Word play! | Daily News

Word play!

Forming words.  Adheesha  Dissanayake. Pictures by Ruwan de Silva
Forming words. Adheesha Dissanayake. Pictures by Ruwan de Silva

Scrabble lovers know that the word board game, even when played among family and friends, can bring out their competitive nature. This game of alphabets is fantastic because of its links with the written words. Many of these words may not be encountered in daily life. It is a thrilling learning process which develops the vocabulary.

At an age when children cannot look beyond video games Adheesha Dissanayake has displayed an inexplicable interest in words. The nine year old became the Under 10 World Champion at the World English Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) Youth Cup (World Youth Scrabble Championship) held in Malaysia recently. Though the event was titled as WESPA Youth Cup in 2017, it was originally called the World Youth Scrabble Championship. The event is held every year in different parts of the world since 2006 for young Scrabblers who fall into the under 18 category. Aabid Ismail from Royal College, Colombo, was the overall champion while Janul de Silva won second place and was also adjudged as the under 16 champion at the WESPA Youth Cup 2017.

Adheesha had to compete against players from all age groups to clinch the title. He was even paired off against 16 and 17 year olds in many rounds. Thus he scored and won the title beating players who were senior to him not only in age but also in experience.

A student of Willesden International School, Battaramulla, Adheesha had developed a passion for the word game primarily because of his sister Radinka who is the current Sri Lanka under 18 champion and highest rated female player. His first tournament was the Sri Lanka Age Group Scrabble Championship in 2015. He bagged 10th place at the event. He was not even six years old then and was the youngest player at the event. He competed in the under 13 division.

“I was drawn to contests which involved letters and words. What really drew me to the sport is that age makes no difference when you sit before the Scrabble board. It is especially exciting to win a game against senior and high rated players,” the youth said.

Throughout the years Adheesha has displayed an uncanny ability to spell and frame words. He won sixth place in the Sri Lanka Age Group Scrabble Championship in 2016. He is the highest rated under 13 player in Sri Lanka today.

Though WESPA Youth Cup was his first international tournament, Adheesha has been able to relax and have fun as well as show his prowess in the sport. He had even made a handful of friends from different nations at the event. He mainly engages in the sport because he enjoys it.

“The best way to push yourself to expand your diction is to relax and have fun with it. There are lots of benefits in playing Scrabble in addition to the obvious fun part. The more you play this board game the better you get at it and the more rewarding it would be to you in many ways: mentally, socially and emotionally,” he opined.

Besides the fun part Scrabble teaches strategy, builds intellectual capacity, increases social bonding and cooperation, improves emotional wellbeing, increases personal confidence and encourages players to compete against each other. The game is nearly nine decades old and is sold in around 121 countries and comes in 31 different languages. At least 30,000 Scrabble games are started each hour.

Scrabble contains 100 tiles, 98 of which are marked with a letter and a point value ranging from 1 to 10. The highest score recorded for a word is 1674 points by forming the word ‘Oxyphenbutazone’.

The letters ‘Q’ and ‘Z’ have the highest point values in Scrabble, worth 10 points each.

Adheesha is trained by his father, Raditha who is a software architect. His mother, Madhavi, is the daughter of the late Vivien de Silva Boralessa. Apart from his elder sister Radinka, his sister Aminthika too plays Scrabble. However Adheesha noted that she is keener on writing than Scrabble. She had published her first story book ‘Little Dreams’ when she was 10.

Queried on what makes a Scrabble champion, Adheesha says that one needs to possess anagramming skills and a large vocabulary.

“You need to be able to do mental arithmetic very quickly as well,” he said.

Though he has no role models or idols, Adheesha vies to become one of the top Scrabble players in the world.

He invites budding young Scrabble players to join the Sri Lanka Scrabble League.

“They have lots of tournaments. You might even find yourself playing for the WESPA Youth Cup,” he noted adding that he is open to listen to any words of wisdom from seasoned players who have excelled in their chosen fields.

“Perhaps in 10 more years I too would be able to give some pointers to youth who wish to shine in Scrabble. I am too young and not in a position to advice others yet,” he concluded with a smile. 


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