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Non-French speaker wins French Scrabble world title

@FFScrabble / Twitter I Nigel Richards, from New Zealand, won the 44th World Championships of French Scrabble in Louvain, Belgium, on Monday July 21

The Francophone world crowned a new Scrabble champion on Monday – a man from New Zealand who barely speaks a word of French.

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Nigel Richards, considered one of the world’s greatest players of the word-based board game, beat opponents from France, Canada, Belgium and Francophone Africa on his way to claiming the title at the 44th World Championships of French Scrabble in the Belgian town of Louvain.

But unlike his competitors who all grew up speaking French as their mother tongue, Richards cannot even string a sentence together in the language.

He claims to have memorised the entire French dictionary in just nine weeks before the tournament began, without learning how to pronounce the words or their meanings.

"Nigel can say ‘bonjour’ – with an accent – he can tell you the scores in French … But that’s all," Yves Brenez of the Belgian Federation of Scrabble told Francetv info.

"He learnt the French vocabulary in just nine weeks. For him, words are just a combination of letters. I exaggerate a bit, but he knows [words] that others have taken ten years to learn."

If Richards’ victory injured the Gallic pride of the players or audience in Belgium, they didn’t show it, instead giving the New Zealander a standing ovation.

The French Federation of Scrabble even paid tribute to Richards with a congratulatory message on its official site in English.

"Congratulations Nigel, you're amazing, " it said.

Richards, who lives in Malaysia, is already something of a legend in the world of Scrabble, with one English-language world championship to his name and five US national championship titles.

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