Belfast solicitor Paul Gallen aims to be UK Scrabble champion

By Ross McKee
BBC News

image captionPaul Gallen (left) will take on Olawale Fashina in Sunday's final. (Picture by Craig Beevers)

Paul Gallen is used to minding his Ps and Qs as a solicitor in Belfast, but on Sunday his wordplay skills will really be put to the test when he bids to lift the UK National Scrabble title.

The 26-year-old will take on Liverpool accountant Olawale Fashina in the tournament's final at the Cavendish conference centre in London.

He first started to take the game seriously after being crowned champion of champions on the Channel Four television show Countdown in 2006.

"The semi-final and the final on Countdown went to crucial conundrums and there were less than 10 points in it," Paul said. "It was an amazing experience.

"Once that was over, someone told me there was a Scrabble scene, and I looked online for a local club in Belfast.

"The club I go to meets every fortnight at the Beechlawn Hotel in Dunmurry and there are lots of players of a tough standard you can practise with.

"I travel to tournaments all over the UK and have met Olawale a few times, he is a nice guy.

"I have played him four times and beaten him all four times, so I hope that run continues."


The semi-finals of the UK competition gave the phrase "a night on the tiles" a whole new meaning as Paul pitted his wits against a host of top players in Birmingham for a place in Sunday's Scrabble showdown.

"For the semi-finals in Birmingham in September, there were 60 players from the UK there and 14 games," he added.

"The games lasted an hour and there were seven each day (Saturday and Sunday).

"They are long days and I had to make sure I was on the 8pm flight on the Sunday, as I was in court on the Monday with work."

The Newcastle United football fan dismisses suggestions that Scrabble could be viewed as boring and says it is proving increasingly popular online.

"A lot of people enjoy Scrabble on Facebook now, I find it intellectually stimulating," he said.

"If you watch Scrabble online, and this final is being streamed live, you can see it is quite exciting if it is a close game.

"There will be a lot of pressure on Sunday as it is a big title."

If Paul triumphs in the five-game final, he will collect a cash prize of £2,500.

And the legal eagle did not draw a blank when asked where the money would be going, if he is successful.

Scrabble or no Scrabble, there is one person he still wants to be scoring points with.

"I think my girlfriend wants a present, so we will probably go on a holiday - to somewhere warm," he added.

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