Scrabble Frequently Asked Questions
This article is about competitive English language Scrabble, the popular crossword game. It is North American-centric (and to a lesser extent covers the UK), but information regarding English language or competitive Scrabble played anywhere is welcome. It is not concerned with old Scrabble sets as collectors' items or anything else outside the competitive aspects of the game. Even the inclusion of Scrabble-related foofaraw stretches its intended coverage.
Although about Scrabble, it is not provided or authorized by the owners of the various rights to that game (including Hasbro and Mattel).
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Scrabble is a registered trademark owned in the United States and Canada by Hasbro, Inc., and in Great Britain and everywhere else in the world, by J.W. Spear & Sons PLC, a subsidiary of Mattel.
Selchow & Righter, listed as the US owner on many of your boards, was bought -- in good health -- in 1986 by Coleco, which shortly went into bankruptcy due to the collapse of the market for their Cabbage Patch dolls. Coleco also led itself to bankruptcy in 1987 by losing a fortune on the Adam home computer flop, and the unexpected (to them) slowdown in Trivial Pursuit sales. (Trivial Pursuit was marketed in the US by Selchow & Righter). Scrabble was sold off to Milton Bradley, which was in turn gobbled up by Hasbro. Hasbro since has transferred Scrabble to its Parker Brothers division, itself a fierce Milton Bradley competitor before its absorption.
In North America, Hasbro needs it to appear that the public thinks
that the term Scrabble refers to any game or related product
Hasbro cares to label that way, while the popular board game is
Scrabble Crossword Game. Most people -- including Hasbro's
own publication before their lawyers clamped down -- use the term
Scrabble to refer to the game itself, and so will this FAQ. To most,
it is "the crossword game Scrabble" (although the "crossword game"
part is far from almost everyone's mind), rather than "the Scrabble
The magazine Financial World (July 8, 1996, p. 65) estimated the value of the Scrabble brand to Hasbro as $76 million, and 1995 sales under that brand at $39 million.
The North American Scrabble Players Association ("NASPA") is successor to the National Scrabble Association ("NSA") as the only organization running licensed Scrabble activity in North America. (NSA, which operates at the direction of Hasbro, still handles school clubs and tournaments and casual clubs.) NASPA, an independent nonprofit, operates under license from Hasbro, and in turn licenses tournament and club directors. Club and tournament play, except for national championships, is sanctioned but not run by NASPA. Only members may play in NASPA tournaments.
As noted, NASPA is not a true membership organization. It has said it plans to involve players in its governance to an extent not yet clear. Also unclear is the degree of freedom it has from Hasbro under its license agreement.
Membership is $30 (USD) per year in the US, Canada, and elsewhere.
North American Scrabble Players Association homepage
Because of various kinds of dissatisfaction with how the Hasbro-authorized entity, NASPA, is run, the Word Game Players Organization ("WGPO"), an independent organization to promote tournament and club play, has been formed. Although not incorporated, it has bylaws and conducts elections. Membership currently is free.
Word Game Players Organization homepage
In the UK, the Association of British Scrabble Players ("ABSP"), while not owned by the UK copyright and trademark holder, is bound to it by a licensing agreement. The ABSP organizes many tournaments. It may be reached at
Membership in ABSP costs #15 per year. Members receive a newsletter six times per year. Its chairman, Allan Simmons, may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Philip Nelkon handles Scrabble matters for Mattel in the UK, including relations with the ABSP. Elsewhere, Mattel's interests are handled by David Schwartz,
Other national organizations are listed in a separate document.
Clubs normally play Scrabble according to tournament rules, although sometimes accommodation for newcomers includes allowing them to refer to lists of two- and three-letter words for their first couple of visits.
NASPA maintains a list of competitive North American clubs, while NSA maintains one of casual cubs. WGPO also has a list of competitive clubs. The current roster of active North American clubs is an Appendix to this FAQ. Some of the listings are more up to date than the most recent listing from the National Scrabble Association, but some are out of date, so call the person listed before trying to attend.
