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!
Kaia is a middle school librarian who loves to inspire her students to reach high goals. She hopes to foster their love of Scrabble, as well!
Kaia appreciates the kindness of the Scrabble community. When her truck’s transmission blew up on the way to the Pittsburgh tournament last spring, players helped her get the truck to a repair shop, drove her around for meals, and someone drove her all the way home.
She enjoys “spoiling herself” with good food, kayaking and canoeing, and attending tournaments. She played her first Scrabble tournament in 2013 and this is her first Nationals.
Check out this OWL3 game between 2015 Crescent City Cup winner Morris Greenberg and former World Champion Panupol Sujjayakorn. Despite Panupol winning the game by only five, Morris points to a midgame decision he made that he felt may have hurt him long term. It’s an interesting and informative lesson into the idea of “points now” versus “points later”.
Here we find Morris with a powerful rack of CEKORSZ. Coming up with a list of potential plays here, he can safely narrow his search down to:
1A ZERKS 73 (CO)
1H REZ 58 (CKOS)
L1 Z(E)RK 54 (CEOS)
What would you play here? A couple of points to consider as you ponder this play:
Is it as simple as taking the points?
How would you factor the next couple of turns into your decision?
(For an added bonus, can you find Panupol’s best bingo on the previous turn (instead of ELATErS)? We guarantee everybody reading this post knows this word.)
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.”
Kathleen has been playing Scrabble for 50 years, but this is her first time attending the NASC! She is the organizer of the Fort Wayne Scrabble Meetup Group. Now that she’s retired, she and her Papillon enjoys traveling to Scrabble tournaments in her teardrop camper. She is featured in a news article about the NASC in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
Andy Hoang is a two-time School Scrabble Champion (in 2009 as a 5th grader and in 2012 as an 8th grader). He was also the 2013 Division 3 Nationals Champion.
He first got into Scrabble in 5th grade when friends suggested he join them at an after school Scrabble club. As the school bell had already rang, he had a minute to decide between taking the bus home and going to the club. Looking back, he feels that he’s made the right choice.
In addition to Scrabble, Andy enjoys chemistry, economics, music and sports.
For every game that he wins at the NASC 2016, Andy will donate money to the Honduras Foundation. He’s tweeting from the NASC at @RealAndyHoang.
In one of his most impressive recent plays, in the World Championship tournament last November, Jason played LEZ in the triple line against eventual champion Wellington Jighere. He later extended it to K(LEZ)MERS triple-triple for 212 points and won the game 608-369.
Jason may wish he was playing in the CSW Division since it’s represented by orange — his favorite color. Other favorite things include the word NAARTJIE#, Law & Order on TV, and a nice pastrami on rye for lunch.