Belfast Telegraph

Boarding a flight for Scrabble glory

by Natalie Irvine

A south Belfast solicitor crowned the 2006 ‘Champion of champions’ on popular TV quiz Countdown, has swapped his law books for a dictionary again — but this time to represent the UK in an international Scrabble championship in Malaysia.

Paul Gallen, 24, who practices his high numbered moves at his monthly scrabble club in St Bride’s Hall on Derryvolgie Road, headed out to the paradise destination late last week to take part in this year’s highly respected Causeway Scrabble tournament.

With scrabble matches amongst the biggest names in competitive play officially kicking off yesterday (Wednesday December 1), Paul said of the experience: “Qualifying for this tournament is probably my biggest achievement since I started playing Scrabble |competitively.

“I really want the UK team to win and I think we have a strong chance. Scrabble has allowed me to meet some great people and travel to lots of different countries. I enjoy the combination of the maths and language aspects of the game so I’m ready for this challenge!”

Paul took up Scrabble professionally five years ago and has since made a huge impact on the circuit — being crowned All Ireland National Scrabble Champion this year too. However, this tournament will prove much more difficult for the local champ, as he faces stiff competition from 150 players from 20 different countries, playing a gruelling 45 games over just five days — however stakes are high with a prize fund of £18,000 within his grasp.

Sara-Jane Jamison a busy mum and chairperson of Northern Ireland Scrabble Players Association (NISPA) said: “Paul is one of the founding members of our organisation and the monthly scrabble night, so we are delighted he is off to represent the country at the tournament and are supporting him all the way.

“Our club is still small in membership, but as you can tell we have some of the best scrabble players in the country coming along! But if you are a scrabble beginner or just like to play casually don’t let this put you off. Our monthly meet is a very friendly setting and we encourage players of all ages and capabilities to come along. We also host international tournaments too, the next one taking place early next year.”

You can follow the progress of Paul and his team mates at www.causewayscrabble.com

Meanwhile Belfast Scrabble Club meets at 7pm next Tuesday, December 7, for its first Tuesday of the month slot at St Bride's Hall, 38 Derryvolgie Avenue, (just off the Lisburn Road). Players of all abilities welcome and boards, clocks and tiles are provided.

Fee is £5 which is to cover the cost of room hire (check at reception what room the club is in as it sometimes varies). Website is www.scrabbleni.org

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