Montrealer wins North America's top Scrabble prize
Montrealer Michael Fagen took home top prize in North America's biggest Scrabble competition last week, despite being an underdog.
"Amazing and, at the same time, unbelievable!" exclaims Fagen holding the trophy he earned at The Scrabble Players Championship, an event held in Baltimore after a two-year hiatus.
"They have seeds like they do in tennis. I was seeded 28th out of 42 players, so I wasn't expected to come even close to winning!" he said. Somebody in the bottom half of the seeding has never taken home the top spot - until now.
Fagen joined the Montreal Scrabble Club in 2009 and has been perfecting his skills ever since.
It's a multi-layered game, he said.
"You also want to be able to see the players, look at the board, look where the high-scoring place could be, find the words in your rack, rearrange the letters, find places over the board, find where I can score a lot of points."
Plus, there's preventing your opponent from scoring, as Fagen did with Orry Swift to win the championship. That strategy earned him the trophy and a $10,000 U.S. prize.
His club is so proud. Montreal Scrabble Club founder Bernard Gotlieb has played against Fagen many, many times.
"He's just brilliant. It's like playing against a computer. He's so methodical and calculated!" he said.
"I think you have to be good at math. In this game, it's not just a word game," explained club co-director Sary Karanofsky. "It's a math-oriented game. Spatial awareness is important. And he's good at all of it!"
Curious? The Montreal Scrabble Club meets at the Cote-Saint-Luc Aquatic Club building at 5794 Parkhaven Ave. every Wednesday evening and welcomes new members.
"It's definitely social, and I think that's an important aspect of the game," said Karanofsky.
The game has so many variables at play.
Fagen said his winning formula is "three parts skill, two parts luck and one part attitude."
Despite wearing a mask during his trip to Baltimore and while playing all his games, Fagen caught COVID-19 along the way, so any Scrabble celebrations will have to wait for now.
But he's already planning his next moves.
"I think my goals for next year will be to try and redefend my title, do it again and get better as a player, keep studying more words, keep reviewing words!" he said.