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Scrabble Experts Compete to Support Literacy Volunteers of America

A couple of weeks ago the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois hosted they ninth annual Scrabble for Literacy Challenge.The event took place on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Grossinger City Autoplex, 1500 N Dayton, and it was widely attended by people from all ages.

“It’s for die-hard scrabble players,” said Program Coordinator Chamala Travis.

People registerd online and paid a fee to benefit Literacy Volunteers, for the opportunity to compete in three different categories, playing the word game, Scrabble.

About 100 people attended to play for the North American Scrabble Players Association, NASPA, tournament which allowed them to increase their ratings. While others, around 60 people, attended to participate in the casual and super casual categories.

Professional scrabble players where among the attendees, and they had different roles during the day. They alternated between playing and helping out and updating the scores of the professional players.

Marty Gabriel, a professional scrabble player, was the director of tournaments of the event, and along with Dorothy Miaso, the Executive Director of the Literacy group, hosted the event.

Gabriel has been part of the United States national scrabble team for three times and has gone to India, Malaysia and Poland to compete.

He explained that when the event started it was only for NASPA players.

“I came up with the idea of having two separate tournaments,” said Gabriel referring to the casual and super casual tournaments.

Jason Brooks, who has been playing for around 16 years and is a member pf NASPA, explained that to be considered an expert you have to typically have 1600 of rating  or more.

SCRABBLE Players gather for a good cause. Photo by Corina Ferrer.

Brooks said there are nine active players that are considered experts in Illinois.

If there is a disagreement between the players, they usually call a third person to be the judge, but many times they stick by the rules of the official NASPA dictionary.

In the time he has been a member of NASPA, as a scrabble player and event director, Brooks said he has never experienced a fight over a game.

“ It’s just a game at the end of the day,” said Brooks.

Gabriel explained that many of the serious players have their own custom-made boards which can cost from $150 to $300. The letters wood chips are not used on the professional level because these tend to be a way of picking the letters they want or it helps to find the blank pieces.

At the end of the day many prices were given out, depending on the category in which people had played during the day.  There was also a silent auction to which  people had to sign up for.

Travis , who has been working in this for seven years, said that a lot of companies tend to donate prizes, and that they do a raffle to keep things lively.

But for some of the attendees this wasn’t their first time. Eileen Schmidt said she has been attending the event for the past five years.

“It’s fun; I like it,” said Schmidt

She is also part of a group of people in the Schaumburg area who gets together on the weekends to play scrabble.

Schmidt won first place on the High Game and the Word Play.

For the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois the goal is to improve the literacy skills of people by supporting different literacy programs.

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