Endgame Analysis - Nigel Richards

In the world of golf, few players have electrified crowds like Tiger Woods: ratings were always up when he played and spectators could not wait for his next spectacular shot. In the world of hockey, Wayne Gretzky's career points make him a statistical aberration. In the world of checkers, many believe that Marion Tinsley was as close to perfection as humanly possible; the number of blunders he made throughout his career can be counted on the fingers of the hands! In the competitive sphere of scrabble... Nigel Richards is all of that! Yet, chances are that you never heard of him, except maybe during the summer of 2015 in news articles making fun of the unbelievable feat he pulled out when he won the classical (one versus one) portion of the francophone world championships without speaking French. A look at his exceptional career achievements is enough to amaze, but one needs to take a closer look at the way he does it to really grasp his absolute genius. His memory, his composure, his endurance, his speed and his accuracy are otherworldly and no other player’s abilities come even close to his.

Duplicate play

In the duplicate variant that is used in most francophone tournaments, he has been playing perfectly the main (elite) and blitz portions of the world championships since 2017, finding the best moves in seconds with unheard-of ease and consistency. Nigel finished 2nd in the main duplicate tournament in 2015 because of a five points penalty he got for messing up the encoding of one of his plays. He finished 3rd in 2016 because he missed a nine letters bingo in the first of the seven games; that’s the last move out of more than 800 that he missed in individual duplicate tournaments. In more than 40 years, only one other player, Antonin Michel (by far the most accomplished French player), has played the main (in 2013) or blitz (in 2014) portion perfectly. Antonin is the only other player to have won the main, blitz and doubles portions of the world championships in the same year (2005); Nigel has done that in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and in 2018 he also won the classical portion of the championships, a performance that could be compared to completing a Golden Slam in tennis. Remember that he did this without speaking French and by memorizing the tens of thousands of words in a matter of months; all of the top French players, some of which have been training hard for more than 30 years, are left completely outshone. In a sense, Nigel has shown that the duplicate variant, which removes the luck factor but also takes away all strategy, is too simple for him. As a consequence, more and more top French players are starting to compete in the classical world championship, where they now think they stand the best chances to win.

Normal play

Somewhat surprisingly, since he plays perfectly in the duplicate variant, Nigel’s level of play in the classical format is even more ahead of everyone else. On this site, you will find, for English and French dictionaries, hundreds of exhaustive analyses of Nigel’s endgames that we found from different sources. Endgames are situations where there is no tile left in the bag and these situations are well-suited to judge the strength of a player, since they are deterministic and have definitive solutions. We invite you to try and solve these endgames by yourself. Doing so, our hope is that you will better understand the complexity of it all and that you will appreciate the beauty of Nigel’s numerous masterpieces.

Adding more games

Note that we will happily add more endgame analyses if you send us the games that you played against Nigel at francis@ortograf.com.

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