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2 Baguio female Scrabblers join national finals

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BAGUIO CITY — Two female Scrabble players here are among the 20 qualifiers to the National Scrabble Championship (NSC) on July 27 and 28.

Lewrenda Ambler and Malou Coronacion will be among those seeking for the two Philippine berths to the World Scrabble Championship to be staged in the United Kingdom this November. They are two of the four female players who will vie for the national title at a venue yet to be identified in Manila.

This after the fourth leg of the Philippine Qualifier held last weekend in Butuan City.

“As if I will be making any inroads in the national finals,” said Ambler. She is the Axa All-Star manager who shocked the game’s big guns when she placed fourth in the Panagbenga Scrabble Tournament last March 9-10 that served as the second leg of the NSC.

Coronacion finished sixth in the Baguio leg that also earned her a slot to the national finals.

For the first time, the United Scrabble Associations of the Philippines, Inc. (USAPI) has employed a five-leg tournament wherein the Top Five finishers advance to the NSC.

The 25 players will vie for the national title and the PHP25,000 purse that goes with it.

“This is the first time we employed the scheme of selecting our representative to the WSC. Get the top five from the five major tournaments held in Manila (twice), Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao,” USAPI president Robbie Onate told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.

“But if a player qualifies already to the NSC, the next best-placed player gets the seat,” Onate said in an interview, making Coronacion as an example after the Axa Sun Baguio manager finished sixth in the Baguio leg.

The top two finishers will get the slots allotted for the Philippines to the World Scrabble Championship (WSC), which is held every two years, will be in Devon, England on November 16-24.

The two Baguio players will join top Filipina players Odette Rio and Leonora Labog, who could yet be the two best players in the country.

The Iloilo-based Rio topped the Cebu leg last April 6 and 7 as she sent a strong signal that she means to rule them all.

Considered as the country’s biggest chance to win the WSC, Rio has won all the Baguio tournaments she joined in Baguio except the 2003 Baguio Championship.

But Rio, who last played here in 2014, has racked some 15 titles here including the 2004 National Scrabble Championship at SM City, and some PHP200,000 in winnings.

Labog, who shrugged off the rust from a long lay-off, finished second in Butuan last weekend to the already qualified Cebuano Joel Toroy after losing in the final game.

Labog, the winner of five Baguio tournaments including the 2018 Baguio Scrabble Tournament, could have won the tournament if she followed up her game 15 victory over Toroy, who wound up with 10 wins in 16 games, followed by Labog and Toroy’s brother Tommy.

Joel Toroy took the top purse of PHP12,000 and plaque, while Labog and Tommy took home PHP6,000 and PHP3,000 plus a medal, respectively, for their feats and seats to the national finals.

Francis Dizon and Ronne Ilagan took fourth and fifth places respectively.

They also qualify to the national finals along with sixth-placed Ronnie Serrano.

Manila and Baguio leg winners Mohammad Suma took the first slot as the 23-year-old World Youth Scrabble Championship veteran has shown that he is ready to take over the mantle of being the country’s best.

Melvin Dalangin, who placed second in the first two legs, Alexis Jayosa, Abdul Suma and reigning national champion Renante dela Cerna were also among the first qualifiers.

Ferdinand Lucas led the Baguio leg qualifiers by placing third, followed by Ambler, lawyer Tony Malonzo, Coronacion, and USAPI president Robbie Onate.

Rio, who took home PHP12,000 for her feat in Cebu, is followed by Jowar Ayuno, Joel Toroy, Dart Eslao, and Larry Serrano.

The fifth and last leg will be this on July 13 and 14 in Pasay City where the top five placers will be chosen to complete the 25 man/woman national finals roster.

There are two major tournaments in Baguio, the Panagbenga held late February or early March, and the Baguio Scrabble Tournament on September.