Shediac scores Atlantic Canada's 1st international Scrabble event

Atlantic Canada’s first-ever international Scrabble tournament is set to begin in Shediac this weekend — and long-time competitive player Chuck Abbate is ready to rock out some double- and triple-word scores.

Kennebecasis Valley vet Chuck Abbate joined by players from all over the world this weekend

Professional Scrabble boards differ from the home version of the game. (Submitted)

Atlantic Canada's first-ever international Scrabble tournament is set to begin in Shediac this weekend — and long-time competitive player Chuck Abbate is ready to rock out some double- and triple-word scores.

Abbate, a veterinarian at the Kennebecasis Valley Animal Hospital in Rothesay, has been playing professional Scrabble for 18 years.

"I was playing at home once and I saw a little flyer in the box that said 'Join the Scrabble Association," said Abbate. "They sent me a list of tournaments and word lists to study, and from there I was hooked."

Since competing in his first tournament in Victoria in 1998, he's played in numerous invitation-only international and national championships.

Serious, but friendly

Players from all over the world will convene in Shediac to strut their stuff at Scrabble, which has an unexpected local connection. The world's first crossword game was patented by Shediac lawyer and politician Edward R. McDonald in 1926.

Competitive Scrabble differs in a few respects from typical home play. Each person has just 25 minutes on their clock: players are docked 10 points for every minute they exceed the limit. Players are assigned an opponent and a table for each round.

A grid-type board prevent letters from sliding out of place when players turn the board back and forth. Professional tiles, unlike the wooden tiles in the home version, are entirely smooth: would be cheaters "can't tell which letter they're pulling from the feel of the tile," Abbate explains.

Abbate described the game play as "serious, but friendly."

Serious Scrabble players only

For those wondering if they have what it takes to make the big leagues — Abbate says making one seven-letter word a game is "pretty good" for the average home player.

He's kicked up his skills to the next level using apps, study guides, good-old-fashioned flash cards and paper word lists.

"If I'm waiting in line at the bank I might quiz myself on a few words," he said.

He says he played his "best word ever" in Boston a few years ago.

Chuck Abatte is a veterinarian in Rothesay who is playing Scrabble at an international tournament in Shediac. 7:39

"The turn prior to that I played 'sillier,'" he explained. "The 'R' rested between two triple-word scores. On my next turn, using that 'R', I played 'aequorin' for 212 points."

You don't get words like "aequorin" through casual Saturday night Scrabbling.

"It was a word I had studied but didn't know it's meaning," said Abbate. "It's a protein secreted by a jellyfish. You don't use that one much in conversation."

For less-hardcore Scrabble aficionados a recreational level tournament will take place at t École Louis-J.-Robichaud at 435 Main Street in Shediac from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.on Saturday, Oct. 1.

with files from Information Morning Saint John