Scrabble legend and former English language scrabble champion Nigel Richards, has won the french language world scrabble championship – beating a challenger from French-speaking Gabon, in west Africa.

Nigel, aged 48, reportedly learnt an entire French Scrabble dictionary in nine weeks before the tournament.  An unbelieving French-speaking audience gave him a standing ovation after he won the French title, keeping a clean sheet, two games to nil in the final.  

Mr Richards was originally from Christchurch, but now lives in Malaysia.  He won the English world championship in 2007 and 2011.  A late developer, he took the game up at the age of 28, after playing it with his mum.  According to the telegraph, The French Scrabble Federation described Mr Richards’ victory as “amazing” – using the English word in a tweet after the contest.

He beat Gabon’s Schelick Ilagou Rekawe two games to nil in the final and is competing in two more French-speaking tournaments this week, the World Challenge and the Elite Duplicate.

According to a top scrabble player the game at its’ highest level is a test of memory more than of language, which goes some way to explaining how Mr Richards won in a language unknown to him.

Competition player Oliver Roeder, talking to FiveThirtyEightLife, said “For living-room players, Scrabble is about language, a test of vocabularies.  For world-class players, it’s about cold memorisation and mathematical probabilities… Words exist merely as valid strings with which to score points.”

Apparently, the top players “tend not to be novelists or poets, but more often computer programmers or mathematicians.”