Ishtiaq Chishti

May 16, 2011

Ishtiaq Chishti, the oldest scrabble player in the world - fondly called 'Baba Scrabble' (the father of scrabble) - passed away after liver failure complications late on Saturday.

Ishtiaq Chishti Ishtiaq Chishti
Photo by
The Express Tribune

He is survived by wife Malka Chishti and four children.

Chishti, 77, became the oldest player in the World Scrabble Championship in 2003 when he played at the age of 69 years and came 44th out of 150 players. Before him, the previous record holder for the oldest scrabble competitor was Bil Rose, who died in 2003 at 98.

Chishti was born in March 1933 in Ajmer and after the subcontinent's partition, migrated to Pakistan and later moved to Saudi Arabia to pursue his career. There, his love for scrabble grew when he started playing the game in 1960 after a friend gave him the board game as a present on his return from the United States.

"In Saudi Arabia, he became the founding member of the Dhahran Scrabble Club, the oldest club in the world today," his son, Sohail Chishti, told The Express Tribune.

Over 300 trophies adorn his drawing room. But they are eclipsed by a letter from Alfred Mosher Butts, an American architect who invented the board game in 1938. In his hand-written letter, he appreciated Chishti's efforts and contribution to the mind sport.

The oldest scrabble player played in tournaments across the world, in Sri Lanka, Australia, Malaysia, England, Canada, the United States, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai among others.

He resettled in Pakistan after retiring in 2005 and since then, he had been working to promote the stimulating mind sport.

A colleague, Tariq Parvez, who is the director of the Pakistan Scrabble Association's Youth Programme, recalled his vigour and untiring efforts to make the game popular among the youth of the country. "He was instrumental in promoting the game and despite his age, he actively went to schools and gymkhanas to urge students to play scrabble," he said.

Chishti had been playing scrabble for 46 years and used to call it a "stress buster" and "a game of the literates".

In an earlier interview with The Express Tribune, he had said, "Skills learnt for any other game are limited to the game alone, but those acquired in scrabble can be used across the board." His pun was intended.

Chishti and his wife, Malka, started playing from home and they made it to the list of the best scrabble players in the world. Malka once made a world record with the word 'Computerization' that stretched across the board.

Javaid Iqbal, the Pakistan Scrabble Association vice president, told The Express Tribune that Chishti was the most patient person he had ever met. "Whenever a difference of opinion arose, he never argued and never became angry." Recently, when Muhammad Sulaiman secured first position in the Malta International Scrabble Open Championship 2010, Chishti hosted a celebration in his honour.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2011.

1 Comment for “World’s Oldest Scrabble Player Passes Away”

  1. Gravatar of Saeed Ahmed QureshiSaeed Ahmed Qureshi
    Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 1:36:40 PM

    We had been very close in Aramco and our residences in Dammam. Met several times when he use to come to Islamabad. A thorough gentleman and an excellant college.Steady for helping others and lead a beutiful life. He was a law gradute and we use to get his advices on our legal matters in Pakistan. I pray to Allah All Mighty for his best life hereafter and my sincere condolances to his family. All my family is in great sorrow.

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