A list of clubs in the UK is available. For further information on them, contact
Philip Nelkon Mattel (UK) Ltd Mattel House Vanwall Business Park Vanwall Road Maidenhead Berks. SL6 4UB +44 1628 500283 +44 1628 500288 fax firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Oliger has written an IBM PC program, Focus (currently in version 2.18), to maintain club statistics. It comes highly recommended by others who have used it. $20 plus shipping ($3 in US).
Steve Oliger P.O. Box 7003 Lancaster, PA 17604-7003 (717) 284-2274 email@example.com
"National Scrabble Championship", really for North America, is held by the National Scrabble Association in even years. In 2004 it was held in New Orleans, LA. North American players are eligible for entry if they have played in at least one rated tournament. Players from elsewhere may enter without condition.
In odd years, an invitational "World [English language] Scrabble Championship" is held, organized by Mattel. (It had been alternately organized by Hasbro and Mattel, and held within their respective trademark territories until in 2005, Hasbro declined.) Since its inception in 1991, it has allowed words from both North American and British play (which now is the standard for British play).
In the UK, Mattel runs the National Scrabble Championship, which dates to 1971, and was a high-score competition at first. Several regional events (apparently open only to UK residents) are used as qualifiers for the national final.
Also in the UK, the ABSP organizes a 17-game British Matchplay Scrabble Championship held each August. It is open to all.
|Year||Dates||City||Type||# Contestants||Lexicon||# Games||Winner||Winner's Record|
|1978||May 19-21||New York||invitational||64||Funk & Wagnalls 1973-74||16||David Prinz||173 credits|
|1980||Nov 14-16||Santa Monica||invitational||32||OSPD1||17||Joe Edley||14-3|
|1983||Aug 10-12||Chicago||qualifiers||32||OSPD1||17||Joel Wapnick||13-4|
|1985||Jul 28-31||Boston||open||302||OSPD1||22||Ron Tiekert||20-2|
|1987||Jul 5-7||Las Vegas||open||300+||OSPD1||21||Rita Norr||17-4|
|1988||Jul 31-Aug 5||Reno||open||323||OSPD1||27||Robert Watson||20.5-6.5|
|1989||Jul 29-Aug 3||New York||open||221||OSPD1||27||Peter Morris||21-6|
|1990||Aug 5-9||Washington||open||300+||OSPD1||27||Robert Felt||24-3|
|1992||Aug 9-13||Atlanta||open||320||OSPD2||27||Joe Edley||22-5|
|1994||Aug 14-18||Los Angeles||open||294||OSPD2||27||David Gibson||23-4|
|1996||Jul 21-25||Dallas||open||412||OSPD2+||27||Adam Logan||24-3|
|1998||Aug 8-13||Chicago||open||535||TWL98||31||Brian Cappelletto||26-5|
|2000||Aug 6-10||Providence||open||628||TWL98||31||Joe Edley||22-9|
|2002||Aug 18-22||San Diego||open||696||TWL98||31||Joel Sherman||25-6|
|2004||Aug 1-5||New Orleans||open||837||TWL98*||30†||Trey Wright||26-4|
|2005||Aug 20-24||Reno||open||682||TWL98*||28†||Dave Wiegand||21-7|
|2006||Aug 5-9||Phoenix||open||632||OWL2*||28†||Jim Kramer||21-7|
|2008||Jul 26-29||Orlando||open||662||OWL2||28†||Nigel Richards||22-6|
|2009||Aug 1-5||Dayton||open||486||OWL2||31||Dave Wiegand||25-6|
|2010||Aug 7-11||Dallas||open||407||OWL2||31||Nigel Richards||25-6|
|2011||Aug 6-10||Dallas||open||317||OWL2||31||Nigel Richards||22-9|
|2012||Aug 11-15||Orlando||open||302‡||OWL2||31||Nigel Richards||22-9|
|2012||Aug 11-15||Orlando||open||37‡||CSW||31||Sam Kantimathi||24-7|
* In 2004, 2005 and 2006, the two-person final used an expurgated list akin to ESPD.
