NEW JERSEY — Two middle school students from New Jersey won second place at the 2012 National School Scrabble Championship (NSSC) held in Orlando, Florida, April 13-14, at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
The pair, Filipino American 8th grader Nicholas Vasquez and 6th grader Thomas Draper, of Millburn, NJ — known as the Da Talisman Honchos — came behind Andy Hoang and Erik Salgado, both 8th graders from Cary, North Carolina.
Vasquez, a 2009 NSSC runner-up, together with Draper, played and won 7 games straight to advance to the Final Round. Representing New Jersey, they were the only team in the entire tournament of 150 Scrabble players to attain an undefeated and perfect record of 7- 0, +481 going into the Finals. Seated at the Finals table, Vasquez found himself competing against his former adversaries in 2009 – Hoang and Salgado – when he teamed up with Paolo Federico O’Murchu.
In the 2012 championship match which resulted in a score of 422-376, Hoang and Salgado took home $10,000 while Vasquez and Draper had $5,000. For 13 year-old Vasquez, it was his last impressive stint at the NSSC, which is only open to students from Grades 5 to 8.
The NSSC tournament, which began in 2003, is held annually. In the tournament, teams of two play for 22 minutes with digital timers similar to those used in chess. The team with the most wins is adjudged the winner.
Vasquez was introduced to Scrabble at the age of 9 by his grandfather, Ruben Angeles who serves as his mentor and coach. Angeles is an active member of the Millburn Scrabble Club, a club of primarily adult and senior players.
He has participated in a countless number of youth and adult tournaments since he began playing scrabble. He has been featured several times in regional, national, and international news as one of the world’s formidable youth Scrabble champions.
His list of achievements include:
• 1st place at the DC School Scrabble Fall Classic in November 2011
• 1st place at the Philadelphia Adult Tourney in April 2011
• 2010 Boston Area Tournament Youth Players Award
• 2nd place 2009 National School Scrabble Championship
• 2009 Best Player under 12 at the World Youth Scrabble Championship in Johor Bohor, Malaysia,
• Youngest Player of the 2009 World Causeway Scrabble Challenge.
Vasquez marched during the 2009 Philippine Independence Day commemoration in New York City when he won as Runner Up at the NSSC. He is considered the youngest Fil Am Scrabble champion in the tri-State area.