Up to SCRABBLE® Tournament Rules
NSA Tournament Rules (1995)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Only the main entries and their inflected forms and run-ons
listed in the Official SCRABBLE® Players Dictionary, 2nd Edition
(OSPD2), are acceptable for tournament play. The latest printing
of the OSPD2 includes changes that are listed on the Official
OSPD2 Correction List. This list usurps old printings of the
OSPD2. All players should review this list, which is included with
every new and renewing NSA membership kit.
If a word having more than eight letters is played, first look
it up in the OSPD2. There are almost 12,000 words having more than
eight letters in the OSPD2. If a longer word is listed in the
OSPD2, it is acceptable. If it is not listed in the OSPD2, to be
judged acceptable the word must appear as a main entry or inflected
form or alternate spelling in bold print in Merriam-Webster's New
Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition. It must not be capitalized,
hyphenated, contracted, foreign or listed only as part of a multi-word
phrase. Words of fewer than nine letters listed in the Merriam-Webster
but not in the OSPD2 are not acceptable, nor are inflections of
main entries of fewer than nine letters. Any word used in the
definition of a word, but not listed in the dictionary itself, will
not be acceptable.
If there is a disagreement over which set of tiles to use, the
smoother tiles take precedence. Smoother tiles are defined as
those for which there is less possibility of sensing the letter of
a tile by touch alone. Tiles at adjacent boards should be different
in color and/or style if at all possible.
Digital clocks shall be considered equally as acceptable as
standard-faced clocks. Clocks are to be used in preference to
sand-timers. (See Section IX.)
On non-standard racks at least the top of each tile must be
visible to opponents. That is, each player must be able to see
exactly how many tiles are on opponent's rack at all times. As
long as this requirement is followed, either player may choose
his/her own specialized rack.
If there is disagreement as to which other shared equipment
should be used (tiles, board, clock, bag), the equipment which
conforms more closely to the specifications in the rules is to
be used. If they conform equally then the player playing second
has the choice.
The players count the tiles. There should be 100 with the letter
distribution shown on the lower left corner of the gameboard. If
the distribution or the number of tiles is incorrect, notify the
Director immediately. If [Page 3] it is discovered
later in the game that there is an incorrect number of certain
letters available for the game, the game proceeds with the letter
pool as is. Note Guideline 4 on page 15.
1. If one player has had fewer firsts during the
tournament than the other, that player shall go first; otherwise,
each player draws a tile from the bag. The player drawing the
letter nearer the beginning of the alphabet earns the first turn.
Tile drawing is repeated, as necessary, until the players draw
different letters. Drawing the blank earns the first play, unless
the opponent draws the second blank, in which case both players
- I. OFFICIAL WORD LIST
- A. OSPD2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
- B. MWC10. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
- II. PRE-GAME PRELIMINARIES
- III. DRAWING TILES
- IV. DURING PLAY
- V. SCORING
- VI. END OF TURN
- VII. END OF GAME
- VIII. CLOCKS
- IX. SAND TIMERS
- X. PROCEDURE FOR CHALLENGING PLAYS
- XI. OBSERVING AN INCORRECT RULING 14
- XII. QUESTIONS? CALL THE DIRECTOR! 14
2. If one player has had a bye or forfeit: The player
who has played first the fewer number of times goes first. If both
players have the same number of firsts, then the player who has
had more `seconds' shall go first. *Note: See Section
VII.J. for further information on byes and forfeits.
Return the tiles to the bag. Both players have the right to
shuffle all 100 tiles thoroughly before the game begins. The second
player forfeits this right as soon as (s)he either initiates the
opponent's timer or allows the first player to draw tiles while
1. The first player must draw tiles while the second player
is alerted to this action. The second player has the right
to shuffle all the tiles and may ask to do so. However, the first
player does not need to ask the second player if (s)he wishes
to shuffle the tiles, although it is considered polite to do so.
2. If the first player has already drawn at least one
tile, and the second player, not having shuffled the tiles
previously, now wishes to exert his/her right to shuffle the
remaining undrawn tiles, this is permitted.
