It was a war of words at the weekend as Scrabble enthusiasts from across the UK descended on the Great Barr Hotel in Birmingham for the semi-final of the National Scrabble Championships (NSC). 14 games were played over a gruelling seven-hour period and amongst the finalists was 19-year-old Aston student Austin Shin, the youngest contestant competing for the title of National Scrabble Champion and a cash prize of £1,500.
The Championships first hold UK regional rounds in which Austin was the third highest rated in the Southwest/London region. The top scorers advance to the semi-finals followed by the top two going on to the finals in London. Out of the 58 semi-finalists, Austin was rated the 9th highest and told us, 'I entered because I wanted to have a shot at being the National Champion. I wasn’t even expecting to win the Regionals so that was an added bonus!'
Having played in every NSC since 1998, Austin has remarkable talent at the game that involves forming words from individual lettered tiles on a game board to score points. From the age of eight he was already competing against adults more than three times his age in national competitions. He said, 'I play in tournaments throughout the year so you see a lot of the same faces. Since there are no junior or youth UK tournaments it didn’t feel that weird being the youngest competitor.' Spending most of the summer practicing, he told us how he expected to do: 'I thought I could do well if I played my best. But sometimes it depends on how you feel on the day and if you are luckier than your opponent.'
The competition got off to a good start for Austin as he showed age was no disadvantage by thrashing his first opponent by 200 points! Despite his final position of 5th place, the Logistics Management student has big hopes for the future, 'I have a major tournament lined up in November where I will be defending my title. I will also be attending an international tournament in Malaysia at the beginning of December, where the top 50 players in the world are invited to take part. I’m very much looking forward to that.'
With high hopes for the future, Aspects wishes Austin the best of luck future tournaments and his degree at Aston.
Words by Munira Jasat