Meet one of the best Scrabble players in the world

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Global tournament star Israeli Evan Cohen shares what it takes to be a winning writer.

The definition of the word “curved” is to bend something. But for Evan Cohen, it took on a whole new meaning. It is the word that has scored him the most points (176) in a game of Scrabble.

When you’re a competitive Scrabble player like Cohen, you look at every word like something out of a toolbox. “Any word that wins me the game is my favorite word in this game,” he said, pointing out that even simple words like “dog” and “cat” could push him over the top. “I think my favorite words are words that seem misspelled. There are a lot of them. These are the kind of words I like.”


Competitive Scrabble players spend hours perfecting their craft. (Photo: Christophe Archambault / AFP / Getty Images)

At night and on weekends, Cohen, 51, is Israel’s highest-ranked Scrabble player. By day, he is professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University. While you might think this gives him an edge, he is quick to point out that his professional vocation doesn’t translate into board games. “It has nothing to do with Scrabble,” he told From The Grapevine. “Phonetics has to do with sounds and languages. It has nothing to do with spelling or writing or Scrabble. It’s just the field I’m in.”

Cohen takes his hobby seriously. He spends hours and hours studying words and working with computer programs to simulate games. He is also the founder of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club, a group of around 50 regulars who get together weekly to play. He’s even married to another competitive Scrabble player. The two are competing at the 2019 English Scrabble Players Association World Championship in Goa, India this weekend. Cohen is currently ranked No. 141 in the world.

Cohen’s interest in the game began when he was 9 years old and growing up in South Africa. “I started out like everyone else, with my grandmother in the living room.” He joined his first Scrabble club in his late teens and has been playing competitively ever since. “Lounge Scrabble isn’t the same game. It’s not as competitive, it’s not as consistent. It’s more laid back. It’s fun. I don’t like it anymore.”

Instead, he attends international Scrabble competitions. Almost all use English, leveling the playing field and allowing players around the world to compete against each other. They usually consist of three days and dozens of games. “It’s pretty intense,” he said.

After a full day of competition, Cohen says the players have gone wild. “They are heavy drinkers,” he laughed to us. “Scrabble players drink a lot. It helps you forget about the troubles of the day. It’s a pretty cheesy crowd as you can imagine. They aren’t particularly wild people.”

Participants focus at a competitive Scrabble tournament in 2016 in Bangkok.Participants focus at a competitive Scrabble tournament in 2016 in Bangkok. (Photo: Christophe Archambault / AFP / Getty Images)

Compared to chess, Cohen said Scrabble is extremely easy to learn. “I can literally teach someone to play Scrabble in five minutes,” he explained. “If you like words and you like strategy, this is a great game. And no two games are the same. They are always different from each other. You will never get the same. game twice. “

With these endless possibilities, he said he hopes to play for many years to come. “I see no reason to stop. As long as I can, I will keep doing this. I have traveled all over the world and I love it.”

He said he was no longer going on regular vacation. “I’m only going to Scrabble on vacation.”

Evan Cohen is Israel's # 1 ranked Scrabble player.Evan Cohen is Israel’s # 1 ranked Scrabble player. (Photo: courtesy photo)

Global tournament star Israeli Evan Cohen shares what it takes to be a winning writer.


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