César Del Solar, best known in the Scrabble community for his Aerolith.org study program, started playing the game on Yahoo! Literati (a now-defunct Scrabble clone) in 2000. He became good friends with Gabriel Wong, Jesse Matthews and James Leong (2007 National Champion). James convinced César to attend an LA tournament in 2005, and after that, he was hooked!
César’s other big hobby is programming, which often takes away from his Scrabble study time. He’s also good at Mario Kart and enjoys Zelda, Pokemon, running, soccer, and playing the guitar and ukulele.
Knox Daniel (often incorrectly identified as Daniel Knox), a sixth grader from Charlottesville, VA, has been learning the Scrabble ropes from his father, Division 1 player Clay Daniel, and this is his first Nationals.
Knox and his partner, Yanni Raymond, came in third at the North American School Scrabble Championship in both 2015 and 2016. In addition to Scrabble, he enjoys math and sports, and he can do a headstand for over a minute! You can hear more about the 2015 School Scrabble Championships on an episode of the NPR program, On Point.
Clay was excited to play CLAYIEST on the way to winning game 7 of this year’s Nationals. He enjoys trivia, most word and board games, teaching, writing, and composing and performing raps! Clay considers it “a huge privilege” to be playing in the Nationals alongside his son and he’s having a great time.
Marlena and Tom are a happy Scrabble couple who recently moved to Santa Rosa, CA from the Chicago area. Tom started playing tournament Scrabble in 2006, and Marlena started playing in 2009. They have Zyzzyva to thank for their first official date two years ago. Marlena was looking for some help in using the app on her phone, and Tom suggested that they discuss it over dinner.
Tom was the director of the La Grange Park, IL Scrabble Club for over 7 years until their move out west, and now he and Marlena are working to get a new club going in Santa Rosa. This is Marlena’s first Nationals and Tom’s third.
Zach Ansell is twelve years old and hails from Los Angeles, CA. He started playing tournament Scrabble after reading Stefan Fatsis’ Word Freak. He and his partner, Noah Kalus, won the 2015 North American School Scrabble Championship in Pawtucket, RI, taking home $10,000. Zach enjoys baking, fencing, piano, tennis, and playing with his dog, Coco.
Sue Tremblay is a tournament director and she is assisting as a NASC staff member this year. She started playing Scrabble about 14 years ago when her sister-in-law heard about the Ottawa Scrabble Club. She got hooked and played in her first tournament in 2002. She and Jason Broersma now partner up to run tournaments in the Mississauga area, and started an annual Niagara Falls tournament that has grown in popularity over the past few years.
Sue and Jason are avid travelers and Scrabble sparring partners. They just returned from a trip through the South Pacific, during which they stood on the edge of an active volcano, snorkeled on Tuvalu, and played over 70 games of Scrabble against each other. When she’s home, she also does a lot of yoga, cooks, and spends time with her daughters.
Sue was just elected to a two-year term on the NASPA Advisory Board to represent Canada, and in this role, she hopes to promote unification and growth in the competitive Scrabble scene in North America.
Austinite Kevin Leeds used to play Junior Scrabble with his mom, and real Scrabble with his grandmom and various aunts. His grandmom used to get impatient waiting for him to play but when he did finally make his move, Kevin tells us, “she would erupt in a shower of amazement, and … tell me my score was really, really good.” With that early encouragement, he has been playing in NASPA tournaments since 2003 and plays regularly with the Austin Scrabble Club.
Scrabble isn’t Kevin’s only game — he’s a world champion Worfu player. He’s also an Indiana native, so Fort Wayne has been “like coming home” for him. He hopes all players who traveled a distance to get here purchased carbon offsets to help address climate change, and he encourages you to read this NY Times article about the subject.
Ophthalmologist Marc Booth hasn’t played much organized Scrabble recently, so we’re glad he was able to come to the NASC! He was part of the Crawfordsville, IN Club for some time and enjoyed playing with the people there.
His fondest Scrabble memory is playing FLINGERS for his first BINGO in his first tournament game. He was profiled in Cornelia Guest’s “The Last Word” newsletter after winning division five at that tournament with a perfect 7-0 record. This is his first tournament since that event back in 2013!
When he isn’t performing eye surgery or studying words, Doug enjoys spending time with his two-human, two-dog family, and encouraging his daughter, Charlotte, to “explore new avenues in the world.” They play a couple of games of Scrabble a week at home.
Marc is rooming with expert Doug Lundquist who is competing in Division 1 for the first time ever! They went to high school together at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IL. Go Titans!
In 2014-15, Josh Greenway played more NASPA rated games of Scrabble than anyone else in North America. In 2015-16, he has played a fraction of those games but he has become more involved in Scrabble than ever before – sitting on two NASPA committees, super involved in his local club, directing his own tournaments and getting hired to direct tournaments organized by others. He tells us, “It’s quite the shift but it’s been fun!”
Josh is a big TV fan — favorite shows this year include Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, People vs OJ Simpson — and he has over 1,000 podcasts on his phone. Josh prides himself on being a community builder – he makes friends easily with his generous, outgoing personality. The thing he likes most about Scrabble is the people — especially the people who stay up late and like to have a good time.
Mike Gincel is an extreme couponer (look for his self-published book in a few months) and an avid improv actor. He started playing Scrabble after watching “Akeelah and the Bee” for a psychology assignment in university and stumbled upon “Word Wars” on Netflix.
Mike enjoys reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race, and his favorite places include Israel, Costa Rica, and the southwestern US.
TENACITY is one of Mike’s favorite words. He tells us, “I am super elated and excited to be competing here at the 2016 NASC here in Fort Wayne against some of the best Scrabble players in the United States and beyond and would like to thank family and friends for their support!”
Ben “Bnjy” Schoenbrun started playing online and got into the tournament scene after reading Stefan Fatsis’ Word Freak. His most memorable game was his first against Mack Meller, one of the top seeded players at this year’s NASC. Ben went over his allotted 25 minutes, both players were stuck with multiple tiles that wouldn’t play, and they ended up tying! His favorite play is OUTDEBATE, a nine letter word played through a DE on the board, which he found with a minute on the clock to steal a game!
Bnjy is a punster who enjoys trading card games, Pokemon, television shows Parks & Rec and The Office, and the movie Big Hero 6. And as he tells us, “I’m single. Come at me ladies.”