At the Director's signal, the player with the first turn
draws seven tiles from the bag and places them on his/her rack.
The opponent starts the first player's timer as soon as the
first player has seen the first letter. Opponent draws seven
The only papers allowed at each player's station are one Score
Sheet, one Contestant Score Card, Challenge Slips and a preprinted
list of the alphabet and/or a letter frequency list of the 100
tiles, if so desired. Both players may construct and use his/her
own letter frequency list.
When drawing tiles, hold the bag at eye level or at arm's length,
reach in to draw the number of tiles that replenish the rack, and
place them face down on the table to verify the count. Then transfer
those tiles to the rack. Under no circumstances should the
tile-drawer look into the bag while drawing tiles. Such behavior
is [Page 4] considered cheating and is grounds
for expulsion from a tournament.
If a player wishes, s/he may put the tiles on the rack directly
after taking them from the bag. However, this can sometimes lead
to overdrawing. (See III C). If a player
notices s/he has drawn too many tiles and his/her hand has left
the inside of the bag, it is forbidden to voluntarily drop back
the extra tiles back into the bag.
If too many tiles have been drawn (called ``overdrawing''), then there are
three possibilities. Note that X = number of extra tiles drawn.
1. When none of the new tiles have
been mixed with the old ones, the opponent draws (X + 1) tiles
randomly from the new tiles (facedown), looks at them, shows them
to the player and then returns X tiles to the bag while the remaining
tile is put on opponent's rack.
2. When at least one new tile has been
mixed with the old tiles, the opponent takes (X + 1) tiles randomly
from the whole mixed group of new and old tiles, looks at them,
then returns X tiles to the pool. Example: If Player One
should draw two tiles but instead draws three, then X = 1, and so
(X + 1) = 2.
3. If there are seven or fewer tiles
in the bag, follow #1 or #2
above as appropriate, except you should change the (X + 1) to (X
+ 2). Example: If there are 5 tiles in the bag and Player
One is supposed to draw three tiles, but instead draws four. In
this case X = 1 and so (X + 2) = 3. So Player Two draws three
tiles from Player Two [sic] and returns one tile to the bag and
the others to Player Two [sic].
When tiles are drawn out-of-order, (that's when Player One has
played but not drawn tiles, and Player Two plays and draws tiles
before Player One has replenished his/her rack) there shall be no
penalty. However, please read the Guidelines at the end of these
Rules. It is unethical to knowingly draw tiles out of order or
knowingly allow opponent to do so, and players may be penalized
for doing so near the end of the game.
The first player, should s/he choose to play a word,
combines two or more letters and places them on the board to
form a word in either a horizontal or vertical position with
one tile on the center pink square. The center pink square
indicates Double Word Score.
If the first word played on the board does not cover the
center square, and the opponent's timer has been started, the
opponent may challenge the word successfully off the board, regardless
of the word's acceptability. If the opponent chooses not to
challenge the word, it is scored in the usual manner, without the
Double Word Score bonus usually earned by covering the center
square. The center square may be used as a
Double-Word-Score bonus square for a subsequent play.
The game continues as players add one or more letters to
those already played on the board and form a new word or words.
The horizontal and vertical positioning rule remains in effect
during the entire game. Any words added to the board must
touch words already formed and must make new words wherever
they touch existing words or letters. The player gets credit
for all words formed in this fashion.
Diagonal words are not permitted. All tiles used in any
individual play on the board must help to spell one main
horizontal or vertical word. If this is not the case, the
whole play may be successfully challenged off the board. If
such a play is not challenged off the board, there is no score
for either the diagonal words or disconnected words formed on
that or future plays touching these words.
1. Add one or more letters to a word already on the board.
2. Place a word at right angles to a word already on the
board. The new word must use at least one of the letters already
on the board or must add a letter to it/them.
3. Place a complete word parallel to a word already
played, so that adjoining letters also form complete words.
1. After the first word has been played
on the board, the orientation of spelling words left to right and
top to bottom has been established. Words played subsequently must
follow the same orientation or can be successfully challenged off
the board. Please note that this is unrelated to the orientation
of bonus-square lettering.
