National Scrabble Championship (UK)
In 1971, the author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth visited Bristol Prison whilst conducting research for a book and noticed the inmates playing Scrabble, at around the same time he also saw the Royal Family playing the game on a British TV documentary . He placed a small ad in The Times inviting anyone interested in taking part in a National Scrabble Championships to contact him. Hundreds replied and after hooking up with the game's owners at the time J. W. Spear & Sons, the Championships were born.
Stephen Haskell won the Championships in 1971 with an aggregate of 1345 points from 3 games. Regional qualifying events were introduced in 1976. The Championships continued to be decided by the 3 game cumulative score method until 1988. In 1989, a hybrid format was introduced, where the winner had to win all of his/her four games with the highest score possible. From 1990, the Championships have been exclusively 'play to win' format with no relation to points totals.
There are currently six one-day regional events of seven games where the top 60 players from around the country qualify to play over a 14 game semi-final weekend held in either Birmingham or Leeds. The two players with the greatest number of wins at the semi-final qualify for the final. Where players are on an equal number of wins spread cumulative margin of victory is used as a tie-breaker. The final is over five games and usually held in Central London to obtain maximum publicity. The two players play in a separate room and their moves are broadcast to an audience as they are made. Experts are on hand to explain and comment on the moves and answer questions from the audience. Entry is free and open to the general public.
The winner receives a prize of £2,500 with £1,250 going to the runner-up and £100 going to 3rd. There are also smaller prizes for the winners of the regional events and for those who perform above expectation.
The National Scrabble Club Tournament (NSCT) has run since 1979, also with different matchplay formats. In 2004, the regional qualifying events of the NSC and NSCT were combined.
The highest score under the cumulative score method was 1863 in 3 games by Nigel Ingham from Nottingham in 1987. The youngest winner was 15-year-old Allan Saldanha in 1993 and the oldest was 57-year-old Jake Jacobs in 2006 when the Championship featured in the BBC Four and subsequently BBC Two programme Marcus Brigstocke's Trophy People. The winner in 2012 was Paul Gallen from Northern Ireland. It is the first time the Championship has been won by a player resident outside England.
Winners of UK National Scrabble Championship