Kenya's Patrick Gitonga on Thursday ended in an impressive eighth place on Day Two of the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association Championship at the Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi. The national champion finished with a spread of +573 at the end of round 14.
The 50-year-old farmer saw off Australian champion John Holgate 424-376, compatriot Patrick Litunya 530-382 and Toh Weibin of Singapore 488-417 to end as the top ranked Kenyan in the international competition that has drawn 118 players from 38 countries.
It was an improvement for the Kenyan, who finished in position 27nd at the end of the first day on Wednesday. Gitonga believes he can only get better as the tourney progresses.
"I think we had a torrid start as Kenyans on the first day because we were under pressure and hadn't settled but we are now in the groove and ready to challenge for honours," Gitonga said.
Ex-Kenya champion Allan Oyende, who stunned defending champion Wellington Jighere of Nigeria, slid out of the top 20 positions after an indifferent Day Two. A total of 13 Kenyans are taking part in the competition.
Indian Ranganathan Chakravarthy was placed top at the end of Thursday's action with a spread of +513 after winning 12 rounds and losing twice with Jighere placed second ahead of compatriot Peter Moses.
Eta Koro (Nigeria )and American Dave Wiegand completed the top five places.
The top two players at the end of the 32 round competition will face off in best of seven series final on Sunday for the cash prize of Sh2 million.
Kenya is the first African Nation to host the biennial competition. The country was placed second at the 2015 edition held in Perth, Australia.