DANVILLE — The 12th annual Scrabble for Literacy event is set for this weekend at Danville Area Community College’s student union in Lincoln Hall, with word game enthusiasts expected to converge on campus to flex their vocabulary vigor.
The event, which consists of two one-day tournaments on Saturday and Sunday, is supported by the North American Scrabble Players Association Local Clubs 601 (Charleston) and 590 (Champaign). The tournaments will benefit The Reader’s Route literacy program at DACC. The event draws about 50 participants each year and has raised $1,500 to $1,800 for the program in the past.
The Reader’s Route, offered through the DACC Adult Education Division, recruits and trains volunteer tutors to help adults improve reading and math skills and increase the literacy rate in the area. The Reader’s Route program is made possible by a grant awarded by the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of Secretary of State, using state funds designated for literacy.
The Scrabble tournament is open to the public and helps provide publicity for the literacy program as well as fund the purchase of materials for the program. Proceeds from the Scrabble tournament are used to help fund a $500 scholarship that is awarded to a Reader’s Route GED student who plans to continue his or her education at DACC, and also to purchase training materials and supplies for Reader’s Route tutors and students.
“We want to purchase citizenship books and continue to offer scholarships to our GED students,” Brandice Connor, DACC literacy coordinator, said.
This year’s Scrabble event includes three separate activities so that players of all levels of interest and skill can find something to enjoy. Two one-day tournaments sanctioned by the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) will be held both Saturday and Sunday, while an unrated two-game mini tournament is set for Sunday afternoon.
Although many of the tournaments’ participants are NASPA rated, more “everyday” players are encouraged to come out to the event.
Casual players are welcome to attend a free open house from 2:30-5 p.m. Saturday. Boards will be available for casual games, and tournament director Marty Gabriel will provide free consultation and expert playing tips.
Casual play is for players who are unaccustomed to tournament play, and NASPA membership is not required for Sunday’s two-game mini tourney. Modified NASPA rules will be followed and lists of commonly used words will be given to all players. In the casual play tournaments, entrants will be allowed to use “cheat sheets” that contain all acceptable two- and three-letter words as well as some short lists of “vowel dump” words and words that contain high-point tiles, such as J, Q, X and Z.
“Hopefully if they come to the open house, they’ll be interested and come back on Sunday for the mini tournament,” Gabriel said. “Kids can even play in that.”
Registration for the unrated two-game mini tourney begins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Connor said this year’s fees for casual play have been reduced to encourage a larger turnout.
The entry fee is $10 for adults and $5 for students with valid school ID. Deluxe playing equipment, including colorful plastic tourney tiles, will be supplied for the casual game. Participants will be able to gain tournament experience and compete for prizes while contributing to the Reader’s Route fundraiser.
“We’re trying to get more community involvement,” Connor said. “If they’re interested in playing for fun, they should come out to the mini tournament. There still will be a prize for the mini tournament – a $25 gift card to a local restaurant for the winner of the mini tournament.
“Fifty-two people have already signed up, which is more than last year,” she added.
The two one-day NASPA-rated tournaments, which are open to rated and unrated players, will be held on both Saturday and Sunday. In the NASPA tournaments, digital chess-like timers will be used and each player will be penalized for exceeding his or her 25-minute-per-game time allotment.
Players may participate in one tournament or both. Membership in NASPA is required for participation in both of the seven-game NASPA-rated tournaments. Membership may be obtained on-site for as little as $15 for a half year. The entry fee for the NASPA-rated tourney is $40 for one day or $70 for both days.
Between 30 and 40 players are expected to compete in each of the NASPA tourneys, which are divided into eight-player divisions according to established player ratings, with unrated players being placed in a novice level division. Each rated tournament will follow NASPA rules and have a round robin format. Prizes will be awarded in each division. Results from Saturday’s tournament will be submitted to NASPA and updated ratings will be posted before the tournament on Sunday.
Gabriel has helped organize the event for the ninth straight year. He is a certified North American Scrabble Players Association director and has qualified to represent the United States at the last five World Scrabble Championships.
Gabriel uses his Scrabble connections to bring in established NASPA-rated players from six states — including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee — to DACC’s annual event.
In 2012 was the first time the DACC event was conducted over two days. Gabriel said extending the event has been well received by Scrabble players who travel to Danville from out of state.
NASPA, with a membership of more than 4,000 players, hosts official Scrabble tournaments throughout the U.S. and Canada, with an official dictionary and rules for competitive tournament play.
For more information about the Scrabble for Literacy event, visit the event’s website at www.danvillescrabble.com and click on the “other activities” link, or contact Danville Area Community College Literacy Coordinator Brandice Connor at 443-8785.