2. It is not strictly against the
rules to place individual letters upside-down (letter still showing),
though this is generally considered inappropriate and should be
avoided at all times. The Director may be called if a player
continues to do so, and a warning given to desist.
3. In resolving disputes involving
rule 1 or 2 above), it will
be presumed that an opening play was intended to be interpreted as
that play reads when the board is oriented so that the values of
a majority of the tiles appear at the bottom-right corner of the
4. It is the right of each player,
during his/her turn only, to orient the direction of the board so
that the letters already played are oriented at whatever angle is
most convenient for the player.
Players may shuffle tiles on their rack at will, but mustn't
hold them in their hands unless moving them directly to the
bag (after exchanging or overdrawing), moving them to their
rack (after drawing tiles or removing them from the board or
picking up dropped tiles) or placing them on the board.
A player may use a turn to exchange one or more letters on the rack
for new letters. The exchange counts as a turn and no word is
played on the board. Announce to your opponent how many letters
you wish to exchange. Spread the tiles to be replaced face down
on the table, start your opponent's timer, and then draw the same
number of tiles from the bag. Place them face down on the table
to verify the count, put the replaced tiles into the bag, and
shuffle the bag. The player may change his/her mind as to which
tiles may be exchanged until (s)he starts opponent's timer or begins
to draw new tiles, whichever happens first.
A player may exchange tiles on any turn or turns, provided there
is a minimum of seven tiles in the bag.
If a player exchanges one or more tiles when there are
fewer than seven tiles in the pool, that player shall be
penalized, but only if opponent realizes the misplay before
ending his/her turn. In that case opponent neutralizes the
timer and looks at all the tiles in the pool, face up. Then
s/he also looks at all tiles on the player's rack. Opponent
now chooses within one minute which seven tiles the player
shall have. The remaining tiles go back to the pool and
opponent's timer is started.
There is one more important rule pertaining to inappropriate tile
exchanges. Consider the interval of time after the opponent's
timer has been started but before the player actually draws
the new tiles. If either player notices in this interval that
there are fewer than 7 tiles in the bag, then the player attempting
to exchange tiles shall, as usual, lose his/her turn without
exchanging any tiles, and no further penalty shall be enforced.
When using a blank, the player must state and print (either in the
designated space on the score sheet or on a blank sheet) which
letter the blank represents. This is to be done before starting
opponent's timer. The player may change and reprint the letter
s/he wishes the blank to represent as often as s/he likes before
starting opponent's timer. After opponent's timer is started
neither player may change the letter the blank represents.
If a player challenges due to a misunderstanding about which letter
the blank has been designated that turn, whether hearing incorrectly
or reading incorrectly the name of the letter, then once the
misunderstanding has been corrected, the challenge may be withdrawn
with no penalty to either player.
If a player has not designated which letter the blank tile represents
before initiating opponent's timer, opponent may immediately
neutralize the timer and demand to know [Page 7]
what letter the blank represents. However, this may be a penalty
situation. The Director should be notified and a warning be given
to the offender to make sure that future blanks be designated prior
to starting opponent's timer. It is suggested that repeated offenses
be penalized by Director (subtract 50 points from offender's total
Each time a blank is placed on the board, it is the responsibility
of the opponent to turn it over to verify that it is truly a blank.
If it is not a blank, and the turn is completed, the player who
placed it on the board must pick up all tiles played in that turn
and lose that turn (score zero). If a false blank is not detected
when it is played, it remains on the board as a blank with no
penalty to either player.
A player may pass his/her turn anytime during the game. Passing
is not exchanging. Passing is doing nothing to change the board
or your rack. Score zero for passing.
A player may ONLY leave the playing area after making a play,
starting opponent's timer, recording the cumulative score and
NOT drawing tiles. If a player must leave the playing area on
his/her own turn due to an emergency, the Director shall have
the power to intervene using his/her experience and judgment.
If a contestant leaves the table during a game, the timer will
NOT be neutralized. If the seated player makes a play while
the opponent is away from the board, the seated player must
start the opponent's timer and record the cumulative score but
NOT draw tiles until the opponent has had time to return to the
table. Within 5 seconds of becoming aware of the play, the
opponent must acknowledge whether s/he wants to hold or
challenge the play.
