November 10, 2015
The world Scrabble community held her breath on the 8th of November 2015 as Nigeria's Wellington Jighere outmatched and outscored 129 players from 33 countries all over the world including his five teammates at the World English Scrabble Association Championship (WESPAC). The championship was held from Wednesday, November 4th to Sunday, November 8th, 2015 in Perth, Australia. Mr Jighere along with Messrs Eta Karo, Ayorinde Seidu, Cyril Umebiye, Onota Oteheri and Emmanuel Umujose made up the small contingent of 6 (six) top-rated Scrabble players Nigeria presented for the tournament. The team travelled to Australia without any accompanying officials from the Nigeria Scrabble Federation who were sadly denied visas to travel for the competition.
Wellington Jighere ranked 7th before the tournament eventually garnered the highest points after 32 gruelling games to emerge as the first qualifier of two finalists. The finalist will meet to play a best of 7 games series to determine the next champion of the game. Jighere led the 130-strong field with 25 points out of a possible 32 with a spread of +1347 and automatically qualified for the finals. Lewis MacKay of England whose pre-tournament rank was 8th finished with 23.5 +1054 to emerge as the other finalist. While Jighere had qualified for the finals with two games to spare, Lewis Mackay had to play Komol Panyasophonlert (Thailand) twice in the last two rounds to emerge as the second finalist. On Sunday the 8th of November 2015, the last day of the tournament, the finalists met to determine the winner behind closed doors in a best of 7 (seven) series. Jighere Wellington had come close to the crown twice, coming 3rd in Mumbai, India in 2007 and then 11th two years later in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. This time he triumphed in grand style with four (4) straight wins (Finals 1: 529-398, Finals 2: 438-410, Finals 3: 563-459, Finals 4: 449-432) winning the 14th World Scrabble Championship title, the first African ever to do so.
The six-man Nigeria team performed creditably well at the tournament. The Nigerian team was rated overall best after the tourney with an average rank of 32.5.
The six members Wellington Jighere (1), Ayorinde Seidu (16), Emmanuel Umujose (17), Cyril Umebiye (41), Onota Oteheri World (44) and Eta Karo (76) all finishing above the bottom third of the 130-strong field (the highest number of entries at the championship). Mr Jighere won the sum of ten thousand (10,000) USD for his efforts.
The 2015 WESPAC tournament featured several former holders of the WSC title including Craig Beevers (2014), three-time winner Nigel Richards (2007, 2011, 2013), Adam Logan (2005) and Mark Nyman (1993). Esther Perrins (Australia) 22 +1125 placed third, the best ever performance by a female player in the history of the tournament.