† From 1988 forward, there were two or more divisions, with only division 1 contending for the top prize. Number of contestants includes all divisions. Number of games shown is for the top division, excluding any final games played only by the top 2 (as occurred in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008). Open tournaments have had minimal qualifications, such as membership in NSA or NASPA.
‡ From 2012, there is a separate Collins division.
Each was an invitational tournament played using the current SOWPODS lexicon.
NSA, ABSP and ASPA rules for competitive play are available on the Web, as are the rules that come in the box.
Club and tournament Scrabble games are always two-player games.
Both players must keep score. A bag is used for tiles (not the box lid). Chess clocks are used to time the game and each player is allowed a total of 25 minutes to make all of his or her moves in the game. If a player's time limit is exceeded, the game continues but the player is penalized 10 points for each minute over the time limit.
When a player challenges one or more words in his or her opponent's move, the clock is stopped while a third party (usually a club or tournament director) looks up the challenged words (which the challenger must specify) to determine whether the move is valid. If a challenged word is unacceptable, the play is removed and the player loses that turn. In North American play, the maker of an erroneous challenge loses a turn; in the UK, and most of Australia, they do not.
For the lexicon used for determining word validity, see the section on OSPD, OSW and their successors.
There are no "house rules" that many social players use, such as free exchange of four of a kind, or claiming blanks off the board by substituting for them.
Once there are fewer than seven tiles left in the bag, no exchanging of tiles is allowed. Passing is allowed at any time.
At the end of a North American game, when one player uses all his or her tiles with none remaining in the bag, he or she receives double the value of the opponent's remaining tiles. In the UK, as specified in the box, that value is added to and subtracted from the players' respective scores. Both methods result in the same spread.
Ties are not broken. (The North American box rules give the win to the player with the higher score before leftover tiles are considered; UK box rules don't mention this possibility.)
If the two players take six consecutive turns without successfully placing any tiles on the board -- due to any combination of challenges, passes and exchanges -- the game ends, and both players lose the value of the tiles on their racks. A game in which neither player can make a play ends this way, although the players may simply agree that the game is over without going through all six turns. In the UK, exchanges do not count toward the six turns.
The box rules do not mention whether one may make written notes during the game. In tournaments and clubs, players are allowed to write anything they wish on their score sheet. One use of written notes is to keep track of which tiles have been played, allowing one to know which tiles remain to be played. This is known as tile-tracking, and players may use preprinted score sheets that show the tile distribution as an aid to tile-tracking.
The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary ("OSPD"), published by Merriam-Webster (and available in bookstores -- see below), has been the basis of the official lexicon (word list) used for all North American tournament and club play since its first edition was published in 1978. It included all words of eight or fewer letters, and simplified the settling of Scrabble word arguments by specifically showing those words' inflections (plurals of nouns, conjugations of verbs, comparatives and superlatives of adjectives). For root words longer than eight letters, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth edition, was used until the advent of the Official Long Words List ("OLWL"). (The Tenth came out in May 1993 and replaced the Ninth on May 1, 1994. The Eleventh, out in July 2003, is not yet in use.) The OSPD included inflected forms of up to eight letters whose root words are longer.
In 1990, a second edition of the OSPD came out in hardcover. A paperback of the OSPD2 came out in June 1993. Words were added (and the handful removed).
A third edition of the OSPD came out in October 1995. See the section on expurgation for a discussion of its contents. The new words in it were allowed in competitive play as of February 1, 1996. Only SPAZES and HERPESES were removed. A list of the additions is available. OSPD2 plus the new words in OSPD3 commonly is called OSPD2+. (OSPD3 is available in a large print edition.)
Effective March 1998, the Official Tournament and Club Word List (commonly called "TWL98", sometimes "OTaCWL"), published by Merriam-Webster, although largely based upon OSPD, supplanted it.