It is advisable and appropriate to verify that your record of
the scores coincides with your opponent's. However, a player
should only ask for verification while his/her own timer is
running, and NOT while his/her opponent's timer is on. Only
if there is a discrepancy should the timer be neutralized.
When using smooth tiles, you may put your hand into the tile
bag and count the number of tiles remaining.
When using indented tiles you may count the number of tiles
remaining unless your opponent objects, in which case a
Monitor may be called to count the tiles.
The score value of each letter is indicated by a number at the
bottom of the tile. The blanks have a score value of zero.
The score for each turn is the sum of the letter values in each
word formed or modified during [Page 8] the
play, plus the additional points obtained from placing letters on
1. A light blue square DOUBLES the score
of a LETTER placed on it.
2. A dark blue square TRIPLES the score
of a LETTER placed on it.
1. The score for an entire WORD is DOUBLED
when one of its letters is placed on a pink square.
2. The score for an entire WORD is TRIPLED
when one of its letters is placed on a red square.
When scoring a player's turn, all premiums for DOUBLE or TRIPLE
letter values, if any, must be included before DOUBLING or
TRIPLING the word score.
If a word is formed that covers two pink Double Word Squares,
the score is DOUBLED AND THEN REDOUBLED, which is FOUR times the
total letter count.
If a word is formed that covers two red Triple Word Squares,
the score is TRIPLED AND THEN TRIPLED AGAIN, which is NINE times the
total letter count.
The letter premiums and the word premiums apply only in
the turn in which they are first played. In all subsequent
turns, letters count only at FACE VALUE.
When a BLANK TILE is played on a pink Double Word Square
or a red Triple Word Score square, the value of the word
is DOUBLED or TRIPLED even though the blank itself has zero
When two or more words are formed in the same play, each
is fully scored. The common letter is counted (with full
premium value, if any) for each word.
Any player who plays ALL SEVEN of his/her tiles in a single
turn, scores a premium of 50 points in addition to his regular
score for the play. This is commonly called a ``Bingo''.
The player's tiles used for the immediate play may be shifted
any place on the board until the opponent's timer is started
or tiles drawn, whichever comes first.
If the player plays a word, announces the score and puts
his/her hand into the tile bag before starting opponent's timer,
then his/her turn is officially over and opponent may hold or
challenge the play. Even if the drawn tiles are on the rack,
and still opponent's
timer has not been started, opponent may
hold or challenge the play within a grace period of 20 seconds.
(See Section X. for more on challenging.)
After the player has played a word, announced the score,
and started opponent's timer, the player must record the
cumulative score to that point in the game before drawing new
tiles. A player who repeatedly forgets to do this may be
penalized by the Director. We recommend that the Director
warn the offender once before exacting a 50 point penalty.
Such a penalty should not affect the outcome of any game,
but simply be subtracted from the player's overall spread.**
In addition, it is forbidden to record the score before making
the play on the board. By recording the score after making the
play and before drawing tiles, the opponent has a few seconds
to examine the play and decide whether to challenge or hold.
Any player found deliberately recording the score prior to the
play should be warned by the Director while repeated offenses
should be penalized. An appropriate penalty would be to give
the opponent a free challenge.
** Only when there are no tiles left to draw will there be no
warning or penalty if opponent or player fails to record the
Sequentially, this is how a turn should proceed:
- Position the tiles on the board.
- Declare the score.
- Initiate the opponent's timer.
- Record the cumulative score to that point in the game.*
- Refill the rack.
It is advisable to record the words played and the individual
scores tallied each turn, though it is not necessary.
*If a player draws tiles before initiating opponent's timer,
or if a player draws tiles before recording the cumulative
score, the opponent still has 15-20 seconds to decide to say
``hold.'' Subsequently, if there is a successful challenge the
tiles are replaced in the tile bag after following the procedure
used when tiles are overdrawn.
