KARACHI: Nigel Richards of New Zealand retained his title by winning the 31st King’s Cup Scrabble Tournament in Bangkok on Sunday.

King’s Cup is the world’s biggest scrabble event, which is patronised by the Thai royal family with over 6,000 players taking part every year.

The international division had 75 top players from all over the world including Pakistan’s No.1 Waseem Khatri and five other youth players aiming to get valuable practice before the world youth scrabble championship in August.

According to the information that reached here, Pichai Limprasert of Thailand, who has accomplished an unprecedented feat of winning all six scrabble tournaments held in Thailand this year, looked set to win his seventh title in a row as he remained in the lead through most of the tournament; at one stage he was three games ahead of his nearest rival.

Richards, arguably the greatest scrabble player of all times, was seventh at the end of round 24 but launched his customary last-minute assault by winning the last five matches to force a play off with Pichai. Richards then calmly beat Pichai 445-403, 397-491 and 469-356 in the final to take the trophy and a $10,000 cash prize.

Waseem Khatri was in good form earlier in the tournament, featuring regularly into top 10 but a disastrous third day pushed him way back. Waseem won his last five matches on the fourth day to take the 15th position.

Pakistan’s youth players were impressive especially Abdullah Abbasi who had a 14-15 record against the world’s best players. Twelve of Abdullah’s 14 wins came against players rated much higher than him. Abdullah improved his international rating to 1,636 points. He’ll be the highest rated youth player at this year’s world youth championship.

Absar Mustajab earned a massive 222 rating points to become the second highest rated youth player in Pakistan behind Abdullah.

The biggest rating gain at the King’s cup was a monstrous 336 points by young Daniyal Sanaullah. Daniyal who entered the event with an international rating of 715 also created the biggest upset of the tournament when he defeated Taewan Sutthasin (international rating 1,845) in the second round.

In fact, six of the top 12 rating upsets in the tournament were created by the Pakistani youth players; five of them by Daniyal and one by Absar.

The team was about to return on Monday to join the training camp being conducted by former world youth champion Moiz Baig.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2016

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