PRINCETON, NJ - A 14-year-old freshman from Livingston High School topped a field of 10 strong players to win the Princeton Scrabble Tournament on Sunday.
Nick Vasquez, son of Dennis and Janice Vasquez, won six out of seven games with an average score that exceeded 400 points a game. Nick plays frequently in the Millburn Scrabble Club, which meets on Monday evenings at the Millburn Free Public Library on Glen Avenue.
"His winning today was a nice Father's Day gift," said his father, who added that Nick offered to take the family out to dinner with his $135 first prize.
Nick won a pivotal Game 5 over this reporter by a score of 421-403. Trailing, 130-64, Nick used all his tiles on consecutive plays: SENATOR for 88 points and AILERON for 69. Two turns later he added 65 points with LATEX.
Nick, who was seeded fifth, topped 500 points in his next game, setting up a Game 7 showdown with second-seeded Wes Eddings, who had beaten Nick earlier in the day and held first place. Nick captured the finale by a score of 444-289. Key plays were bingos (Scrabble jargon for using all seven tiles to earn a 50-point bonus) MORDANT for 95 points and an early lead, and SESAMOID for 74, which clinched his stunning triumph.
The six wins raised Nick's Scrabble rating from 1385 to 1463 in a system where the best players in the country have ratings of around 2000. Millburn Scrabble Club director, Ed Zurav, said, "I've been watching Nick play for four years now, and I can see that before long he'll be in the 1700s."
A graduate of Collins Elementary School in 2009 and Heritage Middle School in 2012, Nick also made those years noteworthy by placing second twice in the School Scrabble National Tournament. And, showing that his pursuits aren't all sedentary, he played this year on Livingston's jayvee tennis team.
His younger sister and brother, Kelsey and Jaden, 9 and 4 respectively, were on hand Sunday to help Nick savor his victory.