The best scrabble player on Earth is a Kiwi

August 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

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. 

Wow.

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 cross-tables.com, 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.

Easy!

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10 Responses to “The best scrabble player on Earth is a Kiwi”

  1. straya (70 comments) says:

    NEWSFLASH: He lost:-

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-scrabble-king-is-dead-long-live-the-scrabble-king/

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  2. lolitasbrother (636 comments) says:

    so good, now morph robin williams words friend and come back to us

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  3. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    I would of thought that that patent medicine wasnt allowed, definitely words like that wouldnt be in a dictionary so im not surprised he can beat it. Theres thousands of medicines with odd names out there, maybe thats his secret.
    Im surprised hes in the North American Nationals since he resides in Malaysia but i wish him all the best

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  4. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I; think there is an official Scrabble dictionary that has lots of such words.

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  5. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Sounds like a huge dictionary.
    I wonder if any of these people a savants

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  6. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I did read that most of the top player know heaps of word but without knowing their meanings.

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  7. SHG (310 comments) says:

    Won a game of Letterpress with SHEQALIM the other day, felt like a boss.

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  8. Tarquin North (256 comments) says:

    He should get out more.

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  9. artemisia (234 comments) says:

    He told me back in the day, when he was just making his mark in NZ, that he didn’t know or care what the words meant. And that he left his job in Christchurch and spent 6 months full time learning words.

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  10. LabourDoesntWork (287 comments) says:

    I highly recommend the documentary Word Wars (2004). Fascinating characters. They typically don’t have real jobs: the only way they can devote so much time to studying the official dictionaries needed for success.

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