The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Obscure words seal Scrabble tournament

San Diego, Aug. 23 (Reuters): In the end, it all came down to a vug and a helicoid, just as you knew it would.

The two obscure, but high-point words helped to decide the US national Scrabble championships yesterday in San Diego in favour of Joel Sherman, a former bank teller from the Bronx whose obsession with the popular board game began at age 6.

Sherman, 40, credited his victory at the five-day tournament — besting Nigel Richards of New Zealand and Jakkrit Klaphajone of Thailand — to a happy confluence of luck and rote memorisation. Sherman said the triumph surpassed his victory in the 1997 World Scrabble Championship.

“The tiles I drew matched my preparation for the event for a change,” Sherman said. “But I prepared more for this national championship than I have for any other.”

Sherman figures that on a good day he can readily recall about 90 per cent of the official Scrabble dictionary — about 120,000 words of nine letters or fewer. Among his winning words yesterday were “vug,” which means a small crevice in a rock, and “helicoid,” a mathematical term.

As one of 25,000 competitive Scrabble players worldwide, Sherman spends his days running a Scrabble club in Manhattan and preparing for tournament play.

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