Active Controversies in the Scrabble-playing Communities in various countries

For explanations of terms used below, see the Scrabble FAQ.

North America ("NA")

Dictionary

North American competitions use TWL98, a successor to OSPD. A move is on, started by but no longer restricted to players who have participated in the World [English language] Scrabble Championship, to use the combined NA (OSPD, now called TWL98) and UK (OSW) lexicons, called "SOWPODS".

Current Status

The NSA has held one informal referendum on whether to "go SOWPODS." It came out somewhere near even. During 1999, it is encouraging clubs to experiment with a "SOWPODS month" to find out whether they like it. Later, NSA probably will hold some kind of referendum, which will not be binding, as NSA is answerable to Hasbro, the game's NA manufacturer.

Other uniformization

For other rule differences, uniformization is not as actively discussed, as the memorization factor doesn't prevent players from playing up to their ability when crossing boundaries. Still, these factors could be standardized to make the game closer to identical everywhere it is played in English:
Challenge rule
In NA, an challenger risks loss of turn if unsuccessful, just as the challenged player does, hence the term "double challenge rule." Most SOWPODS countries also use "single challenge" (only a word's player risks a turn).

Some suggest that if NA goes SOWPODS, it should also shift to single challenge, either because it is better suited to SOWPODS, or to ease the transition.

End-of-game scoring
In NA, when the bag is empty, double the value of opponent's tiles is added to the score of the player using up all his tiles. In the UK, the value is respectively subtracted from and added to their scores. Of course, this has no effect on the game, but it makes high-scoring records not strictly comparable.

Ratings

NA tournaments are rated under a system derived from the Elo rating system created for chess. This system assumes that the probability of one player defeating another is a function of the difference between their ratings, but the function creates too high a probability for the higher-rated player.

Current Status

NSA has created a Ratings Committee which is researching changing the curve of expectations, or using a different system.

See also the notes on the Scrabble FAQ maintainer's biases.


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Steven Alexander (stevena@teleport.com)