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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK


Scrabble scores new record

All that effort for just one point: One of the huge Scrabble letters

Scrabble has celebrated its 50th birthday by winning itself a place in the record books for the title of the biggest game in the world.

The BBC's Valerie Jones on a game of "military precision"
Two teams from the armed forces waged a battle of a different kind at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, with a board measuring 900 square metres and featuring a complete set of 100 giant letter tiles.

In a nail-biting finish, the Navy beat the Army by just two points.

This was after the Paras had taken an early lead with the Scottish word 'wickie', although the Marines fought back with the seven-letter 'deathly'.

[ image: The Navy tastes victory]
The Navy tastes victory
The 17-strong teams had manhandled a monumental board 100 times bigger than normal onto the pitch.

Each tile measured 2m square and 40cm deep. As they were made of reinforced fibreglass each one took two people to carry.

The teams were assisted in their verbal exertions by two 'tile carriers' and past UK Scrabble champions. A padre headed the Army side and a lieutenant from the Wrens fronted the Navy team.

In true amateur tradition, both sides merely played for honour - but there are no plans as to what to do with the set now the game is over.

"All suggestions are gratefully received," said a spokesman.

No Butts

More than 100 million Scrabble sets have been sold in 29 languages since it first went on sale in 1948.

The game's history goes back further than those first sales.

[ image:  ]
A game called Lexico - without a board - was invented by architect Alfred Mosher Butts, from Poughkeepsie, New York State, in 1931.

Butts lost his job in the Depression and created the game to explore his passion for games and words.

He came up with the scoring system after examining the front pages of the New York Times and reduced the amount of S's to four to make the game more difficult.

But his application for a patent was turned down by major games companies.

By 1938 the crossword-style board had been added and the game became Criss-Crosswords. Still the games companies were not interested.

After World War II, entrepreneur James Brunot picked up Butts' idea and they went into business with the Scrabble name in December 1948.

After a slow start the game picked up in popularity and first appeared in the UK in 1953.

Now it is sold in 121 countries around the world. The first world championships took place in London in 1991.

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