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New French-language Scrabble champ doesn't speak French

Nigel Richards told The Federation Internationale de Scrabble Francophone he had only been studying the French dictionary for about nine weeks.

By Ben Hooper

44es championnats du monde de Scrabble francophone à Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgique) - Les temps forts du 1er week-end...

Posted by Fédération internationale de Scrabble francophone (FISF) on Sunday, July 19, 2015

LOUVAIN, Belgium, July 21 (UPI) -- A New Zealand Scrabble player who has only been studying the French language since the end of May has been crowned the world champion for francophone Scrabble.

The Federation Internationale de Scrabble Francophone -- the French-language Scrabble federation -- announced New Zealand native Nigel Richards triumphed over Schelick Ilagou Rekawe, a native French speaker from Gabon, during the final game of the tournament Monday in Louvain, Belgium, to take the title of world champion.

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Richards, who has previously won championships for the English version of the game, told officials he does not speak the French language, but began memorizing words from the dictionary near the end of May -- only nine weeks before the contest.

"He's not a francophone, I can confirm that," Yves Brenez, vice president of the Belgian Scrabble federation and organizer of the Francophone championships, told FranceTV. "Nigel will say 'bonjour' with an accent and he can also give the score in French, which is obligatory, but that's all."

"The challenge was a bit crazy, but he learned French vocabulary in only nine weeks. He's a fighting machine. To him words are just combinations of letters," Brenez said. "I'm perhaps exaggerating a bit, but he comes up with scrabbles (words of seven or more letters) that others take 10 years to know."

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