Jul 26, 2014

Ridgefield's 'Double Nerd Score' Headed to National Scrabble Championship

Two Ridgefield teens will be competing in the National Championships in Providence this weekend.

Ridgefield's 'Double Nerd Score' Headed to National Scrabble Championship
A team of Ridgefield girls is heading to the National School Scrabble Championship in Providence, R.I. this weekend, facing off against America’s best middle school–aged wordsmiths.

Emma Baughman, 12, and Fiona Fisher Sleigh, 13 — together known as “Double Nerd Score” — have been playing scrabble together for over 2 years and will be putting their anagram and vocabulary skills to the test in the 2-day event.

The two will work as a team through seven matches, spelling out as many points as they can along the way.

This weekend’s Nationals will be Fisher Sleigh’s first, however Baughman has been twice before, placing seventh in last year’s competition.

The two started playing Scrabble at Ridgefield Library under the tutelage of Cornelia Guest, who runs a Scrabble club and organizes the local school tournaments. Both were already avid game players but something about the challenge of the classic word-jumble game got them hooked.

Being good at Scrabble is about more than just vocabulary, as well.

“Knowing vocab is important but you also have to be able to look at a block of tiles and see words,” Fisher Sleigh said, adding that there’s also a lot of strategy to the game.

The best tactic is to look for two- and three-letter words early on in order to play off them later for bigger scores, Baughman explained.

The girls are excited for the championships and definitely plan to do their best, though they’re also looking forward to next year — their last before they age out of the league.

“Next year is the real goal,” Baughman said, explaining that she and Fisher Sleigh plan to ramp up their studying for their final competition, which means having Scrabble on the brain at all times.

“Anywhere I see a word I rearrange it into other words,” Baughman said. “We read a lot of Scrabble books and go on Anagrammer,” a word puzzle website.

“We practice playing games together and study strategy and word lists,” Fisher Sleigh said.

Despite the studying, the girls called the excitement of the competition and waiting to hear their scores between each match as “thrilling.”

After next year’s competition, Double Nerd Score will be no more, but that doesn’t mean they will stop playing.

After the middle school division are the advanced leagues, where the level of competition rises sharply.

Fisher Sleigh said she expects to continue playing at the competitive level through high school, at least, though Baughman thinks next year might be her last on the Scrabble circuit.

“It’s not like when I’m done, I’m done,” Baughman said. “I don’t think I’ll go on [competing] but I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing Scrabble.”

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