Buckley Report: The world of competitive Scrabble

The world of competitive Scrabble is not for the faint of heart.

In fact, it can turn into a blood sport.

A group of local residents are training for a Scrabble tournament that will take place in Charlotte on February 15.

“I will warn people that once you come to play in a tournament, it’s hugely addictive,” says Katya Lezin, who will be participating in the tournament.

The game is highly structured with a clock and strategy.

“I use time as my weapon. I’m a very fast player and that helps me because I’m robbing my opponent of their thinking time,” says Eliza Lieberman, another Scrabble enthusiast.

The tournaments are where you learn that this game is less about the words, and more about numbers.

“When you go higher and higher into the expert division, it’s less English majors and more math majors. It’s really a strategic game where, in fact, the man who won the national championship, one year, didn’t even speak English,” says Hannah Lieberman.

Knowing how to maximize the number value on each lettered tile, is something Eliza is just learning.

“When I was younger and would lose all my games, I won best sportsmanship,” she says.

That’s a big deal for her mother, Katya Lezin.

“I was proud of my daughter, right now. The word, ‘ad,’ was on the board and she hooked a Z on the end of it.  Adz is a good as is adze, which is an axe, and then made zings coming down.  And that makes me really proud, as a parent, ‘Oh, she’s seen the Scrabble light!’ “

Scrabble is in Katya’s blood.

“I was a nerd before anyone else was a nerd.  I mean, my Saturday nights were playing Scrabble with my dad,” she says.

Weekend fun, eventually became her family’s devotion.

“My husband’s a really good sport about the fact that not only much of our time, but much of our vacation budget goes to hunting down Scrabble tournaments. But we have traveled the country, playing in tournaments.”

Eventually, it became her healing.

“Last year, I battled cancer all year and Scrabble was, actually, more than just a past time.  I mean, it really was a savior for me – doing chemo, Scrabble was the only thing I could do, to keep my mind off it,” she says.

Now, the family is able to joke about their dedication to the game that can cost hundreds of dollars, to enter a tournament.

“My mom once said to my dad, ‘You know, a cocaine addiction would’ve been cheaper.’  And my dad said, ‘Yeah, and less embarrassing,’” Hannah says.

For this family, there is glory to be found on a board of tiles.

For more information on the Scrabble Tournament visit: http://www.charlottescrabble.com/ec/