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Thai Scrabble ace’s supporters say UK’s Daily Mail is talking rubbish

The friend of a Thai Computer programmer who is one of the leading Scrabble players in the world has condemned a story that appeared in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper online.

And a leading British player living in Bangkok has also said that the story is largely “nonsense”.

Bangkokian Komol Panyasophonlert, 31, is ranked number two in the world according to the rankings on the mindsportsacademy.com Scrabble website. Scrabble is the world’s favorite word game played internationally in tournaments by thousands of people.

It is extremely popular in Thailand where it is played expertly.

Yet rather than celebrate the achievements of this exceptional Thai man the newspaper sneered in bold print that he can’t speak English, can’t string a sentence together and uses Google translate to communicate if he has to write.

This, the article says, despite his knowing 90% of the English language.

A friend of Komol on the Facebook page under the name “Hatai Yamlimprayoonyong” said that the real story of Komol should be one that celebrates a man worthy of national interest and respect.

“The story of Komol is a great one. He can in fact speak English well and the assertions in the story – written in bold – that he can’t speak a word and can’t use grammar properly are assumptions that are very wide of the mark,” he said.

He also said there were other glaring inaccuracies in the Daily Mail story like Komol reading only words six hours a day and not knowing the meaning of what he memorizes.

He added that the article feeds into a mistaken narrative that Scrabble players like Komol who have brought honour to Thailand are “kind of wasting time if you ask me”. He asked other Thais to share his comments and help to put the record straight.

British born Scrabble player Gerry Carter who has lived in Bangkok for more than thirty years and represents Thailand in international Scrabble competition said:

“The Daily Mail story is largely nonsense and gives the wrong impression about Komol who I have known since he was about 14 years old. He could beat me then when I was 38 and now I am thrilled if I ever win against him!

“Komol is not only one of the greatest Scrabble players to have ever lived but he speaks English well and writes very accurately with no need of any translating tools. I should know – I have interviewed him in English for news and blogs that I write on the competitive Scrabble scene around the world.

“Whilst it is true that Scrabble players do not need to know the meaning of the vocabulary they learn in order to play the game I can assure you that a player like Komol knows not only a great deal more words in English than the majority of native speakers he also knows a huge amount of meanings too. And of course he knows the part of speech
of the words – whether they are verbs or can be made into plurals, for example. He speaks well and politely and is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet”.

Komol is considered second only to Nigel Richards of New Zealand who is the best player in the world by some way. He came within one game of beating the Kiwi master in a world championship final in Europe a few years ago and in the same year was just edged out of the US national championships by the same opponent.

“Komol is considered a sportsman in Thailand as are all Scrabble players here and should be honored as a great example to Thai youth for all that he has achieved around the world” added Gerry.

Komol learnt to speak much of his English interacting with foreign participants in tournaments all around the world, said Gerry who finished eleventh in the King’s Cup tournament in Bangkok earlier this month – some six places behind Komol. Nigel Richards was the winner of the 10,000 US dollar first prize.

The game of Scrabble – usually called Crossword Game in Thailand – receives patronage of the Thai Royal Family in the kingdom and is played by tens of thousands of school children nationwide. There is a large professional circuit here with the biggest corporate sponsorship of the game anywhere in the world.

Indeed, Bangkok is considered the number one city in the world to play the game due to the high level of competition and wealth of expert players in the capital.

“It is quite typical that newspapers like the Daily Mail write nonsense about Scrabble,” said Gerry. “It is good that they carry the occasional story about the game but it would be better if they printed more accurate information about players like Komol who have encouraged so many youngsters in Thailand and around the world to take up the
game and improve both their English and their mathematical skills.

Thailand was the first country in the world to have a non-native English speaking Scrabble world champion. Panupol Sajjayakorn won in 2003 when he was still a teenager and Thai architect Pakorn Nemitrmansuk beat Nigel Richards to the crown in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. Most world champions have been British, Americans or Canadians.

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