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Scrabble's New King Is Crowned

August 06, 2004|Monte Morin | Times Staff Writer

Don't ask Trey Wright what the word "teopans" means -- he just knows it's a word.

At the National Scrabble Assn. Championship in New Orleans on Thursday, the 30-year-old Van Nuys resident became Scrabble's new king when he "bingoed out" and used his last remaining tiles to spell teopans -- or Aztec temples.

"My goal when I wanted to become a great Scrabble player was to know every word in the dictionary," said Wright, a classical concert pianist.

But when you play Scrabble, knowing the meaning is not a requirement.

Wright, who defeated mathematics professor David Gibson of South Carolina, pocketed $25,000 in prize money in the biannual competition. The championship began July 31 with 800 contestants and was covered by ESPN. Contestants ranged in age from 11 to 93.

"It was absolutely grueling," said Wright, who played up to seven or eight hours a day throughout the competition. "I'm ecstatic now

The Scrabble champion said his love for the board game flowered when he was 17 or 18.

He began his training by attempting to memorize all the words in the dictionary, and drew up flashcards to drill with.

On the back of the flashcard he wrote the dictionary word, and on the front he wrote the word with its letters rearranged in alphabetical order. He learned to recognize the scrambled version.

"I think Scrabble has a real future," Wright said. "And I hope I'm able to play it until I'm an old man."

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