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Gruzd has last word in Scrabble championship



Steven Gruzd isn’t just a political analyst and contributor to the SA Jewish Report, he’s also the reigning Scrabble Masters and Collins Cup champion.

This accomplished wordsmith took home the Collins Cup after a challenging two-day tournament that ended on Sunday, 14 May.

“I was chuffed to win my first Collins Cup,” said Gruzd. “I was nowhere before winning the last four games on the trot, including having to beat the leader, Dr Mushtak Esmail, from Tanzania, in the last game.”

Gruzd was one of 18 of the country’s top Scrabble players who competed in Pinelands, Cape Town, to contest this last “major” of the year. “The competition was fierce, and wonderful words graced the boards,” said Gruzd.

This isn’t the first Scrabble tournament he has won, and he says, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. But it feels so much better to win!”

Gruzd started playing Scrabble at the age of eight with his late mother, and then took it as an extramural at Houghton Primary School, which he attended. “My mom loved words, and thought I’d be good at Scrabble. Turns out I was,” he said.

He was drawn to the game because, he said, “I just love the poetry and science of the game, the fact that I can be competitive with the best in the world. And I love language and words. It’s a no-brainer. Every game is different and poses new strategic challenges.”

He started playing competitively at the age of 12 in 1984. To date, he has won five national championships, the masters three times – including this year – and now his first Collins Cup. He also came sixth at the 1995 World Scrabble Championship in London.

Over the past 39 years, he has won many less significant event victories. So much so, he earned the nickname “Boy Wonder”.

“I never give up, and have won some unwinnable games,” he says. “And I love the quirky, diverse motley crew that make up the players.”

Though some may see it as fun games-night entertainment, many take it extraordinarily seriously. “It takes concentration, stamina, word study, and a competitive spirit. I have spent many years playing and learning words and strategy,” he says. “Luck is not as big a factor, but it helps!”

Anyone interest in competitive Scrabble can contact Andrew Goldberg on +27 83 260 7530 or

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Judy Meyer

    May 19, 2023 at 1:42 am

    I still remember Sandra Meyberg referring to you as ‘boy wonder’ many years ago!

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