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How to Direct a Scrabble Tournament

This document covers everything you need to have and do to run a successful Scrabble tournament. If I've missed anything, please e-mail me. And yes, I've read too many planning-for-a-baby-or-wedding books. -- John Chew

The AGA has a much more detailed guide to running Go tournaments, which is worth reading even for Scrabble directors.

Since the transition from the National SCRABBLE Association (NSA) to the North American SCRABBLE Players Association (NASPA), a revised version of this checklist is now available. This page is maintained for the sake of historical interest.


Two Months Before

At this point, you should have:

If possible, you should get all of these done as early as twelve months before the date of the tournament.

One Month Before

At this point, you should have:

One Week Before

At this point, you should have:

One Day Before

At this point, you should have:

One Hour Before

At this point, you should have:


It's good to allow an hour for registration for every hundred registrants. The registrars should check people off on their registration lists and collect any fees owing. They should ask players to pick up their nametag and scorecard. As soon as all the players for each division are present, the pairings officer should be informed.

Opening Ceremony

You should:


See the tsh user's guide.

For tournaments with a two-player final round, see also the somewhat obsolete Pairing Two-Victor Tournaments.

During the Tournament

Closing Ceremony

You should:

After the Tournament

You should:

What You Need


  • Entry fees
  • Commuter fees
  • Donations
  • Donations in kind


If your venue has a catering service, you will probably have to use it. If not, try to get local players to help out. Offer to reimburse them for their expenses, don't forget to thank them at the closing ceremony.

All through the event you will need:

At the start of the day, you will need:

If you can, provide a good lunch for players. A surprising number of players judge tournaments on the food offered, and for many it will be the only time when they can relax and socialize.

Most tournaments do not provide dinner, but if your venue offers you a good deal, it's certainly worth passing it on to your players. Make sure the menu includes options for players of different dietary needs, including at least vegetarian and kosher.


A reasonable calculation for cash prizes is: 30% of entry fees to the winner of each division, 15% to the runner-up, and another 15% divided among lower-ranked players with the smallest prize being equal to the entry fee. In a large division, use a 30%/10%/10% split instead and give 10% in class prizes to players seeded in the bottom half. Prizes should be awarded to 25-30% of players.

The NSA will offer quantity discounts to directors wanting to purchase Word Gear merchandise for use as prizes. Offer these and other noncash prizes as additional place prizes, special category prizes (high word, high/low win, theme words, early bird, door, etc.)

As of 2006, Hasbro no longer supplies game prize packages.


You need staff to fill the following positions. Some people may have more than one job, except as noted.

You need at least one who is not the emcee, as registration for latecomers may overlap with announcements. At least two is a very good idea, to speed processing at busy times. If you have more than 100 players, have at least one registrar for every 50 players, divided if possible according to player divisions.
One person per room, to make announcements and generally keep order. Should be able to speak clearly and concisely.
Rules Adjudicator
One for every 200 players. Should be very familiar with the rules.
Data Entry Person
One data entry person for every 200 players. Should preferably have experience, must be able to touch-type numbers quickly and with at least 99.95% accuracy.
Pairings Officer
One for every 200 players. Should be qualified to do pairings by hand, in case of an emergency. Is often the same as data entry person.
One person, to keep prizes organized and hand them to the emcee during the prize ceremony. Cannot be the emcee. Should be able to keep a list of items in the right order under pressure.
Catering Coordinator
If you are doing your own catering and don't have to book it through your venue, one person should be in charge of soliciting contributions from local players, and for making sure that food and drink are put out at appropriate times. Should be able to charm a man into cooking.


You need to obtain the following miscellaneous supplies:

You need to bring the following information and documents:

You need copies of the following documents available from the NSA:

You need to print the following documents, much of which are available at my supplies page or at the NSA's forms page: