W-I-N-N-E-R? Scrabble players vie for $10K prize

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The world's best Scrabble players are squaring off for the title of Scrabble champion, which will be awarded Wednesday.

The 25th National Scrabble Championships began Sunday with 525 players from 11 countries competing for the $10,000 top prize.

By the time it is over, contenders in five divisions will have played 31 games each over five days, with rankings based on win-loss records and the number of points by which they outscore opponents.

The player to beat is five-time champion Nigel Richards, an Australian who lives in Malaysia. Will Anderson, an editor from Croton-on-Hudson, was hoping to spell out a serious challenge after finishing third last year.

"He's like the Michael Jordan of our game," said Anderson, who prepared for the games by solving jumbled word lists and playing practice matches. "He's in a class by himself and his command of the dictionary is unbelievable. ... We're all kind of looking up at this guy in awe."

Mark Przybyszewski, Buffalo's top player, was pretty sure he wouldn't win the world title but was confident he would retain his ranking as having the highest scoring name in Scrabble, worth about 39 points on the board.

His goal for the tournament was a winning record.

"I play better when I'm playing better players," said Przybyszewski, who prepared by getting in as many games as possible, either on the computer or in person. "When you're facing someone who you know could end up in the money, you know you have to be on your toes at all times and not make a dumb play and not let a dumb play go."

The tournament began days after the announcement that 5,000 new words had been added to "The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary," but players won't be able to use those words until after this year's championship.

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