October 11, 2011, Updated September 11, 2012

A war of words is to take center stage in Warsaw this week as the 2011 World Scrabble Championships get underway October 12-16. Local wordsmiths Evan Cohen and Naomi Landau are representing Israel at this year’s prestigious event.

Evan playing Scrabble

Photo by John Chew
Evan Cohen (left) at Malta Open in May 2011.

“I have played in countless international tournaments but this is the most important,” Cohen, the director and founder of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club, told ISRAEL21c on the eve of his departure to Poland. “In other championships I always feel like I’m representing myself but in this tournament I really feel like I’m representing Israel. It’s a world stage. The media will be there. It’s very important.”

The World Scrabble Championship is a biennial event. It attracts players from 44 countries including the US, England, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Oman and Kuwait.

But Landau and Cohen aren’t worried about a political clash.

“I have never encountered a political confrontation. Scrabble tournaments are quite apolitical,” Landau told ISRAEL21c. “People talk about the Bingo [seven-letter word] they couldn’t put down. It’s boring, really.”

The game itself was conceived in 1931 by an out-of-work American architect named Alfred Mosher Butts. While still a living room game for most, the professional Scrabble circuit is far more serious about the game. There are several thousand people in the world who compete in English-language Scrabble tournaments around the globe.

Scrabble has been translated into Hebrew, German, Italian, Spanish, French and Braille. English is the language used by serious players and in tournaments.

In 1991, Cohen –considered Israel’s top player — logged his best-ever ranking at the First World Championships in London where he finished 12th.

“If Evan gets in the Top 10 that would be fantastic,” said Landau, who herself has competed in many international tournaments.

In the meantime, Landau and Cohen have 34 games to play in the next four days. Godo Lcuk (Good Luck).

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