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Meet Nigel Richards: The Scrabble Champ Making History

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In every competitive setting, there is often one person who stands as the best of the best. Basketball has Michael Jordan. American football has Tom Brady. The title of best Scrabble player rests squarely on the shoulders of one man: Nigel Richards. Nigel is a multiple-time worldwide Scrabble champion. No other player has ever come close to the same level of dominance as he has.

Who Is Nigel Richards?

Nigel Richards has been a world-renowned Scrabble player for more than 20 years. Born in 1967 in New Zealand, Nigel was actually a late arrival to the competitive Scrabble scene. His interest in the game didn’t begin till he was 28 years old and his mother gifted him a copy of the board game.

Currently, Nigel resides in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and represents the country in tournaments.

Despite his late start (compared to many other prominent players), Nigel Richards quickly asserted himself as one of the most skilled and dominant competitors in Scrabble. From playing in his local Scrabble club in Christchurch, New Zealand to the numerous tournaments he’s competed in around the world, Nigel claimed an unprecedented number of game wins and high tournament placings.

Keys to His Success

There are many reasons why Richards is such a remarkable Scrabble player. These three are the core of what makes him such a dominant force in the game:

  • Memorization of words: Nigel contests the idea, but many people — fans, journalists and fellow Scrabble players — believe that Nigel has an eidetic memory. His ability to recall nearly any legal words from the Scrabble dictionary is uncanny.

  • Mastery of Scrabble’s rules: Knowing the best playable words is not enough. Nigel also knows exactly when and where to play them. He knows how the scores add up and the best ways to maximize them.

  • Ability to plan ahead: Nigel doesn’t just play the game. He plays the person he’s playing against. They have strategies and options, just like he does. Richards anticipates what they want to do on the board and plans a strategy to beat it.

The Famous Play of 1998

One of the most famous examples of his skills came early in his career. 

In a tournament game in 1998, Nigel had the letters C, D, H, L, N and R on his rack. He also had a blank tile. There was an E on the board. People assumed he would use it to spell the word “children.” Doing so would have also earned him a bingo. 

Instead, Nigel used two O’s that were also on the board, along with a different E, to spell “chlorodyne.” He still got the bingo, plus significantly more points for the harder word.

scrabble game play example nigel richards movescrabble game play example nigel richards move

Stats and Facts to Prove His Prowess

Mastering every aspect of the game has allowed Nigel to reach a legendary status among Scrabble players. His stats for competitive play continue to impress:

  • Nigel Richards has an Elo rating in the 2,100 to 2,200 range. 

  • His peak Scrabble rating was 2,307

  • For context, the median Scrabble rating of a tournament player is about 1,200.

  • His career average Scrabble score is 448 (to his opponent’s 392).

  • By the end of 2018, Nigel had 2,811 wins from 3,673 games. He wins about 75 percent of the tournament games he plays.

  • His career earnings total over $225,694.

The Silent Scrabble Giant

Despite his mastery of words for Scrabble, Nigel Richards is ironically not much of a talker. 

He rarely speaks about himself and almost never gives interviews. Naturally, this reclusiveness has created a level of intrigue about him. This enigmatic nature has, along with his skills, propelled his fame to unmatched levels in the Scrabble community.

What’s His Scrabble Tournament Record?

Nigel Richards holds the record for the most Scrabble World Championship wins. As of 2019, he has claimed the title five times. No one else in the history of the game has won more than one.

Scrabble World Championships aren’t the only tournaments Nigel Richards has dominated. He’s competed in national tournaments in various countries. For example, he’s competed in the U.S. National Scrabble Championship 12 times and won five of those. Wherever he is, as long as he has a Scrabble board and a bag of tiles, he can thrive.

Greatest Tournament Results

Nigel Richards’ performance at high-profile tournaments is undeniably impressive. He has won dozens of championships over the years.

  • Scrabble World Championships (5): 2007, 2011, 2013, 2018, 2019

  • U.S. National Scrabble Championships (5): 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

  • Thailand International - King’s Cup (15): 1999, 2000 [x2], 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019

  • Singapore Open Scrabble Championships (12): 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016

  • UK Open (10): 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

A French Scrabble Champ Too!

If you weren’t impressed before, hearing about this additional feat will certainly change that. Nigel Richards has put his memorization and Scrabble skills to good use by competing in numerous French Scrabble tournaments. He’s not only competed in French tournaments; he’s won them too. 

Currently, Nigel Richards has 11 tournament wins in France. What makes this even more impressive is that Nigel does not speak French. To compete in these tournaments, he literally memorized the French Scrabble dictionary. He managed to learn the words well enough to even challenge his opponent’s words. His opponents actually spoke the language.

Nigel’s success with a language he does not understand is irrefutable proof of his Scrabble prowess. It’s also proof of a remarkable mind in general.

Will You Be the Next Scrabble Legend?

If Nigel Richards’ story inspires you to up your own Scrabble game, then you should make the most of it. Maybe, with a lot of practice and discipline, you can become the next dominant force in competitive Scrabble. If that’s something you want, then you’ll need to do some studying. Read about these three essential Scrabble rules to help jumpstart your Scrabble career.


Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.

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