W-I-N-N-E-R! Oregon Man Crowned Scrabble Champ

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -
Conrad Bassett-Bouchard reacts Wednesday after he won the title at the National Scrabble Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
Conrad Bassett-Bouchard reacts Wednesday after he won the title at the National Scrabble Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

Conrad Bassett-Bouchard started his championship Scrabble game Wednesday with the word “zilch” and finished with the opposite — the $10,000 prize and title of national Scrabble champion.

The 24-year-old player from Portland, Ore., beat 29-year-old Jason Li of Montreal in the final round of the five-day 25th National Scrabble Championships at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The tournament’s second seed, Bassett-Bouchard drew a wildcard blank tile and an “s” on his first seven-tile rack. He led for most of the match, winning by a score of 477-350.

“I was playing catch-up right to the end,” said Li, the 18th seed, who had the letters to play an obscure but potentially high-scoring word but didn’t see it, creating a buzz among experienced onlookers.

“He’s going to be kicking himself for missing ‘gramarye,’” tournament director John Chew said.

The final game saw Bassett-Bouchard and Li head-to-head at a white-linen-draped table. Although it was just one of dozens of games taking place inside the cavernous room, the muffled clattering of tiles as players shook and drew from cloth drawstring bags was virtually the only sound.

The winning board contained the words florigen, trooz, venerate, contuse and barf.

The tournament, which drew 525 players from 11 countries, began days after 5,000 new words were added to “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary,” but players won’t be able to use those entries — including much-anticipated two-letter words da, gi and po — until next year.