By Catalin Caba

Scrabble in Romania has a short history with the first mentions of it being made in 1982. The game was received with enthusiasm; hundreds of thousands of copies being sold during Communism and lot of tournaments with many competitors, various rules and variants being organized in the early years. There were a couple of young players who used to join adults in these competitions, so the first edition of the National Romanian Championship for them was in 1992.

During the last decade we developed a structure for national competitions which take place in the cities where there are important numbers of young players. It is attractive, with 3 age categories – up to 12yo, between 12 and 15yo and from 16 to 20yo and consists of 3 regular tournaments, some local competitions and a national final. Last year we had 78 young players, but there were years with over 150.

The English national championship for Romanian young players has started somehow by chance. Some dedicated teachers from “Miron Costin” theoretic high school organized in 2013 a scholar scrabble competition in many languages. It was called “Eurolexis” and I was fortunate to read about it in a local newspaper. I went there and I was simply shocked to discover over 100 teenagers socializing around scrabble boards, trying to play in different languages, most of them in English. They had scholar non-rotating boards, tiles, racks, all bought by them or the teachers with their own money.

It was like a gold mine.

I started to see them regularly, teaching them basic things and leaving for them the pleasure to anagram and discover new useful words. So I propose, based on the solid nucleus, to start the national official competition in 2014. The structure is the same now – 3 tournaments of one day – 6 rounds each. It is not much if we’re thinking of the competitive level, but the structure of European school and Romanian in particular is very busy so this is the optimal way for bringing them to play for learning and fun without detracting them from the school duties.

There were 11 players at the first competition, only one of them scoring over 250 points/ game. No bingo was played. Since then, 43 young players have participated in at least one official English competition, the level of play has increased, with an average of almost 2 bingos/ game and the competition is tougher than ever because of an important group of players from a nearby little town, Târgu Frumos (the beautiful borough), who are very talented and keen to participate in English tournaments – Iustin Enea, Darius Drobotă, Alexandru Nechifor, Diana Dumitrescu or Razvan Pletosu, to mention some of them.

One of our goals was to send the best of them to represent Romania in world youth competitions, so we did it twice, first time in Lille (WYSC 2016 – Delia Diac and Diana Sandu) and last year in Torquay (WJSC 2018 – Delia Diac and Cristian Caba). We were not disappointed by their results after they fought for every point with all their knowledge and skills and made us proud.

Tournament play in Romania

Opportunities for further youth development

YES - The Event

The idea of YES Championship came naturally after seeing the major impact of the CSC series of tournaments for the European scrabble. It brought a lot of new players from new European countries to play in official English competitions. Also, we have in mind the duty for our young community of scrabble players to offer them the possibility to experience an international event at home. Above all, the situation of the youth scrabble in Europe is weaker than ever, so we need to discover and train the players for tomorrow, for continuing the tradition of our loved sport of mind and vocabulary.

There are no dedicated tournaments in Europe for young players, apart from some editions of the world youth or junior competitions. The tournament from Iasi, Romania is a good opportunity for newbies to taste the etiquette and adrenalin of an international event, while visiting a nice town.

I was glad to involve Sumbul Siddiqui as the Tournament Director of this new competition. We know her as a model for the young scrabble players. We have agreed on some principles to make it a tournament for what the youth scrabble competitions should be – a reasonable number of rounds, fun without the pressure for results, as there will be no taxes and prizes consisting of trophies for the winners, diplomas and souvenirs for everybody. Our young players are very happy to enjoy a scrabble competition because of travelling, making new friends, feeling good when socializing, so we do hope that we will find a couple of new young players to join our first try for them, attracted by the same values and who will become better and better in time in playing English scrabble.

The choice of Iași, Romania is not random. Starting 1st May 2019, Iași will be the Youth Capital of Romania for the next year. So the project of the Youth European Scrabble Championship gives more international dimension to the suite of events for celebrating this title.

Iași is a major city of Romania, 2nd as the number of population, well-known as the Cultural Capital of Romania, City of Great Loves or City of the Famous Destinies. It is “brother” with Rome, Italy, being situated on seven hills. It has permanent aerial and bus bridges with the airport of Bucharest, so getting to Iași is not complicated at all.

Also, the airport has good flights to London Luton, Wien, Munich, Frankfurt, Tel Aviv, Paris, some airports in Italy and so on. There are 4 major airlines – Tarom, Blue Air, Wizz Air and Austrian – operating on the local airport.

There are a lot of things to see and to discover during a city break and we encourage the participants to reserve 2-3 days for visiting some of them, it will be a pleasure for us to guide them through the secrets of the city. The major touristic objectives are: The Cultural Palace with interesting museums, the clock tower and nice halls, The National Theatre which is, according to BBC, the second most beautiful theatre in the world, The Three Holy Hierarchs Monastery which is renowned for its embroidery in stone (most of it preserved in its original form from 1637-39), The Hall of the Lost Steps in the University of Iași, with unique mural paintings and so on. For entertainment and sightseeing is recommended a ride with a vintage tram, while for shopping there is Palas Mall, a town in the middle of the town, one of the most spectacular shopping destinations in the Eastern Europe.

We are waiting for you, dear young players, to come, play and have fun in Iasi, together with the Romanian and Moldavian kids and teenagers. We are waiting for you, dear adult scrabble players, to share a little of your passion to a newbie or many young players and come with them to Iași – we will surprise you with our traditional hospitality, for you to have a nice staying and your little companions to learn about scrabble competitions and find opponents with similar skills, in a tournament where all are winners!

National Theatre in Iasi

Three Hierarchs

Additional photos - online photos of Iasi