Sacré bleu! World champion in French scrabble can't speak French

Man memorised entire French scrabble dictionary in nine weeks

The New French Scrabble World Champ Doesn't Speak A Word Of French
New Zealander Nigel Richards can't speak much French beyond 'bonjour' - but that didn't stop him from winning the French-language world scrabble championship on Monday.

Richards, 48, defeated a French-speaking competitor during the final round of the tournament in Louvain, Belgium.

He'd memorised the entire French Scrabble dictionary in only nine weeks - though the words mean nothing to him.

In a tweet, the French Scrabble federation hailed Richards' win under such unusual circumstances as unprecedented.

"He won't know what (the words) mean, wouldn't be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn't think," Liz Fagerlund, former president of the New Zealand Scrabble Association and a friend of Richards, said.

The dictionary Richards memorised includes all French words made up of two to 10 letters.

"To him words are just combinations of letters," Yves Brenez, the competition's organiser, said. "I'm perhaps exaggerating a bit, but he comes up with scrabbled (words of seven or more letters) that others take 10 years to know."

Highly mathematical brain

Richards has dominated the game in his native tongue too, winning world titles for English Scrabble in 2007 and 2011. He's also captured five US national titles.

He received a standing ovation for his French win and required a translator to express his gratitude to the crowd, reports the Huffington Post.

His success is owed to his highly mathematical brain, experts in the game have said. He never showed much interest in language growing up and only picked up the game at 28 when his mother introduced him to it.