20-year old Bangkok college student Panupol Sujjayakorn is playing in the 2005 National Scrabble Championship finals today (24th August)against 31-year old Dave Wiegand from Portland, Oregon. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, ESPN will be taping the finals for telecast in the fall. As of 12:45 PDT, the finalists had finished three of the five games. Sujjayakorn won the first and second games and Wiegand won the third game. The winner of the best-of-five finals wins a $25,000 first prize.
In 2003 Panupol won the World Scrabble Championship held in Malaysia. According to the Wall Street Journal, the National Scrabble Championship has never been won by a non-North American.
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Wiegand defeated Panupol in the final two games of the series to win the championship. The final scores were 338-467, 349-463, 501-364, 441-371, and 529-331. Words played in the finals include SABERING, FLORINS, COGWAY, GAYETY, TANKING, RUSTLED, ENDOSTEA and EARLOBE; all played by Panupol. Wiegand’s plays include HUGEOUS, SCABIES, EULACHON, TINSTOENE, TAPERING, OVERKEEN, DYADIC, LENSMEN, REENTERS, and PARTING.
As the second prize winner, Panupol takes home $10,000 which he reportedly will use to fly to London in a few months to defend his world championship title.
Interestingly, the article in the Wall Street Journal noted that Panupol does not speak very good English. The journalist went on to speculate whether this is actually an advantage in Scrabble training because Panupol does not concern himself with the meanings or contexts of words, he just memorizes them and categorises them in terms of probabilities and Scrabble strategy.