For most of the hundreds of millions of Scrabble players around the world, spelling a word worth 20 points is a decent turn.
The very top tournament players, however, aren’t happy unless they can score around 35 or more — and that’s when playing with time limits and ruthless competition.
Photographer Roger Cullman, who has played competitive Scrabble for 12 years, began taking portraits of top players four years ago at a tournament in Canada.
While the portraits, which feature players holding up their names or initials in Scrabble tiles, went viral as soon as they were posted, he has continued updating the series.
Scrabble’s elite look a lot like you and me, with some quirkiness including the enormous beard of World Scrabble Champion Nigel Richards.
“I found it fascinating to observe the cross-section of players and variety of faces that I was able to capture,” Cullman told BI over email.
With permission, we’ve republished some of his best Scrabble portraits.
Travis Chaney from Ashland, Ore. was the first Scrabble player to get expert ratings in English and Spanish Scrabble simultaneously.
Robin Pollock Daniel from Toronto, Ont. is the highest-rated female Scrabble player in North America.
Marlon Hill from Baltimore, Md. was featured in the 2004 Scrabble documentary 'Word Wars.' Apparently he is excellent at anagrams.
Cecilia Le from Cambridge, Mass. was the only 20-something woman out of 850 players at a National Scrabble Championship in New Orleans. She is the 75th-highest ranked player in North America.
John O'Laughlin from Madison, Wisc. is the co-creator of wordplay site Quackle. He is the 49th-highest rated player in North America.
James Leong from Vancouver, B.C. won an international Scrabble championship at age 22, beating a veteran player.
Jason Keller from Highland Park, N.J. is ranked 46 in North America. He is also a recent 9-game Jeopardy champ, winning more than $US200,000.
Joe Edley from Long Island, N.Y. was the first person to win the National Scrabble Championship three times.
Stefan Fatsis from Washington, D.C. wrote the book 'Word Freak' and is a regular guest on NPR's 'All Things Considered.'
Mack Meller, 13, from Bedford, N.Y. is the 8th-highest rated player in North America (this picture was taken last year).
Matthew O'Connor, 13, from DeWitt, N.Y. is the 40th-highest rated Scrabble player in North America (this picture was taken last year).
Kate Fukawa-Connelly from Lawrenceville, N.J. has memorized every five-letter word in the English language. She is the 82nd-highest rated player in North America.
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