Superlatives

Most Likely to Bingo

I love words, both written and spoken," says Shae McWilliams, Rhode Island's top-ranked competitive Scrabble player. While it seems like everyone and their brother is playing a Scrabble-inspired game …

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I love words, both written and spoken," says Shae McWilliams, Rhode Island's top-ranked competitive Scrabble player. While it seems like everyone and their brother is playing a Scrabble-inspired game these days – mostly due to a certain smartphone app involving “words” and “friends” – Shae is traveling to tournaments, playing 20 games in a weekend, for the chance to win money (though not enough to cover the traveling expenses in most cases), fame (insofar as winning a PM superlative is fame) and bragging rights (those she has, in spades). “I got serious in high school,” Shae says. “I had a couple of friends and we played constantly, I mean constantly. During winter break it was a six-day marathon.” Then, in 2002, her best friend and Scrabble opponent Jackie called her: “She said ‘you have to get this book Word Freak. These are our people. We can go to tournaments, and win money.’ I thought, ‘it’s like Shangrila!’” Since, she and Jackie have played 18 tournaments together, the most out of any two people anywhere in the world. “On a tournament weekend, we’ll play eight games, go out to dinner and drinks, and then say ‘let’s play!’ There’s no end to the enthusiasm, at least among my friends. I might be mentally drained, but I’m always up for the next game. Perhaps that makes me a word freak. That must be where the title comes from.” While Shae’s Scrabble ranking puts her at the mid-range of the national scale, it’s enough to make her top-ranked here. “It’s only because I live in Rhode Island,” she says. “And it’s so small. I’m staying here and holding on to that until I die.”