*The opponent MAY NOT CHALLENGE if, prior to the opponent's
``Hold!'' or ``Challenge!'', the player has performed 1-4 above
and drawn at least one tile from the tile bag.
The game proceeds until one player goes out (uses all of
his/her tiles and none remains in the bag) or when there are
six successive scores of zero. A player scores zero when
s/he either passes, exchanges tiles or loses a challenge.
The player going out must neutralize the timer. The opponent
has 5 seconds to say ``Hold!'' or ``Challenge!'' Otherwise, the
playing portion of the game is then officially over. If a
``Hold!'' is announced, then the opponent's timer is started
until the ``hold'' either becomes a challenge or is rescinded.
If both players have unplayed tiles on their racks, each
player's score is reduced by the sum of the values of his/her
unplayed letters. If one player has used all the available
tiles, that player's score is increased by double the total
value of the opponent's unplayed letters. The opponent's score
remains the same. (See Section VIII.C. for
further scoring adjustments, when appropriate.)
The player with the highest adjusted score wins the game.
If both players have the same adjusted score, the game is
ruled a tie. Each player is awarded one-half (1/2) win.
At the end of each game, each player fills out his/her own
Contestant Score Card, signs the opponent's Contestant
Score Card, and the winner delivers them to the Director for
the posting of scores and the pairing of players in the next
As a courtesy to other contestants, players should leave
the playing area when their round is over. Tiles should remain
on the board to facilitate verifying that there are 100 tiles
in that set.
A recount of the game will be permitted (usually after a
very close game), but there will be no one but the players
themselves who do the recounting. Once a player signs his
opponent's Contestant Score Card, s/he is attesting that
the score is correct and no other scoring adjustments will
be made for that game. If there is a time shortage
the Director may call a halt to the recount.
Should a player receive a bye (i.e. there are an odd
number of players in a given division, so that one player
has no opponent), the bye shall count as a win, with +50 points
of spread added to the player's total spread.
Should a player not show up for a scheduled game, for
whatever reason, that player should receive a forfeit loss,
which is counted as a loss, with -50 points of spread subtracted
from his total spread. The designated opponent receives a
forfeit win, which counts as a win, with +50 points of spread
added to the total spread. Please note that byes and forfeits
are not used to compute new ratings.
If a player must leave a game in progress and both
players are not able to finish that game at an arranged
time later, then that player will automatically earn a forfeit
loss for that game. If the player is ahead at the time of
departure, the loss will earn a spread of -50. If behind, the
loss will earn a spread of -(50 points plus whatever the spread
is at the time of departure).
If, for whatever reason, the clock is not neutralized
after the last play, the game shall be considered finished
after the opponent has revealed his/her unused tiles
and/or their point value to show the player how many points
are added to his/her score. This act of revealing the unused
tiles or announcing their value (plus 5 seconds) ends any
further enlargement of any time penalties accrued.
If the player going out starts the opponent's timer
and in so doing either moves the opponent into a time
penalty situation (-10 points per minute or fraction thereof:
see IX.C.) or costs the opponent to go over
yet another minute
of penalty time, thoses extra penalty points shall not be deducted
from opponent's score.
For example, suppose an opponent has
already used 25 minutes and 10 seconds (both players agree to
this) and the player goes out and erroneously starts the
opponent's clock. When the opponent realizes his clock is
still running and is 89 seconds overtime, (s)he can rightfully
claim that only 10 penalty points be deducted.
When using clocks, each player is allowed 25 minutes time to
complete all plays. (Note VIII.C. for the
overtime penalty.) There is no limit on the time taken per
When a turn is challenged, the challenger neutralizes both
clocks. When the Word Judge's decision is declared, the loser
of the challenge initiates the other player's clock and turn.
Clocks may also be neutralized while an opponent is either
calculating a player's contested turn score or cumulative score,
verifying a blank's designation, or while awaiting a rules
resolution or announcement by the Director.
If a player uses more than the allotted 25 minutes,
his/her total score will be reduced by ten points for each
minute overtime or part thereof. When using a digital clock
there is no penalty when the clock reads 0:00. When the clock
is -0:01 (25 minutes and one second has elapsed) then the 10
point penalty is enforced, and for each extra minute another
10 points are subtracted similarly.
