Up to Scrabble® Tournament Rules

APSP Game Rules

January 1996 Edition

Table of Contents

Update information

These rules are essentially the same as those published in the 1996 APSP Members' Handbook, except that I have modified it slightly for HTML. The main such changes have been the removal of numbered sub-sub-sections, and some of the numbered sub-sections, as they are hard to do properly, and there isn't any need to cross-reference them. I have also removed the update information which used to occur after the introduction.

The main changes since 1991 are:


In devising these rules, care has been taken to cover all the frequently occurring situations as comprehensively as possible. It must be borne in mind, however, that it is not possible to anticipate every situation. In such cases, it is up to the designated tournament Director to exercise his discretion, taking into account the rules and guiding principles as set out here, and the particular circumstances of the case/situation in question. In all such cases the tournament Director's decision shall be final and binding.

For ease of reference these rules refer to the two players in a game as Player A and Player B.

References to Director within these rules denotes the Tournament Director or his duly appointed deputy.

These rules have been adopted by the APSP and will be the rules by which all tournament games under the aegis of the APSP or qualifying for APSP ratings shall be played.

1. Conduct

All players are honour bound not to cheat.

It is the responsibility of every member, while playing, not only to guard at all times against any action of his/her own which might incur suspicion or misinterpretation, but also immediately to draw to the attention of his/her opponents any such action on their part. If there is persistent dubious conduct then the Director should be called.

If any player is caught cheating he/she will immediately be disqualified from taking part in the tournament. All games played by that player thus far may be awarded to the player's opponents. The player caught will receive an automatic indefinite ban from APSP tournaments and have his/her membership revoked.

(See also Appendix re game etiquette.)

2. Equipment

2.1 Basic rules

The basic games rules published by J.W. Spear (latest edition 1988) will apply unless otherwise stated in these rules.

2.2 The Dictionary

Words will be valid if they are contained in the latest accepted version of Official Scrabble Words or in the corresponding version of Chambers Dictionary for words which do not fall within the scope of Official Scrabble Words. (These are currently third edition of Official Scrabble Words for words of root length nine letters or shorter and the 1993 edition of Chambers Dictionary for longer words.)

2.3 The Scrabble Set

It is the responsibility of both players to check that the set contains the correct number and distribution of tiles. Under no circumstances can corrections be made once the game has started. The sets must be de luxe sets which have tiles which are in good condition and of a uniform degree of wear. Where both are available, tournament tiles are preferred over standard tiles. Any player has the right to challenge the use of a set.

2.4 The Chess Clock

It is the responsibility of both players to agree the setting of the chess clock to the specified time limit, that the clocks are fully wound, and that the clocks are working properly.

Reference is made to neutralizing the clock throughout this document. This means depressing both clock buttons such that they are balanced and neither player's clock is ticking.

2.5 Written Aids -- Tile Tracking

Pre-prepared word lists are not permitted at the playing table but players may prepare lists of tiles prior to the game for the purpose of tile-tracking.

What is written on paper once the game has begun is up to the player and there are no restrictions.

3. Starting the Game

3.1 Late arrivals

It is the duty of all competitors to be present at the announced time of commencement for any given round.

If both players are absent at the start of a round then the Director may start the clock and, when the first player arrives, assign him/her the elapsed time by starting the clock of the second player. Upon arrival the second player should neutralize the clock and accept the full amount of elapsed time (i.e. that shown on the first player's clock plus that shown on the second player's clock). Only then should the players continue as described in 3.2 and 3.3 below.

If one player is absent at the start of a round, his/her clock must be started if instructed by the Director. When that player arrives the clock should be neutralized. Only then should both players continue as described in 3.2 and 3.3 below.

3.2 Determining Who Starts

Unless there is a system to predetermine who starts, the players draw tiles to determine who starts play. The player who draws a tile closest to the beginning of the alphabet, with the blank preceding an A, starts the game.

