Entering its ninth decade of existence, Scrabble remains timeless and is being revived as the “king of board games” at Wits University.    

The communal tables in the Matrix on East Campus are occupied by people eating lunch, watching a game or chatting with friends – now it is the home of green boards and white tiles.

Vice president of Scrabble South Africa, Steven Gruzd has been facilitating game teasers during lunchtimes in February to attract participants for the upcoming launch of the official club on March 7, 2024. So far 77 wordsmiths have signed up.  

Developed in the 1930s by Alfred Butts, Scrabble has evolved into a global game, which is currently sold in 121 countries and available in over 30 languages. “I might even say it’s more strategic than chess since it has the elements of language, grammar and understanding parts of speech. If it’s still around after 70 years, then you know that it’s doing something right,” said Gruzd.  

First year student, Paula Madinga described the game as “intriguing and helpful for one’s memory” adding that more students could benefit from it. 

Another first-time player, Yandisa Nondonga from the Wits secretariat department added that she fell in love with Scrabble because it challenged her to think on her feet. “I love that Steven was always available to help, making it less frustrating and easier to understand,”said Nondonga.

The game has many educational benefits hence teachers use it as a fun and effective tool to enhance language skills for students. Gruzd reminisced about beginning to play Scrabble at the age of eight at Houghton Primary School, where it was offered as an extracurricular activity-leading to his participation in his first competition at the age of 12.   

“I have been playing for over 40 years and I’m still learning with each game,” he said. Wits had a Scrabble club in the 1990s which ran for a year and then closed. Now, Gruzd wants to ensure its longevity, with plans for a student-led committee, a varsity league, and participation in world championships. 

Membership is currently free, and the launch will be at Sturrock Park Sports Centre, West Campus of Wits between 16h00 and 21h00. However, this is limited to Wits students, staff and alumni.