When clocks are available, they are to be used in
preference to sand-timers.
Each game using three-minute sand-timers shall be stopped
after 54 minutes. After time has been called, each player may
make one more play, replenishing his/her rack if possible, and
then compute the adjusted final scores.
Each player shall receive approximately three minutes per move. When
the top of the sand-timer is almost empty (five to ten seconds), it is
the responsibility of the opponent to tap the top of the timer to insure
that the last few grains of sand flow smoothly to the bottom and to say
to the player that there is but a short time
left. If opponent fails to
do this and the timer for the player's turn empties,
the player has a five second grace
period (after becoming aware of the situation) to make a play.
A player loses his/her turn if all the sand has dropped and one of
the following occurs:
1. The player has failed to announce his/her score within five to
ten seconds after opponent has announced the time shortage.
2. The player has failed to announce his/her score within five to
ten seconds after being notified that all the sand has dropped (no
warning was given prior to sand dropping).
When a player has completed his/her turn, the opponent may challenge
any word or words formed on that play. Once the player has started
opponent's timer, the turn has ended and may be challenged. If the
player does not start opponent's timer, but instead begins to draw tiles,
then the turn is also considered completed, and opponent has 20 seconds
to decide to challenge or hold the play.
When the opponent is considering a challenge, s/he must promptly
advise the player not to draw replacement tiles. This is done by calling
Opponent may call ``hold'' up to 20 seconds after his timer has been started
or until the player has his/her hand out of the tile bag with at
least one tile drawn, whichever comes first. There is no relationship
between recording the player's cumulative score and accepting the play.
When approximately one minute has elapsed after ``hold'' has
been called and the player is waiting for the opponent to
decide whether or not to challenge, the player may draw his/her
replacement tiles and must
keep them separate from his/her other tiles though s/he may look at
them. The player will return the letters to the pool only in the event
of a successful challenge. In that case opponent must also be allowed to
see the tiles going back into the pool. Note that during the ``hold'' the
challenger's timer is running. There is unlimited time for a ``hold.''
When the decision is made to challenge, indicated by either saying
``challenge'' or neutralizing the timer (either action is final and cannot
be taken back except for the situation of misunderstood blanks or score
verifications), the challenger records the word(s) to be
challenged and both players verify the spelling of the challenged word(s)
written on the challenge slip. If the challenged words are not written
properly or legibly, either player may rewrite the challenged words so
that they are easily read by the Word Judge. The challenger raises
his/her hand to signal a Monitor, Word Judge or Director to come to the
table. When a staff member arrives, the challenge slip is used by the
Monitor as the source of words to look up. If time permits, the Monitor
should verify that the words written on the challenge slip are indeed the
words played on the board and challenged. This process should not be
If any challenged word is judged unacceptable, the Monitor will label
the play `unacceptable.' The player returns the offending tiles to the
rack, loses the turn (scores zero) and then restarts the timing device
for the opponent's next turn. The Word Judge will not specify which
word(s) are unacceptable, and will at least pretend to look up every word
challenged, to avoid revealing unnecessary information to the players.
If all words listed on the challenge slip are judged
acceptable, the Word Judge labels the play `acceptable.' The
words remain on the board and the challenger loses that turn.
The challenger starts the timer as the player replenishes
his/her rack and starts another turn. An unsuccessful challenger
scores zero for that turn.
The challenger or player may request a review of the
challenge ruling. The review decision, if it substantiates
the original decision, and usually in concert with the tourney
Director, should be final. However, the Director
may make an exception and review the challenge for the third
time if further information suggests that a mistake has been
made twice. In addition, if the ``second opinion'' is contrary
to the original ruling, then either player may ask and receive
a third opinion.
Players (and observers) are allowed and advised to prompt
the word judge to look in the Merriam Webster's New Collegiate
Dictionary, Tenth Edition, for challenged words of nine-letters or more
if these words aren't listed in the OSPD2.