3.3 Starting the Clock

Player B may start Player A's clock:

4. The Turn

4.1 Playing of Tiles

Tiles must be placed on the board to form the required word. If any of the tiles are blanks the player must state clearly the letter they represent.

4.2 Scoring

Once Player A has computed the score, Player A should announce it. The score may be computed aloud.

4.3 Exchanging Tiles

There is no restriction on the number of times a player may exchange tiles during a game. However, there must be at least seven tiles remaining in the bag regardless of the number of tiles being exchanged.

To exchange tiles Player A must announce "Change" and the number of tiles being exchanged, remove those tiles from the rack, press Player B's clock, pick replacement tiles and return old tiles to the bag.

4.4 Passing

Passing is permitted at any time during the game. If each player passes thrice in succession the game ends.

To pass, Player A announces "Pass" and starts Player B's clock.

(See also 4.5 Unplayable Tiles and 8 Ending the Game.)

4.5 Unplayable Tiles

If Player A is unable to play any tiles in the final stages of the game then the procedure for a turn must still be followed, i.e. announce "Pass" and start Player B's clock. It must not be assumed that Player B has the knowledge that Player A cannot play, even if it is only the Q left on Player A's rack.

4.6 Pressing the Clock

Once Player A has made a play and announced the score, Player A should immediately press the button on Player A's side of the clock to end the turn and thereby simultaneously start Player B's turn.

No change to the play may be made after the turn is ended, i.e. opponent's clock started. However, any change may be made before the clock is pressed even if Player A has announced the score and Player B has called "Challenge".

It is each player's responsibility to press the clock at the end of their turn. If Player A forgets to press the clock then Player B is entitled to free use of Player A's time.

4.7 Restarting the Clock

If the clocks have been neutralized due to a challenge, score query, excess tiles being drawn, or to call the Director, then it is the responsibility of the player whose turn was last completed to restart the clock. The clock shall not be restarted after a successful challenge until the player has taken his tiles off the board

4.8 Keeping Score

Both players must keep score, i.e. the score for each turn and the cumulative score. It is the responsibility of both players to verify the scores from time to time. Verification must only take place at the end of a turn.

If at any time prior to signing the final scoresheet, either player wishes to correct a score for a move or a cumulative score then this is allowed providing both players agree. If both players do not agree the Director should be consulted to determine the correct score for the game.

4.9 Challenges

Once Player A has indicated the end of his/her turn by pressing the clock, Player B may challenge the play by announcing "Challenge" and neutralizing the clocks. Player B then legibly writes on the provided slips of paper which word(s) are being challenged, confirms them with Player A and calls for a "runner".

Once the challenge slip has been handed to the runner neither the decision to challenge nor the word(s) challenged may be altered. That is, the challenge cannot be withdrawn and no additional words can be challenged for that turn.

It is too late for Player B to challenge Player A's play once Player B has entered the score on the score sheet. The entire score for the move must be written down; it is not necessary to compute or write the cumulative score for this rule to take effect.

Also, if Player A begins to draw replacement tiles prior to pressing the clock, Player B may alert Player A to this, at which point Player A must press the clock, and Player B may challenge.

Time allowed for challenges -- once Player A has made a play Player B may take any amount of time to consider or to declare "Challenge". This is on Player B's time and Player A may not draw replacement tiles until Player B has recorded the score.

(See also Appendix -- Conduct of Players.)

Where more than one word is challenged the adjudicator must only rule the play acceptable or not acceptable, without any indication towards the acceptability or non-acceptability of individual words.

If either player is dissatisfied with the adjudicator's decision on the word(s) challenged it is permitted to ask for a recheck along with a clarifying note. (Additional words can not be added to the challenge slip at this point.) The adjudicator will then recheck the word(s) and inform the players of the decision which will then be final.

Other than for a recheck a challenge can only be resubmitted if the original word(s) challenged do not correspond to the word(s) actually on the board.

When a challenge has been made, control of the board remains with the challenged player.

4.10 Drawing Tiles

The bag must be held at shoulder level when tiles are being drawn from it. The Director should be consulted if this is not possible for any reason.

