June 2024

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Wellington Jighere, 32, is the first African to ever win the English-language World Scrabble Championship. He defeated 129 other players, facing off Lewis MacKay from England in the final round. He won four straight rounds against MacKay in a best-of-seven match, winning the final game 449 points to 432. Jighere will take home a $10,000 cash prize and will likely return to adoring fans.  “It is the first time that an African has won in these world championships so I have to go and celebrate with them,” he says.  

Bringing glory to his country

Jighere recently finished his national service after graduating from university. He took a few months off to prepare for the competition. He was sponsored by the Nigerian government to travel to the championship, which was held in Perth, Australia. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called him in Perth in joy over his victory and asked him to pass on his congratulations to all the players. The president says he has “done the country proud.” According to the president’s spokesman, Jighere “pledged to bring more glory to his fatherland.”

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He is still baffled at his win

The Nigerian team arrived in Australia the day before the tournament started. Their flight was 20 hours long and there is a seven-hour time difference between the countries. They had very little time to recover from the tiring journey and the jet lag. Jighere says that he had undergone training to help work through jet lag, but was exhausted from playing 32 rounds of matches in four days before getting to the final in Perth. In addition to Jighere’s victory, the Nigerian team finished the competition as the best overall team. Jighere expressed his surprise on his Facebook page.

“It was a battle between one man and a whole continent. It was like I was borrowing the “pickability” of all the glorious pickers in the house.  I’ve not slept well in about a week. The fact that I was able to perform in spite of the sleeplessness still baffles me. It only goes to prove that God deeply involved in this matter.”

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He remains humble

Sulaiman Gora, the President of Nigeria’s Scrabble federation, says that Jighere is a quiet person whose “greatest strength is humility” and that “the whole country and the whole of Africa is celebrating this success.”  There were some tough competitors in this championship, including Nigel Richards – the highest-scoring Scrabble player of all time who won the World French Championship without speaking French. Despite overcoming all of these challenges, Jighere remains humble.  

“Nigel is still the master. It just happens that today was my day.”

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SEE ALSO: The World French Scrabble Champion Does Not Speak French.