BUFFALO, N.Y. — Conrad Bassett-Bouchard started his championship Scrabble game Wednesday with the word “zilch” and finished with the opposite — the $10,000 prize and title of national Scrabble champion.
The 24-year-old player, from Portland, Ore., beat 29-year-old Jason Li, of Montreal, in the final round of the five-day 25th National Scrabble Championships played at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Bassett-Bouchard, the tournament’s second seed, said he knew luck was with him when he drew a wild-card blank tile and an “s” on his first seven-tile rack. He led for most of the match, winning by a score of 477-350.
Reflecting a changing of the guard with more young players in this year’s field, six of the top 10 finishers were in their 20s, and one, Mack Meller, from Bedford, N.Y., is 14. Tournament favorite and five-time champion Nigel Richards, 47, described by one competitor as the Michael Jordan of the game, finished a surprising 16th.
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“All these younger players are avid online players,” said Will Anderson, 29, trying to explain the success of the tournament’s 20-somethings at an old-fashioned board game.
The final game saw Bassett-Bouchard and Li at a white-linen-draped table while a tournament representative live-tweeted their every move.
The winning board contained the words florigen, trooz, venerate, contuse and barf.
Bassett-Bouchard said his win seemed imminent when Li played “jug,” giving him room on the board to spell “docents” and pull further ahead.
“From that point on,” he said, “it was going to be pretty hard for me to lose.”