HUNTINGDON, Pa. — Nitya Chagti, a Juniata College student, doesn’t play typically friendly Scrabble games.

The international-level Scrabble competitor was ranked among the top 20 competitors at the international GAIL cup in Delhi, India, in July.

The competitions are intense. Players are timed; psychology comes into play as well as strategy, she said. It’s not a typical friendly game of Scrabble.

Chagti, 18, was named the championship’s best female performer by the Scrabble Association of Delhi, the association’s Facebook page states.

“The rush of winning is addicting,” Chagti said. “I immensely like winning,” she said after class at Juniata College last week.

Scrabble is played on a board, where two to four players use the game’s 100 tiles to form words either across or down the gridded gameboard. The tiles, 98 of which have a single letter with its point total as well as two blanks that can be used for any letter, are used to form words. Less common letters, such as Q and Z, are worth 10 points.

As an international student from New Delhi, Chagti participates in a Friendship Family program through Juniata’s Center for International Education.

Families volunteer for the program and international students apply to be matched with a family.

Liz Widman and her family have become close with Chagti because of that program.

“They are a huge part of my life and have offered me a lot of support,” Chagti said.

Widman said she has introduced Chagti to her friends over dinner – and a game of Scrabble. They were bamboozled.

“I set my friends up. They never saw it coming,” Widman said.

Widman works at the college’s international center.

She’s learned from Chagti that Scrabble is about knowing how the language is structured.

“There are students that come around infrequently that everyone who meets that student will remember that student,” Widman said.

Chagti is one of them, she said.

“Two faculty members have talked to me about meeting Nits. ‘Oh yea, she wants to study ancient Greek,’ one professor said. ‘She wants to study ancient Latin,’ said another. We don’t offer those courses,” Widman said. “But some faculty are willing to help her because they have the knowledge.”

She is an A-plus student at Juniata, Widman said. And her drive to be the best at Scrabble is the same as her drive to be best in every class she is in.

“This summer, I was talking to her about playing in the tournament. She was studying word formations in the dictionary. She said ‘What if I don’t win?’ I said you will still be the excellent student you are,'” Widman said.

Chagti’s major course of study is history. In addition to academics, she works three jobs and is involved with the philosophy club on campus.

“She derails politics classes by citing philosophers that other students haven’t even heard of,” Widman said.

Chagti is also a mentor for other international students adjusting to college life in the United States.

“The culture shock. The way people speak. The food that people eat. That’s always something to get used to,” Chagti said.

She doesn’t have much time to play Scrabble, but she plans to continue competing. She is one of the youngest competitors at the GAIL cup conducted over two days in July.

The tournament included eight to 10 matches, each lasting about 15 minutes.

“Each game counts,” Chagti said. “It definitely keeps me coming back for more. I want to get better.”

Competitors from Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and all across India participated.

“One match, I lost to one of the best players in India by one point,” Chagti said. “He had been national champion in India before.

“He said I played a wonderful game. It was the best compliment I could have ever received,” she said. “I am still a budding Scrabble player.”

At age 12, she joined the International Scrabble Club, a press release from Juniata College states.

In addition to English, she speaks Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit.

“I began playing Scrabble because I was interested in increasing my vocabulary,” she said.


Information from: Altoona Mirror,