The best scrabble player on Earth is a Kiwi

Oliver Roeder at 538 writes:

When the 2014 National Championship begins Saturday in Buffalo, New York, the odds-on favorite will be a 47-year-old New Zealander who resides in Malaysia named . He is currently ranked first in North America. The difference between his official rating and the second-place player’s is about the same as the difference between second place and 20th. 


Beyond all that is the sheer virtuosity of his gameplay, his uncanny gift for constructing impossible words by stringing his letters through tiles already on the board. The ultimate Richards word story: In a game in 1998, then-newcomer Richards had a rack of CDHLRN? (“?” denotes a blank tile). There was an E available on the board; Richards could have played CHILDREN for a bingo and a 50-point bonus. Instead, Richards played through two disconnected Os and an E. The word? The 10-letter CHLORODYNE.

If like me, you wonder what that is, it was a 19th century patent medicine!

Richards’s rating sits at 2180. His peak rating of 2298 is the highest anyone has ever achieved with a minimum of 200 games played. According to Scrabble data site, his peak rating is even higher than that of Quackle, a powerful artificial intelligence Scrabble player developed by human tournament players Jason Katz-Brown and John O’Laughlin.

He can beat an actual computer with a full dictionary!

So, really, how does he do it? As Richards said in an interview posted on YouTube, “I’m not sure there is a secret. It’s just a matter of learning the words.” All 178,691 of them.