Hello, Scrabble fans!

In this article, I introduced you to some of the world’s strongest Scrabble players, including Nigel Richards, Adam Logan, David Eldar, and Wellington Jighere.

Let’s continue on with Volume 2 of this series, including our first players from the United States and Thailand!


Panupol Sujjayakorn is a legend of the game of Scrabble. He won the World Scrabble Championship in 2003, when he was only 18 years old.

Panupol hails from Thailand, which has long been one of the top Scrabble playing countries in the world. His 2003 victory marked the first time that a world champion was crowned from a country for which English is not the first language.

In fact, many elite Scrabble players from Thailand speak only conversational English. Despite this disadvantage, Panupol’s knowledge of the Scrabble dictionary is encyclopedic. It’s not uncommon for players from Thailand to be introduced to Scrabble as a way to learn English and wind up embracing the strategic depth of the game instead. But Panupol’s skills go far beyond dictionary command. He’s also known as an incredibly precise tactician and master of the endgame.

It’s been a while since Panupol and other elite players from Thailand came to the United States to compete in the North American Scrabble Championship, which he very nearly won in 2005. In part, this is because of Thailand’s switch to the international Collins dictionary. Still, I’ve had the occasion to play him a number of times both before and after Thailand’s dictionary switch, including a game in which he scored 600 points against me!

Gracious in both victory and defeat, Panupol truly exhibits a champion’s temperament. Among his countrymen, only the now-retired Pakorn Nemitrmansuk, who is also a former World Champion, has a resume that rivals Panupol’s achievements. For a country that churns out expert Scrabble players the way Thailand does, that’s saying a lot.


Jesse Day has perhaps the most impressive resume in overseas play of any American-born player. In both 2018 and 2019, Jesse came up just short against Nigel Richards in the finals of the World Championships in the UK and India, respectively, including an incredible seven-game match in 2019 where Nigel barely prevailed 4 games to 3. He also battled Nigel in the finals of Thailand’s national championship, the King’s Cup, that same year, with Nigel again proving victorious. Jesse’s games against Nigel are some of the most entertaining and best exhibitions of Scrabble skill ever displayed.

On the home front, Jesse won the North American Scrabble Championship in 2019, and was the runner-up in 2015. He holds the Grandmaster title bestowed by NASPA and has scores of tournament wins in regional events. Jesse is one of the most widely-traveled people I know, and speaks six languages; he’s also incredibly well rounded, with interests ranging from the NBA, ultimate frisbee, and trivia.

Jesse’s play style is marked by creativity and flexibility. No lead is too big or deficit too steep to dissuade Jesse from thinking carefully and deeply about a move. As a result, Jesse is always a threat to make a huge comeback in a game. I’ve played Jesse a number of times, and no lead ever feels safe. As with many of the other players in this series, Jesse is nearly completely unflappable, with the ideal competitive mindset to withstand the swings of luck inherent in Scrabble tournament play.

Sometimes, Jesse’s tendency to think deeply about his moves gets him into trouble with the clock. But he’s perfectly capable of playing well under time pressure, and when he plays at a quick pace from the start, watch out. It seems like when Jesse is in the zone, only Nigel Richards is capable of beating him. And given that Nigel is the undisputed greatest of all time, that’s a nice place to be.


Austin Shin is the only player to have ever won championships in both North America and the UK, a feat which he accomplished in the same year (2017). Austin very nearly won the North American Championship again in 2019, when he placed second behind Jesse Day.

Austin started playing Scrabble at an incredibly early age, and was the runner-up at the inaugural World Youth Scrabble Championships to David Eldar, who was featured in Volume 1 of this series. After that promising beginning, he’s become an even better player, over time, to the point where he is now one of the world’s strongest. 

Austin’s playing style is best summed up with his own trademark catchphrase: “Scoring Never Stops.” Austin really does have a knack for scoring, managing to wring solid scores from weak tiles and huge scores from good ones. His board vision and play-finding abilities are exceptional, and he’s known as an extremely strong blitz player. But his catchphrase encapsulates more than just his scoring ability – it reflects his relentless approach to each game and to each tournament he plays.

Austin relocated to the US after marrying fellow Scrabble player Lindsay Shin (link). He and his family organize one of the premier events on the live tournament circuit in North America, the Crescent City Cup in New Orleans, Louisiana; he’s a regular contributor to this blog (link); and he and David Eldar led an initiative called Tablet Scrabble to combine the benefits of over-the-board and digital Scrabble by using tablet computers.

Austin was also the winner of the online NASPA Tournament of Champions, played on Scrabble GO. In the finals of that event, he was down 3 games to 0 before coming back to win 4-3. Scoring never stops, indeed. Nobody will be surprised if he eventually adds a World Championship to his trophy case.

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