pride”he added.

The goal of the game is to get the most points by forming words on the board. The game contains 100 letter tiles: 54 consonants, 44 vowels and 2 wild cards, (which in Spanish does not include K or W); four lecterns and a bag of chips.

Building lists of words, thinking of letter combinations and anagrams are common practices for competitive Scrabble players. “We see a Citroën on the street and think ‘enclosure’, ‘cretin’, ‘sallow’,” Moavro explained.

Photo Eliana Obregn
(Photo: Eliana Obregón).

To compete, the two-time champion prepares lists with verbs of six, seven and eight letters in alphabetical order with a number and each number corresponds to an image that he memorizes with mnemonic rules. During his trajectory, he even repeated them as if he were praying the rosary and his wife took “exams” to help him.

Among his main secrets, the master of letters highlighted that, in Scrabble, “the most important move is the next one”, that is, having the move prepared, and “the balance of the lectern between vowels and consonants”.

The valid words for the game are those included in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy. Every scrabble player has the free Lexicon app on their cell phone, which is what defines whether a word is valid or not. “And it prevents divorces and world wars,” Moavro said.

Also, in this game, “there are words that are never used and are very valuable”, such as “Ox”, which means “voice to scare away chickens”and it is important, as a first step, to study the two-letter words, which “are 88”, among them: “‘za’, ‘lle’, ‘ja’, ‘je’, ‘ji’, ‘jo’, ‘ju'”, as well as “putting the letters with the highest value in the prize boxes”, he explained.

At the same time, he stressed that the letter “Q” is “a very strategic tile” because “it always needs a U to be able to play” which means that towards the end of the game both players try to get the rival to keep it.

On the other side of the board located at the same table in the Colegiales bar, in front of Moavro, was the three-time world champion in the Classic category and four times champion in the Duplicate category -another type of game-, Luis Picciochi (55), who told this agency : “I play a lot, as much as I can, and I have the great advantage that I train every day with my wife, Andrea, a very strong rival, and also with my eldest daughter, Macarena, who is 28, and who has played very well since she was 12 “.

Picciochi learned to play Scrabble from his mom as a teenager on a vacation to the seaside. He later played it with friends, then with his girlfriend until he discovered the online game on the internet and came to the AAS. When he met her, he decided to join without hesitation.

“The World Cups for me are like a graduation trip”shared.

Photo Eliana Obregn
(Photo: Eliana Obregón).

Like Moavro, Picciochi studies lists of words, especially verbs, because “they give 20 different words with the conjugations,” and he also studies combinations that have a single anagram: “I make lists with unique combinations,” he revealed.

On the influence of chance in Scrabble, Picciochi considered that chance decreases as more games are played. “If it’s a five-game tournament, chance is 30% for me. Maybe in a 24-game World Cup, it could mean 10%.”

And Moavro added: “It influences the talent, the preparation and the study of the vocabulary”.

Every day, in different neighborhoods of the city of Buenos Aires proposed by the ASS through the Facebook group ‘Argentine Scrabble Players’ and on Instagram @scrabbleaas, people gather to play, friendships are born and learning is shared.

Rosa Oriana (62) is a systems engineer and has been going to bars for five years to learn to play Scrabble in Spanish, after playing for a long time in English.

“It is the first time that I am going to participate in a world championship,” she enthusiastically told Télam from her home in Caballito.

Oriana defines herself as “an apprentice”, although she has already competed in metropolitan tournaments and in tournaments in the interior of the country. “It’s a social activity that I love,” she noted.

The eminent player Claudia Kaiser taught him that “you always have to aim to ‘make a scrabble’ with what you have on the lectern”, which is when a player places all seven tiles on his lectern in a single turn. Also that it is important to look for combinations, move the letters, anagram permanently until it is achieved.

“If it is impossible to have it with the lectern, what you have to do is try to make plays that add at least 30 points or more in an optimal situation, or use the turn to change the letters that are incombinable”recommended the player.

According to Oriana, Scrabble players are divided into two groups: those who know the etymological meaning of the words and those who don’t but know that the word is valid for the game.

“It helps me to know the origin of the words and how they are related to others. It also helps to have read a lot and, since I have a visual memory, it helps me to play a lot because once I see a word on the board it is difficult for me to forget it” , he added.

As for the valid vocabulary, the World Cup participant observed that there are words in common use such as “schedule” that have not yet been incorporated into the dictionary of the Royal Academy and therefore are not included in the Lexicon either.

“Scrabble is fascinating to me because it seems that you never stop learning and knowing the different strategies that players have,” he concluded.

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