Big Picture

Scrabble ace 'man of few words'

Scrabble lovers tend to alight on similar words when describing Mr Nigel Richards (left) , the New Zealander who this week won the word game's francophone world championship even though he cannot speak any French.

"Freak" comes up a lot, along with "elusive", "enigmatic" and, mostly, "amazing". He is also, ironically, described as "a man of few words".

The 48-year-old claimed the title in Brussels after memorising virtually the entire francophone Scrabble dictionary - then needed an interpreter to thank the audience.

A rival New Zealand Scrabbler once said Mr Richards was "like a computer with a big ginger beard", while Malaysian tournament organiser Michael Tang has called him "the Tiger Woods of Scrabble".

He already dominates English-language Scrabble, with three world championships, five North American titles and 11 wins at the prestigious King's Cup in Thailand, sponsored by the Thai royal family.

A trained engineer, Mr Richards reportedly began playing Scrabble at 28 at the request of his mother, who was frustrated that his photographic memory was making their card games too one-sided.

He moved to Malaysia in 2000, with New Zealand media reports saying he was offered an IT-related job by a Scrabble aficionado.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Scrabble ace 'man of few words''. Print Edition | Subscribe