A scrabble champion from Chennai will be representing India at the World English Scrabble Players' Association (WESPAC) Championship, 2017 which will be held in Kenya from November 6 to 12 this year.
45-year-old Ranganathan Chakravarthy practices the game for at least four hours a day. He started playing scrabble when he was 26-years-old. “I was introduced to the game when I was 11-years-old but then there were no tournaments. In 1998, I seriously started playing the game,” says Ranganathan.
As his interest in the game started increasing, he started learning new words. “I was a runner-up in a tournament called Tulec. I thought even though I was less experienced than others, I have talent for this game. Then I started learning two-letter, three letter and four-letter words,” he says.
It took Ranganathan more than five years to win his first international tournament. “I won the Sri-Lankan Open Scrabble Tournament. Then immediately after that, I also won IGATE scrabble tournament in Mumbai,” he says.
Ranganathan has won the Goa championship thrice, won the Bengaluru championship once and won the international championship twice. He is also ranked as the second best scrabble player in the country.
The scrabble championships go on for three days, and on each day, there are eight games. By the end of the third day, the wins and losses of 24 matches are counted and also the point spreads (with what difference a player lost or won the match).
Taking Scrabble to schools
Ranganathan was practicing law when he started playing scrabble. “I used to learn words in office whenever I got time. I would also sit at night and learn words. That used to be one of my biggest challenges - to take out time from work and practice the game,” says Ranganathan.
In 2013, a boy from Pakistan had won a scrabble championship. That’s what made Ranganathan wonder - why can’t the children from India do the same? “In 2014, I started Madras Scrabble Foundation and left my job as a lawyer. I’m more passionate about scrabble than law. I wanted to teach school students this game,” says Ranganathan.
He went to many schools in Chennai and some of them allowed him to introduce the game to the children, but did not call him back for teaching them the game. “Only two schools including Bala Vidya Mandir and Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School in Adyar allowed me to teach the students the game. Scrabble is an intellectual game and can help children learn the language,” he explains.
However, he still believes that it will take at least five years for youngsters to take it up as a career. “First, the game needs to become more visible. Only then will it be taken more seriously. In the next five years, there would be more scrabble champions from schools,” he says.