It is recommended that tiles be drawn from the bag one at a time to ensure picking the correct number.

If Player A has picked more than the correct number of tiles then the clocks should be neutralized whereupon Player B can

5. Correct End Of Turn Procedure

6. Interrupting the Game

It is not permitted to neutralize the clock other that for the purposes of agreeing the score, calling a challenge, enforcing the rule on extra tiles, or calling the Director.

If either player must leave the board temporarily they must do so with the Director's permission and on their own time. Therefore, if Player A leaves in the middle of the game and it is Player B's turn to play, Player B may make a play and then start Player A's clock. However, Player B should refrain from picking fresh tiles until Player A's return.

7. Counting Remaining Tiles

At any time the number of tiles left in the bag may be counted externally (i.e. by feeling through the bag). If you wish to confirm the number of tiles remaining by counting them in the bag this should be done in your own time and with the opponent's consent. Ifyour opponent does not consent then the tiles can only be counted by a third party. The clock must be neutralized whilst waiting for the third party but restarted when the third party commences counting tiles.

8. Ending the Game

Once the last move of a game has been played the player whose turn it is next must acknowledge the end of the game by recording the score and neutralizing the clocks, or challenge the last word(s) played.

Other than a natural conclusion, the game is also ended when each player passes thrice in succession. When the game ends in this manner, each player deducts the total value of their tiles from their scores.

Note that exchanging tiles does not count as a pass for the purposes of this rule whereas a lost challenge does.

9. Time Penalties

If either player exceeds the specified time limit, that player subtracts ten points for each minute or fraction thereof by which the time limit was exceeded. If the players are unable to decide on the amount of extra time that has elapsed then the Director must be called to the table. The Director's decision will be final and not subject to appeal.

(See also 3 Starting the Game re time penalties for late arrival.)

If in any game a player overruns the allotted time by 15 minutes the game shall be forfeit by that player. The margin shall be the margin when the 15 minutes is reached (after imposing time penalties) or 150 points, whichever is the greater.

10. Scoresheets

Once the scores have been checked and the scoresheet signed by the losing player, no changes can be made to it.

When APSP scoresheets are used, players must ensure that the winner's and loser's names, player codes, and spread are correctly entered, and the loser signs his name. It is the responsibility of the winner to ensure that the score sheet is handed in before he leaves the playing area. No changes may be made to the scoresheet once the subsequent round has been played without the express permission of the Tournament Director.


Conduct of Players

It is impossible to offer a comprehensive list of players' actions that constitute a violation of the proper manner and etiquette with which a game is played. However, there are actions which are considered to be outside the range of allowed activity, some of which are outlined below:

1. Unnecessary Conversation

Once games have commenced players should not talk to their opponents beyond what is necessary to apply the game rules. Players should not make comments about other games in progress.

2. Announcing a Play

It is not acceptable to simply announce, "I think I'll try this word..." and show your opponent your rack. Tiles must be laid on the board and the score announced as per the Game Rules.

3. Turning the Board

Turning the board round following a play is not considered an essential part of the turn. It is the responsibility of the player whose turn it is next to turn the board if so desired.

4. Challenges

If Player B is considering to challenge Player A then decides not to challenge (by recording Player A's score) then Player B should inform Player A of the decision not to challenge.

5. Smoking

If smoking is permitted at a tournament then normal etiquette and courtesy should be exercised by the smoker. Note that smoking is not allowed in the playing or dining areas at APSP-organized tournaments.

6. When Games are Finished

After completion of the game players should leave the room or remain silent so as not to disturb those still playing.

7. Tile Tracking.

Tile tracking for your own move must be done only after drawing fresh tiles so as not to introduce a situation which delays your opponent from making a play. (See 5 Correct End of Turn Procedure with respect to tile tracking.)

8. Prize money allocation.

Prize money, in APSP-organized tournaments, will be allocated such that the fund for each division is proportional to the fee paid by the players in each division.