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Man wins French Scrabble championship without speaking a word of French

The newly crowned champion of French-language Scrabble, faced a unique challenge going into Monday's final in Louvain, Belgium. After all, he doesn't speak French. At all.

Nigel Richards of Christchurch, New Zealand, memorized French dictionary in nine weeks

Nigel Richards of New Zealand won the world championship in French Scrabble without speaking a word of the language. (Pierre Calendini/Fédération Française de Scrabble)

The newly crowned champion of French-language Scrabble, faced a unique challenge going into Monday's final in Louvain, Belgium. After all, he doesn't speak French. At all. 

Nigel Richards, of Christchurch, New Zealand, defeated a competitor from the French-speaking African nation of Gabon two games to none. 

Richards, who works as an engineer in Malaysia, is no stranger to the crossword board game. He was the world champion of English Scrabble in 2007 and 2011, won five U.S. national titles, and is considered one of the world's top players

Nigel Richards took about two months to memorize the French Scrabble dictionary. (Pierre Calendini/Fédération Française de Scrabble)

The French Scrabble Federation said that Richards took up the challenge of winning the world championship of French Scrabble in May.

His training involved memorizing the French Scrabble dictionary in about nine weeks. 

Antoine Rousseau, the spokesperson for the federation, told Agence France Presse that Richards now knows all French words that have two to 10 letters, even if he has no idea what they mean. 

For his accomplishment, Richards received a standing ovation from the audience in Louvain on Monday. 

Richards needed a translator to express his thanks. 

Liz Fagerlund, former president of the New Zealand Scrabble Association and a friend of Richards, told the New Zealand Herald that the French Scrabble players would have known about Richards' record in the English Scrabble world going into the competition.

"He does have a reputation for being the best Scrabble player ever and they know about him already, but they probably didn't necessarily expect him to go in for the first time and beat them at their own game," Fagerlund said. 

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