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Scrabble buffs battle it out in tile tourney
National Scrabble competitor John Williams Jr. hovered over a table covered in purple tiles as he quickly calculated his next move.
After placing his word on the board, he immediately moved down the table and scratched his head as he prepared to play another opponent.
Williams, the executive director of the Greenport-based National Scrabble Association, was in the midst of playing five games of Scrabble at once.
“The great thing about [Scrabble] is it’s very creative,” said Williams, who was featured in the 2004 film "Word Wars". “It’s completely different every time you play. You’re making order out of chaos.”
Williams was one of more than 40 wordsmiths competing Sunday in the seventh annual Family Scrabble Festival at the Congregation Tifereth Israel synagogue in Greenport.
The festival pits Scrabble players of all ages and skill levels against each other for the chance to win Scrabble prizes and the chance to play Williams.
“It’s just a way to get together,” said Neville Reece, 15, of East Marion, who brought his three friends to play in the festival. “It’s a good opportunity to have some genuine competition.”
The festival was started seven years ago by Congregation Tifereth Israel president Adrianne Greenberg as a fundraiser. The $8 entry fees for players go toward the congregation.
The festival has become a yearly destination for Scrabble enthusiasts looking to challenge other Long Island competitors.
“It’s a wonderful family game,” said Greenberg, 68, of Greenport. “I remember playing it as a child. It’s multigenerational.”
Players competed in three, 45-minute rounds. The competitors with the highest, combined total scores from all three rounds won each division. The winners took home Scrabble-themed prizes including tip books, guides, and canteens.
David Krumenacker, 15, of Greenport, won the youth division with a total score of 104 points.
Arlene Marvin, of New Suffolk, won the adult 4-player competition with a combined score of 233 points.
Emily Halligan, of Greenport, placed first in the 3-player division with a score of 212 points.
Susan Williams, 48, of Shelter Island, placed first in the 2-player division with a combined score of 395 points.
Jesse Reece, of East Marion, won the award for highest single word score with “splints” for a total of 88 points.
But even with all of their spelling prowess, none of the 10 players who challenged Williams were able to best him this year.
“The thing I like about an event like this is people are here because they want to be and they’re having a good time,” said Williams. “It’s a little different from the cutthroat world of tournament Scrabble that I’ve been involved in for about 30 years. Nobody is mad at me [for winning].”
Pictured above: National Scrabble Association executive director John D. Williams Jr., left, takes on several players at once during the Family Scrabble Festival at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport. (Jan 6, 2013)