December 13, 2013 - 10:37 AM
KELOWNA - A local man will return to Kelowna next week after defeating some of the best Scrabble players in the world at the World Scrabble Championships in Prague.
Although he did not make it to the finals, Jesse Matthews, 27, took home the Open Championship, missing the final round by a single game.
"I didn't get into the Invitational Tournament, which is the top tournament, but I entered the Open Tournament where other players like me who didn't qualify for the top tournament went to play," he says. "I was in good company, though, because there was a former World Champion in that draw and many other very strong players."
The semi-finals and finals for the most prestigious title in competitive English-language Scrabble were held in the Czech Republic this year with competitors from around the world vying for board supremacy.
Matthews began playing Scrabble at 14 and has since competed in dozens of professional tournaments in North America. He is currently ranked 13th in Canada and 3rd in B.C. This was his first tournament overseas.
“For the last month I spent about an hour every day reviewing words using a program called Zyzzyvia on my computer and phone,” Matthews says. “It’s basically like a Scrabble-specific flash card program.”
To be successful at Scrabble requires a range of skills, says Matthews. And they don’t all have to do with spelling or even an understanding of the language.
“Some of the best Scrabble players in the world don’t even speak English,” he says. “All you really need to know is which words are words.”
While it won’t guarantee you will become a Scrabble champ, Matthews has a tip for those interested in elevating their game.
“You have to have a lot of control over your mind,” he says. “Whether you win and have a great game or lose and have a terrible game, you need to keep a level head and refocus.”
Matthews was forced to do just that when he lost the first match of the tournament.
“In my first game I got trounced by almost 200 points. It was a very discouraging start,” he says. “I had to keep myself in check, go for a bit of a walk and refocus.”
He managed to rally back and creep up into the top ten.
“I had to win my last game to secure the title and ended up having a solid game,” he says.
Matthews, who has a psychology degree from UBCO, left Kelowna for Prague on Nov. 19 and has been able to find time to visit several places in Europe and elsewhere over the past month. He spent time in Spain, Iceland, Morocco and a few others.
“It’s been quite the adventure,” he says.
Matthews will return to Kelowna Dec. 22 with a trophy and cash prize.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013