Castine hosts the national Scrabble tournament

CASTINE, Maine (WABI) – Castine is the site for people from across the United States this weekend for a national Scrabble tournament.

The Castine tournament has been an annual event since 2016 and is making a comeback after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“It’s a very nice setting for almost everything, but for scrabble players it’s also often important to have an interesting destination,” said tournament director and player Steve Pellinen of Minnesota. “Those of us who come here love the area.”

Lisa Odem, also from Minnesota, is one of the highest-ranked Scrabble players in North America, and says it’s more than just a pun.

“You also need to know the strategy,” Odem said. “You know, you have these letters, but you also have to know how to use them. You must therefore know how to balance your rack, whether defensive or offensive; do you make openings or do you play a closed board.

People came from all over the country to play Scrabble at Castine this weekend. California, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Maine are all represented. Although it’s a tournament, there’s also a lot of camaraderie and a passion for Scrabble that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

“It’s the greatest game ever invented,” Pellinen said. “There are elements of chess, poker, luck, skill.”

“It’s the tile draw,” added Johanna Sweet, who lives in Castine and is playing in her second Scrabble tournament. “That’s what you have on the board. It’s always changing. No game is the same and it’s always exciting. Like opening a treasure box or something.

Castine City Manager Shawn Blodgett welcomed the players to Castine. He does not play, but his wife does, but not in this tournament.

“She asked to see if Scrabble was a spectator sport, and I said, ‘I don’t think so? Maybe on the balcony, I don’t know.

Maybe for her it’s just as well.

“You can be a great player at home and you will always be impressed and amazed at how well these players manage to score more than you,” Leppinen said.

Each player will play sixteen games of scrabble over the next two days. A session longer than your average game at home, but still like family.

“People travel to be together,” Sweet said. “There is a bond. And I think to some extent there’s also a geeky side to getting into Scrabble. It’s just fun.

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