Kids’ Scrabble Tournament Sequel: In Other Words…

Turns out that Jeffrey Pogue — the Bedford Middle School 8th grader profiled this morning — is not the only national-level Scrabble competitor. Long Lots 3rd grader Dylan Robbin placed 3rd in the national competition last weekend in Philadelphia, in the elementary school division.

His mother Sara writes:

A year ago, Dylan Robbin learned competitive scrabble was actually a thing. I showed him an “06880” article about Jeffrey Pogue, a Bedford Middle School student, who had just won the highest division of the National Scrabble Tournament.

Dylan, who loved the game of Scrabble, looked on the internet to see the age limit for entering. It was 8 years old. He was just 7. He said, “Next year, I’m going.”

The article mentioned a Scrabble Club at the Ridgefield Library run by Cornelia Guest, who coaches Scrabble champions.

Dylan, who had only played with family members and on the computer, tried the club for the first time this fall.

It was a far drive, and Dylan would get home at bedtime, so I figured I’d try it once.

When we got there we saw a sign-up for the Terror of the Tiles tournament to be held in the library on a Sunday in October. Dylan wanted to enter. I figured this would be an easy way to cross “Scrabble tournament” off my list.

It was Dylan’s first time playing competitive Scrabble, with timers. But he won the elementary school division. Cornelia suggested he enter the North American School Scrabble Tournament in Philadelphia.

I knew this would not be a one time thing.

My husband and I were hesitant to enter the national tournament because of Dylan’s age and lack of experience. He would be playing kids a few years older who were on the competitive Scrabble circuit (yes, there is one). But he begged to go. He loves competitive sports, so playing the board game he loves competitively was right up his alley.

Being new to the club, Dylan did not have a partner. But Stefan Fatsis, the author of Word Freak, called Cornelia, looking for one for a 3rd grader from San Antonio, Ricky Rodriguez.

The boys would never meet or play together live until the night before the competition. They did play online a few times as the tournament got closer, talking on the phone to discuss their best plays.

I heard them from the other room discussing words and where to place them. It sounded like they were speaking a different language.

They chose the name Scrabbleclef for their team, since they both play piano. And their teamwork was like 2 hands on it – one melody, one harmony. The boys had different strengths, but they worked together beautifully.

Dylan Robbin (left), Cornelia Guest and Dylan’s partner Ricky Rodriguez.

They finished the first day 6-0, beating kids from all over the country, often by several hundred points.

The second day, after winning their first game and making the semifinals, they lost in their 8th game. They missed the finals by just 10 points.

Dylan looks forward to competing again next year. And I am so thankful for learning about competitive Scrabble from “06880.”

Who would have thought Dylan’s favorite family game would take us all the way to Philadelphia a year later?

6 responses to “Kids’ Scrabble Tournament Sequel: In Other Words…

  1. Ilene Mirkine

    Congratulations to the Scrabbleclefs! And thanks for sending this along, Sara…so wonderful to hear of the passion Dylan has for the game, and his insistence (and your cooperation) on making this happen. Looking forward to hearing more!

  2. Jack Krayson

    Has anyone ever watched “UboScrabblenik” on CCP1 (Russian Tv) ?

  3. What a cool story!

  4. Elizabeth Thibault

    These kids are so talented and driven! So impressive and inspiring, to hear where hard work can take you, in just a short time!

  5. Mike Elliot

    Such great stories…….I have heard that people judge you by the way you speak! These kids have taken it to a new level and at such a young age!

  6. Matthew Silver

    I was taught by Cornelia for the 2007-8 National Scrabble Championships. Glad to see Westport still representing the Scrabble scene and Cornelia continuing to do such a great job!