The OSPD was created because in the 1950s Selchow & Righter sold the right to put out Scrabble word lists to Jacob Orleans and Edmund Jacobson, authors of Scrabble Word Guide, a 1953 book based on the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary. The official publication, Scrabble News, is still circumspect about publishing word lists, tending to print them in small chunks to conform to some idea of their remaining rights.
Mattel announced in December 2003 that henceforth Harper Collins would publish lexicons and other books that would fill the same role as OSWI and related books do now, i.e., they will be official for Scrabble outside North America. The Collins English Dictionary will be the primary source for words (other than the current North American lexicon, which shall continue to supply the "International" in "OSWI"), but by methods not yet clear, no more than about 150 words will be deleted in the change. Collins will publish an OSPD-style dictionary with concise definitions for every base word.
Collins' new book, titled Collins Scrabble Tournament and Club Word List, was published March 2007. The UK switched as of May 15, 2007. Associations around the world (outside North America) switched around the same time.
Parallel to the OSPD for North America, the UK has Official Scrabble Words ("OSW"), which lists all rules-acceptable words in the Chambers Dictionary ("Chambers") whose uninflected roots have nine or fewer letters, and words of nine or fewer letters which are inflections of longer words. The third edition of OSW, including words from the 1993 edition of Chambers, came out in 1994. Chambers' 1998 edition was followed by OSW4 in September 1999. At the end of 2001, the UK completed a transition to SOWPODS, after which time OSW was replaced by OSWI (OSW International), containing words up to 9 letters from either source, first published that year. Challenges of longer words were looked up in Chambers.
For trademark reasons, the OSPD is not legally sold outside North America, and OSWI is not sold in North America.
Here are the relative sizes of the lexicons of OWL2 and CSW12, showing that CSW12 is a richer lexicon at all lengths. "SOWPODS" was a common abbreviation for the union of the two, combining the letters of OSPD and OSW.
length OWL2 CSW12 2 101 124 3 1015 1310 4 4030 5526 5 8938 12646 6 15788 22410 7 24029 33274 8 29766 40622 9 29150 41210 total 2-8 83667 115912
The OSPD was formed according to the rules of Scrabble, allowing all non-capitalized words without apostrophes or hyphens which are not designated as foreign. In a compromise between the number of words in a standard college dictionary (such as Funk & Wagnalls, in use before the OSPD) and an unabridged dictionary, the OSPD includes all words found in at least one of five major US college dictionaries, including a total of ten editions, which in the judgment of Merriam-Webster's lexicographers (contracted by the trademark holder to do this) meet the rules.
The dictionaries used for OSPD2 are: Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (1973 printing), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (First and Second College Editions), Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (Merriam-Webster; Eighth thru Tenth Editions), Webster's New World Dictionary (Second and Third College Editions), Random House College Dictionary (Original Edition and Revised Edition).
To some extent, this succeeds at capturing the language, not as some set of Scrabble players would have it, but as it is -- according to professional lexicographers.
AINE AINEE ALIYAHS AUTARKIK BABBOOL BABBOOLS BORAZON BORAZONS DIALOGGED DIALOGGING DUC DUCS ECOLE ECOLES ENFIN INVAR INVARS IODOL IODOLS MISENROLL MISENROLLS NEGRO NEGROES NOIR ONCES PAPULAN PERE PERES PHYTIN PHYTINS SITI SLIVOVICS STETSON STETSONS SULFONAL SULFONALS SURVEILED SURVEILING THERMIT THERMITS UIT WAEFU WITEN WOSTTETH WOTTETH XANTHATE XANTHATES
The cumulative corrections to the OSPD2, all (except for DIDDLEYS) corrected in the final printing, are:
p16 ALIYAH: -YAHS (not -YAS) 108 CLAUGHT: -ING (not -INT) 109 CLEEK: CLAUCHT (not CLAUGHT) 155 DIDDLEY: DIDDLEYS, DIDDLIES 213 FLANKEN: pl. FLANKEN 272 HONDLE: -DLED, -DLING, -DLES (not -DLIED or -DLIES) 273 insert HOOTY adj HOOTIER, HOOTIEST 321 LEAP: add LEPT as third past 359 insert MISENROLL v -ED, -ING, -S 364 MOJO: add MOJOES 424 PECORINO: -NOS, -NI 436 PINYIN: delete PINYINS 451 delete PREFROZE; insert PREFREEZE v -FROZE, -FROZEN, -FREEZING, -FREEZES to freeze beforehand 481 delete REARMICE; insert REARMOUSE n pl. -MICE reremouse 477 REFALL: add REFALLS 488 delete REREMICE; insert REREMOUSE n pl. -MICE a bat (a flying mammal) 537 SJAMBOK: definition should be "to flog" 635 UNMESH: -ES (not -S) 638 UPFRONT adj 639 URB: pl. URBS 643 delete VANIR 675 insert XANTHATE n pl. -S a chemical salt
Some of these "corrections" muddy the rule that all uninflected words in the OSPD have eight or fewer letters.
