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¿Cualquiera para Scrabble?

What do the words asaetear, escosare and briozoo have in common? They'll earn you an extra 50 points in a Scrabble game — if you're playing in Spanish, that is.

Travis Chaney, a competitive Scrabble player and Ashland resident who has used these words to earn bingos in the game, is competing in his first Spanish language Scrabble tournament, held in Texas today.

"I want to be the first to be a bilingual champion," said Chaney, 36, who is ranked 134th in the North American Scrabble Players Association and 105th in the world.

Chaney has studied Spanish for five years and has been playing Spanish Scrabble for the last year. Today he's playing five games in one day against six others.

"It's a huge transition," he said. "When you start to play English games a lot, your brain looks for patterns. In Spanish, patterns are different, so you look for different connections."

Eventually Chaney would like to compete in Spanish-speaking counties, especially Argentina and Spain, and help draw attention to the game.

"The competitive scene is really alien to a lot of people," Chaney said. The rules of the game are the same in the competitive world, but the play is timed.

Many competitive players find it difficult to play a casual game. Chaney plays because he enjoys it, though he's unable to reign in his competitiveness, even with his 14-year-old son Julius, he said.

Chaney started playing around the time Julius was born. He wrote to Hasbro, which owns the Scrabble trademark, and it sent back information on clubs in his area.

"I drove four hours to go to a club and was hooked," Chaney said.

The Spanish tournament that Chaney is attending is a qualifying event for the Spanish World Tournament. Chaney's goal is to win at least three games and represent the United States in the championship, which will be held in Costa Rica next year.

"I don't know what to expect — it's humbling that way," he said. "When I go to the World Players Championship I know what to expect at that — to win a lot of games."

Chaney is playing in that tournament as well, held Aug. 13-16 in Dallas.

Chaney is a senior at Southern Oregon University, earning a degree in Spanish, and works at Walgreen's. He also runs an official Scrabble club in Ashland and hosts a small local tournament called the West Coast World Championship Wordlist Challenge every year.

Chaney keeps track of the members' statistics so they can track their progress.

"We have all levels of player," he said. "It's a learning experience and for people to have fun."

The Scrabble aficionado spends at least 12 hours a week studying word lists. During tournament season, he studies 20 to 30 hours a week.

"He's the best at what he does," Julius said as he played a game with his dad on a recent afternoon.

Whether he progresses to the World Championship or not, Chaney will continue to play.

"Scrabble is fun — it's the perfect game," he said. "Other word games just fail."

The Ashland Scrabble Club meets at noon on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at The Beanery and on the first, third and fifth Sundays at CultureWorks. For more information, call Travis Chaney at 541-227-9633.

Reach reporter Johanna Thompson at 541-482-3456 ext. 225.