Preparations in top gear for regional scrabble tourney
Plans are afoot for the 17th edition of the East, Central and South Africa Championship (ECASA) which are set to take place over the Easter break between April 7 and 9.
A large field of 100 players are expected to take part in the three days tournament that has attracted Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, guest players from Liberia and Nigeria as well as hosts Kenya.
Team Kenya has had a series of five qualifiers since last year and will be having a team of 25 players and five reserves representing the country.
In the last ECASA tournament, Kenya had six players in the top 10 with Allan Oyende leading the pack with a remarkable third win in a row. While the regular podium players, Oyende, Gitonga, Gongolo, Willy Mwangi will this time be seeking to solidify their scrabble legacies, there is a crop of young players who have been challenging the “podium cartels” as they are fondly referred to.
The group of young players is led by Philip Mutinda. In the second last qualifier in Kitui, he managed to put up a brave fight against Kenya’s highest rated player, Allan Oyende and ended up landing position two. He had this to say about the upcoming event: “I have played in one ECASA, this will be my second. I was position 6 by day 2 but fell to position 18 by day 3. Going into this one, stamina will be my main focus. In my preparation, I’ve been focusing on accumulating as many words as possible before my second appearance in this prestigious competition.”
Meanwhile, team Kenya will face a stiff challenge from a resurgent word cranes of Uganda whose top seed Odongkara managed a podium finish in the last qualifier in Bondo.
“Team Uganda comes to ECASA this year carrying a grudge. A grudge of nearly 20 years. Our mission this year is to disrupt the Kenyan domination in the game and to start a tradition in which Uganda stamps its authority in the tournament,” said Geria Richard alias The Phenomenon, a seasoned Uganda player who managed position four in the last ECASA.
Zambia anchored by the evergreen Patrick Mpundu will likely upset the form book too. Not forgetting the guest players from Liberia led by the man of many names, Alvin Roberts. Alvin has proven to be a thorn on the Kenyan side in the past events with his performance growing in each and every Tournament. The Liberian has not only pestered but also conquered and in the last qualifiers in Bondo, he bagged position 3.
There will be sparks flying after the 27th game on 9th April. It will be interesting to see which country rules the top ten and which player outsmarts the horde.
While the battle field will be awash with many a shuffling, challenges and bursts of excited hurrah, there will be a side event for those who didn’t make the cut. This will be a chance to experience the heat of the word masters. Easter promises to be a splendid scrabble outing.