Only the director or designated staff may rule on the
validity of a challenged word. Although it may appear easy
to do, becoming proficient as a Word Judge takes time and
experience. Directors may test potential Word Judges with a
national Scrabble® Association Word Judge Test, which will
be provided free to any tournament Director looking for word
judges to help them.
Until a turn is officially over, there may be no challenge.
If an opponent verbally ``challenges'' a play before the player
has officially completed his/her turn, the ``challenge'' is nullified.
Such a ``challenge'' is considered inappropriate behavior, since it
may influence the player's decision for his/her play.
It is up to the opponent to say ``hold'' within the few seconds
between the player's starting the timer and drawing new tiles.
There need be no responsibility on the player's part to say
anything but the score (or the letter that the blank represents),
followed by recording the
cumulative score and designated blank letter, before drawing
tiles. So our advice here is: ``Pay attention!''
If any player or knowledgeable observer becomes aware that a
tournament official makes either an incorrect word or rules
adjudication, then that person has the right to suggest to the
wronged party: ``You may want to ask for a second opinion.'' Any
other communication at that time is forbidden. (Read
for the only exception.)
Please note that the Director is responsible for making reasonable
decisions pertaining to any situations not specifically described
or implied by these Rules and for interpreting these Rules in
any situation which arises. S/he will also be responsible
for maintaining proper ethical decorum at all times, and will
report serious breaches of conduct to the National SCRABBLE®
Association for possible subsequent disciplinary action.
Over the years The Rules Committee has recognized the difficulties
of defining ``ironclad'' rules. Players with a ``win at all costs''
attitude may find ways to circumvent the strict interpretation
of rules. In some cases these players point the way to creating
better rules. However, in many cases this attitude simply
fosters an atmosphere among experienced players of taking
advantage of the unwary. We may all try to use words that
others have not yet learned, but when it comes to rules, it is
more appropriate to teach the uninitiated the correct way to
follow our procedures instead of taking advantage of them.
If we intend to enlarge our family of SCRABBLE® game players, we need
to promote the sheer enjoyment of playing the game, win or
lose. In keeping with this policy, we wish to clarify some
``gray'' areas, keeping in mind that
players should be considered innocent of any willful wrongdoing
until there is sufficient evidence to the contrary.
There are certain situations that occur repeatedly at SCRABBLE® game
tournaments in which players may not have a clear understanding
of what behavior is appropriate, for they may not be specifically
discussed in the Rules. What follows are several guidelines:
Imagine that Player One is ``stuck'' with one letter on
his/her rack. There is no way to play the letter on the
board and form an acceptable word. Should Player One also be
very short of time (2-3 seconds before the time penalty begins),
Player Two, with a full rack, may decide to take 21 turns, playing
two phoneys and a real word, and then repeating this action
seven times, in order to push Player One into the penalty situation.
This is considered highly unethical. A Director who becomes
aware of this situation is advised to erase such a time penalty.
While it is acceptable (and advisable) in many situations to
play phoneys, the above behavior is contrary to the
spirit of the game.
Regarding undesignated blanks: If a player has not
recorded what letter his/her blank tile represents, AND if
a disagreement arises later in the game as to what the blank
tile should be, then the player whose turn it is at that time
shall define the blank.
However, the Director may be called to determine if there is
any willful misusage of this blank-designation rule, and (s)he
will have the power to alter the outcome if deemed appropriate.
Players are advised to always print clearly in the designated
place on their score sheet or on a blank what the blanks
It is appropriate for the first player to ask his/her
opponent if (s)he would like to shuffle the tiles, but it
is not necessary. The second player is advised to be alert to
when his/her game will begin. (S)he should simply take the
tile bag and shuffle the tiles.
It sometimes happens that a tile(s) is discovered
under the board or table after all or most of the tiles
are played. What should happen? If the game is over (meaning
that the bag is empty and one player has ``gone out''), then the
extra tile(s) is (are) not added to the game. However, if the
game is not quite over (meaning there is at least one tile on
both players' racks) then the extra tile(s) (unseen if possible)
should be put into the bag and an effort should be made to
determine who should have drawn it (them).
