Havana: the capital city for Scrabble

For the first time Cuba will host a scrabble world championship. Cuba Scrabble Promoting Group is looking for sponsors and support to host such event next October.

The international tournament Cuba Scrabble was recently concluded in Havana. There, 12 Cubans and two Mexicans clashed during 15 rounds in the classic modality for the places for the world championship. First place Rolando Guadalupe Martínez, champion for five times in a row of the classifying event, and second placeMiguel Stevens Gómez, will join other six Cubans that will compete at the 18thCuba Scrabble Championship 2014.

This is the largest number (8) of Cuban participants in a world championship of this kind. Besides, for the first time, Havana will host such event with tens of Spanish speaking participants not only from Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean, but also from France, Sweden, Israel, Switzerland and Poland.

Arturo Ernesto Alonso, president of theCuba Scrabble Promoting Group answered a few questions about this game in Cuba and the preparations for the world championship in Spanish.

How did the Cuba Scrabble Promoting Group emerge?

We are a community project whose main purpose is the spreading, promotion and teaching of Scrabble in Cuba among children, youngsters and grown ups. Rene Mesa, our founder and Honorific President, came up with the idea in 2005. We play the game, we teach the game, and we organize tournaments…all for free. The idea is to attract more peoplebecause this game is not very popular throughout the country.

How do you manage to finance these activities if there is no economic support?

This game is not internationally registered as a mind game despite the efforts made, so tournaments and travels are financed by the participants themselves. Sometimes we get some aid from the International Spanish Scrabble Federation (FISE by its acronym in Spanish), or from players from other countries. There is no budget; we play because we like it. We have no support from the State though some institutions like Casa del Alba or the Ruben Martinez Villena Library have lent us their facilities. The City Historian’s Office has also offered its support. For instance, we have a project in a high school to encourage students to play this game and we meet on Saturdays at the Villena Library, but mostly we practice at home. We want it to spread all over the nation because it is excellent for developing certain skills like logical thinking and most importantly: spelling. Nowadays, this is a burning topic and Scrabble can contribute with its solution, but it doesn’t spread.

Where do you get game boards?

The boards we have came from donations because these are not produced in Cuba. There was a project to manufacture them but it hasn’t had any progress. I also know that there are some games brought from China on sale, but they don’t have high quality, the boards do work but they don’t follow the same distribution of letters or the same value. They don’t do it for us. This is not a cheap game, it costs about 20 and 30 dollars abroad, but with our design it can be produced at low costs, less than two dollars. Of course, it would come out with a different name, Lexis or something like that. In our group we have 12 boards, which is enough for 24 people, but that’s not enough to take the game everywhere. Some of these are inventions made from plastic. We almost always pay for our expenses.

In spite of having so few players, some of them are well positioned in the world ranking: is Cuba a tough competitor?

The best are Argentina, Venezuela, Spain and Mexico. However, I do believe we are well prepared right now if taken into consideration the latest results. Cuba has only participated in world championships for three years due to migration issues, though we are always affected by the economic aspect. Nonetheless, I think we are gradually becoming a tough competitor too.

Next October Havana will become the capital city for Scrabble; can you comment on the organization of for the event?

Thus far the event will be hosted at the Riviera Hotel, but up to now our single sponsor is Ciego Montero who will supply us with its water. We are looking for other sponsors to support us like Havana Club or the Cuban Book Institute, or perhaps some association of craftsmen, to give away book and souvenirs for the winners. This is an event of high prestige internationally, so this would be a great opportunity for enterprises to take us under their wings. All proposals are more than welcomed.

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