The Scrabble King – Niggel Richards

Nigel Richards is a genius in his field: he plays Scrabble like no other. Who is the man who wins the word game even in a foreign language?

Nigel Richards is something of the Roger Federer of the Scrabble world – a genius in his field, admired by all. However, the 48-year-old is unsuitable for being a beamer on the winner’s podium. He looks cranky, with his oversized wire frame on his nose and a fringed bushy beard.

When the taciturn New Zealander directs his penetrating gaze at the Scrabble board, the opponents tremble. He conjures crisp words out of the most impossible alphabet salad. Richards is considered the best player ever. He has been world champion three times.

His talents, according to Howard Warner, chairman of the New Zealand Scrabble Players’ Association: a photographic memory and a rare mathematical gift. Scrabble at the highest level requires above all the calculation of mathematical probabilities.

“When he started speaking, he wasn’t interested in words at all, only numbers,” his mother Adrienne Fischer tells New Zealand newspapers. “He connected everything with numbers. We thought it was normal.” When he was 28, his mother suggested he play Scrabble. His talent quickly became apparent.

When playing in English, good players use more than 80,000 words between two and eight letters in their memory. The best have also saved many of the 29,000 nine-letter words.

In search of a new challenge, he quickly learned the spelling of all words with two to ten letters from the official French Scrabble dictionary – in nine weeks, as New Zealand newspapers reported. He won the competition in Belgium earlier this week against a man from Gabon who speaks fluent French.


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