That player should then
receive the tile(s) and play continues with no penalty. If it
cannot be determined (or there is not enough time to determine)
who should receive the tile(s), then the game shall proceed
without it (them). Only the two players and the Director may
participate in making such determinations.
If the player going out forgets to neutralize the clock
(either starting opponent's timer or keeping his/her own
timer running), it is unethical for either player to take
advantage of this by delaying the verification of the final
score in any way in order to earn penalty points from an unwary
opponent. The Director will have the power to intervene to
erase a time penalty should the evidence gathered prove sufficient
to do so. In this situation the players should mutually try
to ascertain when the unused tiles were revealed to help recall
the exact moment of the end of the game.
Many players track tiles. Tracking tiles is the act
of recording what tiles have been played on the board.
Tracking tiles can be helpful when trying to determine the best
play at any time during the game. Indeed, the NSA provides
space on its Score Sheet for doing so. Some players delay
their drawing tiles after forming a word on the board in order
to track their tiles first. This practice can actually delay
the opponent from drawing tiles if the opponent plays quickly.
To avoid this situation we advise players to draw tiles prior
If a player draws tiles out-of-order (see Section
when there are fewer than 14 tiles in the bag, the
circumstances could warrant investigation by the Director.
That's because drawing tiles out-of-order can affect the outcome
of a game when very few tiles remain to be drawn. Honest
mistakes should be acknowledged and accepted, but the Director
may want to penalize a player +50 spread points, particularly
if fewer than 7 tiles remain to be drawn. Each case should be
considered individually since either player may be acting
inappropriately, depending on the specific tiles remaining.
The tournament culture and rating system thrives best only
when each player strives to play his/her very best. Therefore,
any player who has been found guilty of purposefully either
losing a game or losing by a much bigger spread than necessary
may lose their right to participate in National Scrabble®
Speaking aloud during play is often distracting and
can mislead the opponent. A player who does this purposefully
is considered to be acting unethically. It is every player's
right to ask his/her opponent to remain silent during play.
While many people often play the game in informal social
gatherings where it may be accepted by the group to talk during
play, players should understand that tournament conditions
require that each player respect his/her opponent's right to
concentrate fully during play. The Director has the power to
intervene on behalf of a player whose opponent is showing such
disrespect. Here are some examples of what you should NOT do:
Purposefully mispronounce your play (``RE-STING''),
hoping to draw a careless challenge.
Play a phony-looking word which you know is acceptable
(CALENDER) but intentionally saying something like: ``I'm
not sure if it ends in AR or ER.''
Saying ``You may want to challenge this'', either when
you know the word is good, or when it's not good and
you feel your statement will suppress a challenge. In the
first case you may not get challenged, but your opponent
may be reluctant to add an S to it.
You play an obviously acceptable word (i.e. APRICOTS)
and do a lot of talking about it (``It took me a long
time to find this word with these letters.'') to divert
attention from a phony hook you used to get your word down
(i.e. the S hooked onto AH).
The game is close, the Q is still out, and whoever
gets it will be stuck with it. You play a letter and
draw a tile, leaving 3 others. Immediately you begin to
moan about your bad luck. Your opponent feels he can now
safely play 3 tiles and draw the last 3 from the bag. What
will (s)he think about your moaning when he draws the Q?
The Rules Committee recognizes that many players may innocently
or accidentally do any one or more of the above behaviors. We ask that
Directors please be firm but unprejudiced while teaching the
players the correct habits.
These rules were compiled and agreed upon by the
National SCRABBLE® Association Rules Committee,
formed by Mr. John Williams in 1987.
The current Committee members are as follows:
Nick Ballard (San Francisco, CA),
Chris Cree (Dallas, TX),
Joe Edley (Greenport, NY),
Paul Epstein (Ann Arbor, MI),
Jan Dixon (Marietta, GA),
Dave Johnson (Lafayette, LA),
Sam Kantimathi (El Dorado Hills, CA)
Robert Mulet (Miami, FL),
Stan Rubinsky (San Diego, CA),
Charlie Southwell (Arlington, CA),
Ron Tiekert (New York City, NY)
and Mike Wise (Willowdale, Ontario, Canada).