Dubai: With Dubai teen Navya Zaveri finishing fourth overall at the recently held 7th World Youth Scrabble Championship (WYSC), Dubai is not far from becoming the region’s next ‘school of Scrabble.’
Zaveri, 14, ranked 4th out of 60 of the world’s best young players from 13 countries. He created history by coming on top in the under-16 category at the prestigious tournament held early this month in the UK.
Fellow UAE participant, Sanchit Kapoor, 12, of Modern High School, finished in 18th place and was crowned the youngest player in the overall top 25. Another UAE contender, Shiksha Rout, finished at 59th.
“We have so many talented Dubai youngsters. With the level of youngsters playing Scrabble now, Dubai can become the next ‘school of Scrabble’ in the region and we want Dubai to be just that,” Nikhil Soneja, chairman of the UAE Scrabble Club, told Gulf News.
Bahrain, where Soneja used to live, is reputed for being the region’s school of Scrabble after producing some of the top young wordsmiths for more than two decades.
A competitive Scrabble player himself, Soneja said Zaveri’s achievement could propel more Dubai teens to amp their game especially for the next WYSC that will be held in Dubai next year.
Soneja, who is also Zaveri’s coach, said Zaveri has progressed a great deal in just a year of playing Scrabble competitively.
“For a novice who finished 80th in the championships last year and to finish fourth overall this year, to shoot up that fast is a big achievement,” Soneja said.
Even Zaveri himself did not expect to be in the top five. The Indian High School student said his one-hour a day of studying Scrabble has helped him a lot.
But like any game, it isn’t always about your chips, but mostly about your game plan.
“You don’t have to have a very good vocabulary to become an excellent Scrabble player. You need to have mathematic skills, and it calls for foresight. You need to be able to know what your opponent’s gonna play,” Zaveri, who is also nominated for the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance, told Gulf News.
Online applications where players can learn new words also help. This has made the world of Scrabble much more challenging and competitive, a fact that piques Zaveri’s interest all the more.
“I’m hoping to win [in next year’s WYSC] because it’s home soil. I have high hopes, I might be able to clinch the title next time but it will all depend on how I play.”