A small European bird and a Chinese shrub helped propel a former Ellesmere Port man to the very top of the UK Scrabble league.
Phil Robertshaw, 38, who now lives in the north Somerset town of Nailsea but hails from Little Sutton, has been crowned the 2016 National Scrabble Champion.
Phil finally reaped reward for his dedication to years of serious Scrabble word study and practice when he won the final critical game in round 17 at this year’s event organised by the Association of British Scrabble Players in Milton Keynes.
He defeated Lewis Mackay from Cambridge, who has been playing since the age of 10 and was briefly world no 1, to take the title.
The championships saw a field of 52 players from around the UK taking part, each having qualified through regional events earlier in the year.
With the field including two past world champions and several previous national winners insiders say Phil had to be at the peak of his game to win 14 of the games.
Each game is played against the clock with each player having 25 minutes to play all their moves.
‘Clear and calm thinking’ is said to be needed if a game goes down to the wire with scores close and just minutes left.
Four of Phil’s wins were by fewer than 20 points with his narrowest victory being just four points.
But he didn’t let the nerves get to him when it mattered in game 17, finding ‘delightful’ words such as ‘UPVALUED’ worth 78 points from an otherwise awful rack of ‘ADLPUUV’.
He also slotted in a neat ‘HAIKU’ for 62 points and managing to pluralise Lewis Mackay’s ‘NANOWIRE’ to score a tripleword with ‘ZINCS’ (68 points) before fending off endgames threats.
Phil’s average game score over the 17 games in the tournament was 470 and his highest game score was 604.
Some of the bonus-scoring words he played in this year’s event were:
‘DAVIDIA’ a Chinese shrub.
‘DETRAQUE’ a deranged person from the French.
‘KEROGEN’ the organic matter in oil-shale that yields oil.
‘NIHONGA’ a Japanese style of painting using bright colours and
‘WHIMBREL’ a small European curlew with a striped head.