Since the maiden edition was held in London, in 1991, no African had ever won the World Scrabble Championship or even played in the final—until now.
Nigeria’s Wellington Jighere has won his and Africa’s first ever world Scrabble title after beating Englishman Lewis Mackay in the final. His win earned him a $10,000 cash prize and can also result in an increased number of slots for Nigerian contestants – currently six- at the next championship.
The competition, held in Perth, Australia, featured over 120 participants and Jighere finished first in a 31-match marathon which spanned four days before gaining victory in the final by winning the first four games in a best of seven series. Jighere’s win has been celebrated as a milestone in Nigeria with president Buhari congratulating the champion.
It was not so smooth sailing for Jighere as he had to contend with other factors asides his opponents. He, alongside the Nigerian contingent, arrived Perth only one day before the event due to visa delays and also had to adjust to a seven hour time difference while dealing with jet lag following the 20-hour trip.
Regardless, the 32 year old won the world title at the third time of asking after finishing third in Mumbai in 2007 and 11th two years later in Malaysia.
Africa does have a bit of history with the event as Kenya, South Africa and Ghana all featured in the first ever championship in 1991 and in total, nine African countries have featured in the championship which was hosted every two years since 1991 and annually since 2013.
Jighere told Guardian Australia he had “undergone fatigue training to mitigate the effects of jetlag, and forgone employment for the past four months to prepare for the championship.”
Combating nerves and fatigue were the main objectives of the new world champion, who had previously played in two other world championships, placing third in Mumbai in 2007 and 11th in Malaysia in 2009. He was sponsored by the Nigerian government to come to Perth and expects a hero’s welcome on his return. He’ll be bringing home a $10,000 cash prize.
“It is the first time that an African has won in these world championships so I have to go and celebrate with them,” Jighere says.