Secondary school kids fight for Hong Kong with their own money and efforts

(English translation of the interview by Sky Post on 24 March 2016)

Secondary school kids fight for Hong Kong with their own money and efforts – from Scrabble to international tournaments

Do you know English words like “buzzkill” and “frenemy”? Thousands of these uncommon words are in the heads of 10 secondary school Scrabble fanatics who will be representing Hong Kong in the World Youth Scrabble Championship in Lille, France this summer.

With near 80 years of history, Scrabble is a world popular English word game. There are currently over 270 thousand playable words in Scrabble, including slangs, tech phrases, and onomatopoeias. On a 15 x 15 grid of squares board, 2 to 4 players score by forming words vertically and horizontally. Different alphabets have different points, ranging from the common E-s and S-s with 1 point to the rare Q and Z with 10 points. The one scoring higher overall wins the game.

Practising with each other on the Internet everyday

Lam Chi Ho Anson, in secondary 5, has been playing Scrabble for 4 years. He was among the first batch of Hong Kong players in the World Youth Championship last year, being awarded the “Best Player from a New Country” with a rank of 27th out of over hundred players. Anson thinks that Scrabble can train his logical thinking by devising strategies of beating the opponents. “We have a two-inch thick dictionary,” mentioned Anson, “but I did not really cram the words to my brain; I just played online an hour per day.”

12-year-old Wesley Choy Wing Chi, in secondary 1, is the youngest member in this year’s Team Hong Kong. “I only played Scrabble for one and a half year,” said Wesley, “it’s not difficult to memorize all the playable words in Scrabble, no matter common or not, but having thousands of them in mind is already enough for competing.” He is the only one who can fight for the U14 Champion in the team. When asked about whether he is pressured, the 12-year-old said, “not really. Having a good psychological quality is vital in competitive Scrabble. I will just face the tournament with a calm attitude.”

Hundred thousands of words in little brains

The longest words one can play in Scrabble consist of 15 letters, and there are 5881 of them in the official dictionary, like “Oxyphenbutazone” (organic chemistry) and “Characteristics”. Some words are even not heard of by most people. How do these kids train to have such a good memory? Secondary 4 student Tam Pok Hin, who got into Team Hong Kong for the first time, frowned his eyebrows, “I just recite them without knowing the meanings. I also learn the game techniques from online videos. I rarely have face-to-face practice with others as there is no Scrabble club in my school.” Pok Hin has had more chances to play with fellow Scrabble lovers since he joined the Hong Kong Scrabble Players Association established in 2014.

Yip Tsz Hin, President of the Hong Kong Scrabble Players Association, told us that 10 secondary school students have just been selected to represent Hong Kong in the World Youth Scrabble Championship for the second time; but due to legal problems, the Association cannot sponsor them, so they have to pay over ten thousand Hong Kong dollars for the trip to France themselves. Let’s give a big applause to the students fighting for Hong Kong with their own money and efforts!