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Gruzd’s ‘prepaving’ launches him into Scrabble top spot

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After two long days filled with Scrabble tiles on 17 and 18 June, political analyst and wordsmith Steven Gruzd came out on top at the South African Masters Scrabble Championships, securing the title for the second time in a row.

Gruzd played against the top-10 players, and after the first day of the tournament, the title seemed out of reach, having lost four of his first five games. However, he managed to recover quickly, and won all of his games the next day, sneaking to the top of the pool.

“Winning this tournament shows that people in their 50s can still be competitive,” Gruzd said, “I’ve been playing Scrabble for 40 years, and competitively since I was 12 years old. It’s gratifying to know that older people can still show the youngsters how it’s done. And it’s the sort of game you must work hard for.”

Gruzd has won this title three times before, in 2000, 2019, and 2023. He describes the Masters tournament as the toughest tournament in competitive Scrabble in South Africa because “it’s all the top players. There are no weak players in the field.

“I was particularly surprised after having had such a bad start. But as they say, ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,’” he said, “I just kept my cool. I focused and made fewer mistakes on the second day. It came down to the very last game, and I had the advantage in that I picked well and played well.”

Gruzd said in preparation for this tournament, he revised his six-letter and four and five-letter words using computer programmes and videos, flashcards, and books that help learn words. “Certainly, some of those paid off.

“In one game, I started with ‘p-a-v-i-n-g’. And I saw that you could probably put down ‘p-r-e-p-a-v-i-n-g’,” he said, “So the ‘p-r-e’ that I played got to the triple-word score, and I scored 51 points for it, plus five for an unsuccessful challenge by my opponent. It was a crucial game that I was behind in at that point. Just knowing that play was a possibility managed to put me ahead, and I won that game.

“Winning gives me confidence,” Gruzd said. “And it shows that even after the COVID-19 pandemic, in which we lost a number of our Scrabble players to the virus, Scrabble remains strong in South Africa. The competition is getting better and better all the time. A lot of people are putting in work and studying.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ike Obidike

    June 20, 2024 at 1:16 pm

    Great performance. Tougher field, too.

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