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Buffalo tournament spells success for new Scrabble champion

Ashley Hirtzel

The world's best Scrabble players took part in the 25th National Championship tournament held in Buffalo this week. The winner was crowned Wednesday.

24-year old Conrad Bassett-Bouchard from Portland, Oregon will take home a top prize of $10,000.

“I’m kind of shocked. I didn’t expect this at all,” said Bassett-Bouchard.

Bassett-Bouchard explained the key to his Scrabble championship victory.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Scrabble board.

“It’s just making the best play. You don’t necessarily have to play your opponent. Don’t get distracted. Just play what’s in front of you. In this particular case what was in front of me was a whole heck of a lot better than what was in front of my opponent. So, I’ll take it,” said Bassett-Bouchard.

525 players from 11 countries competed in the tournament. Contenders in five different divisions played 31 games each over five days. Bassett-Bouchard says he’s been playing the game and attending nationals for 10 years. He says it’s the camaraderie among players that keeps him coming back each year.

“I’ve made so many incredible friends. My best friend Noah right over there and all sorts of people. I could honestly say I love these people. I absolutely adore them and that’s where my passion is. It’s just touched every part of my life. I love the game obviously otherwise I wouldn’t play it, but I don’t know if I’d play it without these people. It’s the subculture and the people that just make it magical for me,” said Bassett-Bouchard.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Scrabbler's Iliana Filby and Jen "Cranberry" Thomsen.

Co-President of the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) John Chew says his group chose Buffalo for this year’s games to make it more convenient for Canadian scrabble players to compete. He says the championship games are the pinnacle of Scrabble success.

“For anybody that ever beat all of their family at Scrabble and then wondered what more there was to the game, this is where you end up. You find a Scrabble club, you go to Scrabble tournaments, and you end up hoping that someday you’ll be the national champion. If you’ve got what it takes, if you learn all the words and you’re lucky, and you persevere, and you don’t give up, you’ll end up winning $10,000,” said Chew.

Iliana Filby has been playing Scrabble her entire life. She says she enjoys everything about the game.

“I have friends from my club that are here, friends that I haven’t met in real life until today. I love long tournaments more than anything. Playing a couple games of scrabble is great, but playing 31 consecutively. It’s just the biggest thrill,” said Filby.

Bassett-Bouchard beat 29-year old Jason Li of Montreal with the word ‘Tidy’ on his final turn. The final game’s score was 477 to 350.