After five days and 30 games against top opponents from around the world, 21-year-old Lynnwood resident Alec Sjoholm earlier this week became the youngest winner of the North American Scrabble Championship (NASC). The event took place from July 20-24 at the Reno Ballroom in Reno, Nevada, with extensive live, online coverage including videos, photos and statistics.
Sjoholm qualified at the 2019 NASC for the best-of-three finals before beating out fellow contender Carl Johnson, from Portland, in three games in a series of one-hour games streamed live on Twitch — a live-streaming video platform. Sjoholm claimed the championship title as the youngest player ever, beating 1996 champion Adam Logan’s long-standing youngest-player record by a mere six days.
Participants played in five skill-based divisions for a total of $40,900 in prizes, $10,000 of which went to the champion and $4,000 to the runner-up.
In the final games, Sjoholm demonstrated his mastery of the North American Scrabble Players Association Word List 2018 Edition with words like: “playgoer,” a frequent theatre attendee; “moonsail,” a sail above a skysail; and “theorbo,” a large lute.
The day before the NASC, Sjoholm also competed in a four-game “early bird” tournament, which he was heavily favored to win and went undefeated securing the victory.
Sjoholm’s father Chris said his son first showed an interest in Scrabble around the age of 4.
“I have enjoyed Scrabble since I was a kid,” Alec Sjoholm added. “But I really got hooked when my grandmother got a Scrabble program on her computer, so that when I would visit her I would just sit at her computer and play Scrabble all day. Since then I learned about competitive play and Scrabble clubs, and I haven’t turned back.”
Sjoholm has been playing Scrabble competitively for seven years, having competed in NASC for the past five years.
To prepare for the championship, Sjoholm said he spent about two hours a day using electronic study tools to learn words and practice unscrambling them. Also, he attended a weekly Scrabble club in Seattle, where he practices applying his study to actual Scrabble games, because “you can’t become good at something without doing it a lot,” he said.
Founded in 1978, the North American Scrabble Championship brought together 280 elite Scrabble competitors from Australia, England, Thailand, the UAE, Canadian provinces and the United States.
The championship is an annual event sponsored by and held under the auspices of the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA).
To get an introduction to the competitive side of Scrabble, and learn more about basic study guides for the game, find your nearest Scrabble club at scrabbleplayers.org/w/Club_roster.