The Scrabble World Championship may not draw the same media attention as other “mind sports” events such as Chess World Cup or the International Mathematical Olympiad, but for wordsmiths around the world this prestigious tournament is the place to find legendary letter combinations.
Yes, there are people – millions of them, actually – who are fascinated by a game where players choose seven letter tiles out of a bag with the goal of strategically placing them on a board for points.
Only the top Scrabble players with international ratings can represent their countries at the world event. And Israel will have three players waving the blue-and-white flag at the 2015 Scrabble World Championship in Perth, Australia, from November 4-8.
“I’m very excited. It’s something I’ve fantasized about for 10 years or so,” Omri Rosenkrantz, a lecturer at the Open University of Israel, tells ISRAEL21c.
While this is Rosenkrantz’s maiden voyage as a player to the World Championships, his two teammates – Evan Cohen and Naomi Landau – are making return appearances.
The Israeli team players are paying their own way, as other members of the Tel Aviv club do to all international tournaments.
“It’s important that we be there. I think it’s important that the Israeli flag fly alongside the other flags,” Cohen, the director and founder of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club and considered Israel’s top player, tells ISRAEL21c.
“It’s a huge event. I think having a team there is an opportunity to show another side of Israel,” agrees Rosenkrantz.
Actually, Cohen and Rosenkrantz are making history at this year’s event. They are the first married couple in the same delegation to represent a country at the biennial event.
The Israeli players know that the chances of bringing home the gold are slim. But Cohen, who placed 15th at the last World Championships, says the opportunity to play with the world’s best Scrabblers is reason enough to fly halfway across the world.
“If we finish higher than where we were ranked that would be good but I would really like us to finish in the top 50 percent,” says Cohen, who practices letter combinations and learning new words for about an hour a day.
And while Israeli players haven’t won a Scrabble World title just yet, the country’s clubs are famous for their attendance. Cohen says some 140 players have played at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv clubs in the last six months. The Jerusalem Scrabble Club is considered the world’s largest of its kind.
“The Scrabble community knows us and we have a lot of international friends,” says Cohen, “but we’re not considered a Scrabble superpower — yet.”