Oxford’s Scrabble Superstar
Clarendon Scholar Chris May last week broke the Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous games of Scrabble played at one time by an individual.
Pitting himself against 28 opponents in the Oxford University Press staff restaurant, May moved from game to game, playing a single word at each board before moving to the next. To secure the record, he had to win at least 75 percent of the games played. Eventually he won 25 of the 28, breaking the previous record which saw Ganesh Asirvatham take on just 25 opponents in India in 2007.
May, 29, originally hails from Sydney, Australia and regularly plays Scrabble at an international level. For some sobering perspective on your own Scrabble playing, his highest score in a tournament game is 732 points, and he once scored 257 points in a single turn (with the word “acquight”, in case you were wondering).
Now a DPhil student in Musicology at Lincoln College, May took on the challenge to raise money for Assisted Reading for Children (ARCh) — an Oxfordshire charity that helps children who are experiencing difficulties with reading. “Scrabble was certainly something that got me excited about reading as a child,” explains May “I’m thrilled to be able to help a wonderful educational charity like ARCh by playing a game I’ve always loved.”
May’s opponents were made up of a combination of UK tournament Scrabble players and staff and students from the University, and the record attempt lasted almost five hours. In fact, it’s that sheer weight of time that caused the most headaches. “Maintaining focus was a challenge,” he explains. “I had only a few seconds to reacquaint myself with each board position and find the possibilities from each set of letters, and keeping that up for over four hours was quite tough going.”
If you’re interested in rising to the dizzying heights of Scrabble accomplishment achieved by May, he has some advice. “Most expert players practise solving anagrams at high speed,” he explains. “I try to spend about an hour a day doing that, and have done for nearly a decade. That’s the bulk of the training.” Nobody said it was going to be easy.