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IContact 20150108

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The following message went out to our iContact list on 2015–01–08:


Well, this has been one heck of a year!

It started off innocently enough. There were already close to 200 tournaments on the 2015 calendar when January 1 arrived. NASPA ended up sanctioning 371 tournaments compared to 350 in 2013 and 340 in 2012. There are already 200 tournaments on the schedule for 2015 including this year’s National SCRABBLE Championship August 1-5 in Reno, Nevada.

NASPA signed up approximately 500 new members this past year. This is an increase of 20% over the typical year. Usually 400 people make their way in and a similar number of people take a break or retire from tournament play. The increase this past year is due to advertising that NASPA inures to with Hasbro and Merriam-Webster. New SCRABBLE sets have an insert with NASPA information. The OSPD5 Introduction page has NASPA’s information. We continue to get new members via advertising on Facebook and Google.

SCRABBLE tournament play is a hobby with varying degrees of passion. Some people are hooked for life. Most play when it suits their busy lives and may take time off for years before reentering the scene. Last year we had a player rejoin after a 29-year hiatus!

In February, Hasbro called us with the “Favorite Word” idea and launched a campaign that resulted in lots of interest throughout North America. The event ran through April. GEOCACHE emerged victorious and was included as a good word at the National School SCRABBLE Championship (NSSC) and for all club and tournament play beginning with the National SCRABBLE Championship (NSC).

During this time and ongoing, the Dictionary Committee, chaired by Jim Pate, continued their work on the update to the Official Tournament and Club Word List. Around March, it became evident that Merriam-Webster (MW) was concerned about their intellectual property being readily downloadable from the globally popular Zyzzyva program created by Michael Thelen, not to mention all of the other study programs out there. What began 9 years ago or so as a study tool for Michael himself had become the definitive study and adjudication tool for SCRABBLE tournaments and players around the planet. Though great for all players, the program’s popularity became enough to catch the eyes of the intellectual property holders.

So, we introduced Michael to the MW execs at the NSSC in Providence last April in hope that they could come to a license agreement. April turned into the end of July with the OSPD5 and 2014OTCWL due to be released August 11 during the National SCRABBLE Championship. Michael is a brilliant, yet regular guy, father of 4 and was in the midst of changing jobs and moving his family from Utah to Massachusetts. In addition, he had received a cease-and-desist order from a French dictionary company and, upon reflection, decided he was not interested in any possible liability; very understandable.

At this point, NASPA entered into the picture and first worked a deal to purchase Zyzzyva from Michael and then endeavored to try to negotiate a license agreement with MW. This was all overseen by Hasbro who, as part of their license agreement with MW, is contractually bound to protect MW’s interests. We were able to get this done shortly before the release of the new word list.

The release date of the OSPD5 was bumped from August 11 up to August 6 to accommodate large orders from Barnes and Noble and Walmart. We started selling the OTCWL2014 to attendees at the NSC. Your Advisory Board met at the NSC in Buffalo and decided that the new word list would not go into effect until 2 months after Zyzzyva was available to our members in a format acceptable to MW.

Then, NASPA needed a committee to do this work. The NASPA Zyzzyva Committee is being chaired by John Chew with members Ross Brown, Michael Donegan and Seth Lipkin. As of the date of this writing, we are hopefully just a few days away from having a working model for review by MW. They will then have 10 business days to assess and approve the model or instruct us as to what else might need to be done for approval.

After we have the approval, we will then look into what will be necessary to make all of your other favorite software programs viable with the new words. This will take some doing and cooperation, but we are committed to try to accomplish that.

What all of this means is that we will not go to the new words before March 15. If it is to go much beyond that, your Advisory Board may need to readdress the effective date for the use of the new words as players are starting to use the new words on the popular EA/Facebook SCRABBLE application, getting great warmup practice and will be getting more eager to use these words in tournament play as each day goes by.

I have gone through the new Word List page by page looking for all changes and words of note to all SCRABBLE players by comparing entries to my 5 shoeboxes filled with index cards (I personally do not use Zyzzyva to study. I am old school!!).

What has caught my eye are the many new –INGS words, including, finally, FEEDINGS!! There will now be some additional –ISE words (as compared to their –IZE counterparts), though not a sweeping change. The one new 7-letter bingo that will probably come up more than any other is AERADIO(S). The new 8-letter word that may come up more than any other is TENORINI (pl. of the new TENORINO). The coolest new Q bingo is ROUTINE + Q = REQUINTO(S). There are gobs of new anagrams that will be easier to remember than many other new words through the associative learning process. UNPLAITS and NUPTIALS now anagram to TAILSPUN. If you have yet to do so, get your new 2014 NASPA Official Tournament and Club Word List along with official NASPA tiles, racks and bags at [1]http://www.scrabbleplayers.org/cgi-bin/shop.pl

In August, we had a very successful National SCRABBLE Championship held in Buffalo, NY at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center. There were approximately 540 attendees and Conrad Bassett-Bouchard emerged as the National SCRABBLE Champion. Will he be able to repeat this August? We shall see.

Jan Cardia’s Rules Committee worked long and hard last year to come up with new and refined rules for tournament play. Those have been introduced and, knock on wood, seem to be working fairly smoothly. There are always going to be situations that arise not specifically covered in the rules. This is by design. We want our directors to have the latitude to make on site/at the moment decisions with the spirit of the game in mind and using their best judgments to do so.

Dallas Johnson’s Tournament Committee was very busy sanctioning tournaments, but, and I am very happy to say, had very few Incident Reports to address. I believe that our players understand what is expected of them as far as their comportment is concerned.

From September through yesterday, we have been searching, site visiting and assessing offers from different cities in the northern/central/Midwest area on the country for the 2016 National Scrabble Championship. Among the cities we considered were: St. Louis, Kansas City, Dayton, Detroit, Chicago, Louisville, Wichita, Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, Madison, WI, Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

We have made a decision and as soon as we have an executed contract, we will announce the site and some more specifics via system wide email.

All of this in addition to our daily tasks of administering NASPA; its committees and members and SCRABBLE in North America. Although our membership numbers are modest, there are thousands of other players who are not members that play in NASPA clubs and casual clubs and tens of thousands of people and players involved in other SCRABBLE-related activities such as School SCRABBLE administrators and players, Meetup groups, local libraries, charity event planners and players, computer and handheld device players plus all of those just interested in the game whom we hear from on an ongoing basis with questions and comments about the past, present and future of SCRABBLE.

John Chew continues to be the busiest man I know in SCRABBLE. As I type, he is in Providence, Rhode Island meeting with Hasbro and MSI concerning 2015’s National School Scrabble Championship, will fly from there to Las Vegas to attend Dan Horowitz’ fine event at the home of the 2013 NSC, The Riviera Hotel, then fly back to Providence on an all-nighter Sunday night to meet up with me Monday morning and we will then meet with Hasbro to discuss overall plans for 2015 and beyond. This on top of his past year’s travels to direct and/or technologically coordinate International SCRABBLE tournaments in Malta, Thailand, London, and of course, our own National SCRABBLE Championship in Buffalo. WHEW!!

I hope that you all have a wonderful 2015.

See you on the circuit!

Chris Cree