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Highgate teenager crowned world’s best youth Scrabble player

Jack Durand. Picture: Polly Hancock. Jack Durand. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
10:28 AM

A Highgate teenager has become the first British player in history to win the World Youth Scrabble Championships.

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Jack Durand, 14, of North Hill, won 20 of his 24 games in the three-day contest held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to be crowned world champion and clinch a $1,000 (£606.45) prize on Sunday (August 31).

The City of London School pupil was so dominant in the tournament that he was deemed the winner with two games still left to play, having amassed an insurmountable lead over more than 120 fellow young competitors from around the world.

Jack’s winning words included “NEINEI”, a New Zealand shrub, “ASTONED”, an archaic form of ‘astonished’, and “WOURALI”, a poisonous plant extract, as well as “MISTINGS” across two triple-word scores for a whopping 122 points in a single turn.

His mother Dr Lynne Riley, a consultant paediatrician who travelled with her son for the tournament, said: “He’s over the moon. He didn’t really think he could come first but he was in first position after day one.

“It’s been what he’s wanted to do for several years.”

The victory was Jack’s first world championship win, having contested five tournaments since 2010. He finished fifth last year in Dubai, making him the best under-14 in the world.

The young wordsmith has been playing Scrabble since he was six and entering competitions since he was nine.

He became the UK’s under-18 Scrabble champion at the National Youth Scrabble Championship last year.

Dr Riley, who funds her son’s trips to tournaments around the world, said he now had his eyes set on success in the adult Scrabble circuit.

“I think his next goal is to retain the world youth title,” she said. “He wants to start to win some adult tournaments too and ultimately I’m sure he wants to become adult world champion.”

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