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Scrabble lovers in Buffalo for North American tournament

Julianna Sebastian

More than 400 Scrabble players from around the world are in Buffalo for the 29th Annual North American Scrabble Tournament. At the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center, players are going head to head for a grand prize of $10,000. The tournament’s final round takes place Wednesday where three games will determine one champion.

Nationally-recognized player Evan Berofsky has competed in tournaments around the world. He says the game involves much more than simply coming up with random words.

"The game itself is a very interesting game. It may just seem like you’re putting words on a board and tiles and whatnot but every turn is like its own puzzle and that’s what makes it interesting," Berofsky said.

North American Scrabble Players Association co-president John Chew says the popular word game can be enjoyed by players of all ages and skill levels.

“You can play it at all different levels. You can play it at the kitchen table with your grandmother or you can play it as a world champion. The difference is you’re either playing for fun with your grandmother or you memorize the dictionary, spend two hours a day studying your words to make sure you don’t forget any so you can win $10,000 at an event like this,” Chew said.

Along with the tournament’s competitive aspect, many competitors simply enjoy the social nature of gathering with fellow Scrabble lovers.

“Maybe 20% of the people here are here because they want to be the champion and the rest are here because they have a really great time being with people who like to play the game and like to do the same things as they like to do after hours," said Chew.

Staff director Jason Idalski says that even though players are ranked before they enter a tournament, anyone can win.

“The luck/skill balance in this game is that the better player will usually win but every once in a while you get [a big upset]," Idalski said.

The five-day tournament started last Saturday. When they’re not competing, Chew says players have been enjoying some of Buffalo’s sights and, of course, sampling the city’s famous chicken wings.