While most students scrabble their way through papers and exam weeks, one has been doing a different type of scrabbling for years… and he’s been quite successful at it.
Zachary Ansell, a second-year student considering the classics and computer science, discovered a talent for playing Scrabble when he was only eight years old. He doesn’t just impress his family and friends—Ansell plays competitively and is ranked as one of the top 100 players in the United States. He even beat Jimmy Kimmel on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show when he was just eleven years old.
Initially intrigued by Stefan Fatsis’ book Word Freak, he joined his local Scrabble club in Los Angeles. Recognizing his talent, Ansell started to enter small competitions in California.
“As soon as I read Word Freak, I knew I had a talent for rearranging letters to form words, which is also known as anagramming,” he said. “I’ve improved a lot over the years through practice.”
Balancing school and Scrabble
Competing in national tournaments for the past decade, Ansell has worked diligently to grow his word-building skills. He typically spends an hour each day playing an array of word-related games. In preparation for tournaments, he focuses on learning new words and anagramming them from scrambled letters.
As a college student, Ansell divides his time between studying classics and preparing for his next Scrabble tournaments that are usually during school breaks. In 2023, he competed in Princeton, Lake George, Dublin OH, and the North American SCRABBLE® Championship in Las Vegas, which was his favorite place to visit.
Over the years, there is one word that was particularly memorable for Ansell. Creating a thirteen-letter domination by extending ‘EVENTUAL’ to ‘EVENTUALITIES’ is the move he’s most proud of up to this point.
Ansell is proud of his in-game and overarching accomplishments.
“My highest scoring play was ‘FURZIEST’ for 311 points in an online Scrabble game. That heavily contributed to my score of 707 points, by far my highest single-game score ever.”
Being a three-time winner of the North American School Scrabble Championship—twice in middle school and once in high school—is his proudest overall achievement.
Goals for the new year
His most recent tournaments have been in Phoenix and New Orleans during the winter break. Looking to 2024, Ansell shared his goals.
“My main goal is to achieve an Elo Score rating of 2000, which only 13 players currently have,” Ansell said. “My current ratings across various organizations are in the 1800-1900 range, ranking me about 50th among all active players in North America.”
With such prestigious yet realistic goals, Ansell poses no empty threat when claiming to be the best at game night. His ranking, continuous practice and eagerness to surpass his already impressive feats surely combine to spell out a bright future for this Scrabbler.