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How to win at Scrabble? Know your numbers according to world title hopeful John Ashmore

PUBLISHED: 16:18 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:14 31 October 2017

John Ashmore is heading to Kenya to clinch a world Scrabble title. Photo: James Paget Hospital

John Ashmore is heading to Kenya to clinch a world Scrabble title. Photo: James Paget Hospital

James Paget Hospital

Scrabble? It’s a numbers game!

That is the startling revelation made by Norfolk hopeful John Ashmore as he heads to Kenya to pull a world Scrabble title out of the bag.

The payroll clerk at Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital spends his days looking after numbers to ensure staff at the hospital are paid.

But after work he becomes a man of letters – and is recognised as one of the best Scrabble players in the world.

This week he is preparing to put his talents to the test again when he flies out to the Kenyan capital Nairobi to compete in the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association Championship 2017.

Mr Ashmore, from Bradwell, is one of up to ten players hoping for top honours for England against more than 100 from across the globe.

The tournament involves each participant completing 32 games, all hoping the tiles will fall in their favour.

In the next round the two top-ranked players go head-to-head in a best-of-seven-games final to find the winner.

While John started playing the game as a child, he only took up Scrabble seriously in 2000 and since then has worked his way up to compete at the top level.

He took part in the 2015 world championships held in Perth, Australia, winning 16 of his 32 games and achieving a highest game score of 538, placing him among the best 100 players in the world.

He said: “I’m looking forward to the trip, which includes five days for the championship and four days for trips in Kenya, which I hope will include a safari.

“Once the tournament starts my aim is to win more than half my games and to do as least as well as I did in Perth.

“I have been working hard to improve my game but I know other competitors will be doing the same. There are a number of resources online and computer programmes that you can use to learn new obscure words that you would normally never use, and there are new teenage whizz kids every year, so the competition is tough and across all age groups.

“While you would think you need to be good with words to be a good Scrabble player, it’s not about understanding their meaning. You’d be surprised at how many top players are mathematicians, as you are constantly having to weigh up probabilities to work out what the best moves are.”

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