Muhammad Sulaiman ‘Coerces’ His Way to Scrabble Championship

Posted on May 17, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Sports
15 Comments
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Adil Najam

A reader emailed me this morning to say that Pakistani ‘Scrabbler’ Muhammad Sulaiman had won an international Scrabble tournament, beating the World No. 1 on his way to the top (his performance in the tournament here). I was intrigued – not just because it is always nice to hear of a Pakistani doing well internationally, but because Scrabble (much like Carom Board) that many Pakistanis have a particular passion for and which many of us grew up playing with great earnestness.

Although I had been sent a link to the official website where the results were posted, a search on Pakistan news sites revealed no mention of his victory. This, I thought, was sad. I did the search again a little while ago. I am now happy to say that I was, in fact, mistaken.

I just found an excellent story on Muhammad Sulaiman’s victory in The Express Tribune (an exciting new addition to the Pakistani newspaper landscape):

Pakistani scrabble champion Muhammad Sulaiman has toppled former world champion Nigel Richards to third rank as he secured first position in the Malta International Scrabble Open Championship 2010.

‘Intines’ and ‘coerces’ were two of Sulaiman’s timely placed bingo words that took him to the top and scored 70 and 94 points, respectively. Even though Richards had the highest spread of 1,883, he could not win the championship as he had lost more matches than Sulaiman. The Third Malta International Scrabble Open was the biggest tournament in Malta this year as notable players, such as Nigel Richards, who has been the world’s strongest scrabble player from New Zealand, and remarkable British players, such as Craig Beevers and Scot Helen Gipson participated in it.

The championship was held at the Suncrest Hotel in Qawra between May 14 and May 16. A total of 60 contestants from 14 countries participated. A renowned scrabble champion from Pakistan, Ishtiaq Chisty, also referred to as ‘baba scrabble’ admitted that beating Richards is not an easy task as he is a refined player. “I have played against Nigel in Bangkok, when I beat him once but he beat me twice,” said Chishty, “Nigel has not only been a former world champion but also a champion in Britain and America.” He added that this is a remarkable achievement as both countries use different dictionaries. “International players are very strong and one cannot afford to make any mistakes in front of them,” commented Waseem Khatri, the current national champion among professional scrabble players.

Sulaiman went to the tournament on his own expenses due to limited funding at the Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA). “Sulaiman is one of those senior players who refuses to use the association’s funds even for official tours because he wants the funds to be used to promote the game locally,” said PSA’s secretary, Javaid Iqbal. Sulaiman also scored a high position in 2007 at the International Scrabble Championship, being the only contestant from Asia.

The Pakistan Scrabble Association that represents Pakistan at the national and international level comprises players from Karachi only as interests in this game and funds for it are limited. “Sometimes new players in Pakistan are discouraged when they see the high standards at which present players play this sport,” boasted Iqbal. Chishty also bragged that people outside Pakistan are surprised when they see Pakistani contestants playing so well. The game has gained popularity at high school level and championships are organised between schools. Shahzeb Khatri, an SSC student, won the inter-school scrabble in 2009 beating students from more prestigious schools, such as Karachi Grammar, Mama Parsi and St Patricks.

The Sindh sports board is contemplating adding this game permanently to the board. “We received a call from the Sindh Sports Board that they were interested but we waiting for their final decision,” said Iqbal. Organising secretary of Sindh Games 2010, Musheer Rabbani, said that they only reason why scrabble is not being added to the list of official games is lack of funds. “We had to select from 47 games and we are trying to see if we can add scrabble because funds are low.”

I must confess that learning of this news makes me feel good. As does the knowledge that there is a Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA). Their website is interesting to visit, even though it seems not to have been updated for a long time.

I do not know why this little news makes me so happy. I hope it is not just because I wish to be distracted from all the big bad news that keeps being dumped on us. I hope that, instead, it is because I do believe that the future of hope in Pakistan lies not with those spewing the venom of vitriolic violence in the name of misplaced religiosity, but with those silent multitudes whose Pakistaniat continues to be embodied in the small pleasures of life: a round of carom board, a game a Scrabble, a bout of bait baazi, a dip in the Lahore canal, a paitcha on the patang!

Well done, Muhammad Sulaiman. And thank you for keeping our hope in the glory of small pleasures alive!

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15 responses to “Muhammad Sulaiman ‘Coerces’ His Way to Scrabble Championship”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    Well, you do not have to go far to see the headlines of gloom, doom and pure tabloid.

  2. Deeda-e-Beena says:

    GREAT ACHIEVEMENT SULAIMAN SAHIB!

    Zara Nam Ho Tou Yeh Mitti Barri Zarkhaiz Haih……….

    Reminds me of my Post here at ATP on the International achievements of Pakistani Blind Cricketers, 17 December 2006.

    In this country of 180 Millions there is much undiscovered talent!!

    I wish the regular writers and visitors to ATP could each contribute at least one such Post to counter all the doom and gloom expressed by the ignorant!!!!!

  3. goodjobsulaiman says:

    Great news indeed.
    Waisay, can you use the word ‘rattofy’ in scrabble?

  4. Ahmed says:

    What next? A Pakistani world champion in Gilli-Danda? Oh, well! We’ll take what we can get…

    -A

  5. Kasim Mahmood says:

    Thanks for covering this news and congratulations to Mr. Sulaiman for taking the top honors. There was a time when Pakistan was a contender for titles in cricket, field hockey, squash, bridge, snooker and even yachting. Those were the days ….. and no reason why they can’t come back.

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