Despite the plan for OSPD, that the only uninflected words it contains should be those of eight or fewer letters, a few 9-letter words have been inserted. These are:
GRUELLING KIDNAPPER MISENROLL PREFREEZE RAVELLING REARMOUSE REREMOUSE
These are the final corrections to the old Franklin Electronic Scrabble Dictionary that contained OSPD2.
additions deletions --------- --------- AMNIA AMNIONIA BRITISH CAUDILLOS CAUDILLLOS CHEERLEADED CHINESE CHRISTMAS CLUBBERS CRACKLES CRACKLEES CRIOLLOS CRIOLLLOS DIDDLEYS EXPIATING GONIONIA GRAMS HALAZONES HIGGLED HONDLES HONDLIES HORNBEAMS IRISH ITALIAN MACHES MISEATE OPALESCING OPALESCESCING OUTDRAGGING OUTEATE OVEREATE OVERLIT PECORINI PINYINS REFALLS S SISSIES SIES UNCLOGGING UNDEREATE
additions deletions --------- --------- CRABABBLE CRABABBLES CRABAPPLE CRABAPPLES DEVELOPPES GODAMNDEST GODDAMNDEST MUNCHABLES VIREONINES WEAPONEERED
In October 1995, NSA "endorsed" an Expurgated Scrabble Players Dictionary ("ESPD"), calling it OSPD3, omitting approximately 167 words labeled as offensive to specific ethnic, racial, sexual and other groups, such as the words "dago", "jew" and "fatso". (NSA had "sponsored" previous editions.) Hasbro, the NSA's parent, gave as major reasons for the change its desire to promote Scrabble in elementary schools using the OSPD and complaints by offended ethnic groups.
Facing much opposition by competitive players who did not want their playing vocabulary restricted to those words considered safe for children, NSA has made the ESPD not the official reference for club and tournament play. (It says on the dust jacket, "for recreational and school play.") Instead, starting February 1, 1996, competitions used OSPD2 plus the words added in ESPD. (A few words which reappeared in the first printings of ESPD because of its sloppy basing on early printings of OSPD2 -- before some corrections -- were not added back, though.)
Although published by Merriam Webster, TWL98 is sold only by NSA to its members.
It's anomalous to have the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary not be official.
From March 1998, club and tournament play in North America has used an unexpurgated lexicon, including all two- to nine-letter words and inflections, titled "Official Tournament and Club Word List" (but more often known as "TWL" or "OWL" than "OTaCWL"), sold only to members of NASPA (with membership number), from Merriam-Webster Inc., (800) 828-1880.
There were 12 deletions in the two- to eight-letter range: DA DEI DES HANGULS KEV LEZES LICENTI SKIWEARS STRID VIN VINS VON, and 38 additions: BACKSTAB BASSETT BASSETTS BEDSIT BEDSITS CHEMO CHEMOS DECLAW DECLAWED DECLAWS FINALISE IGNORAMI ILLER ILLEST LATTE LATTES LEZZES LOUVRED MAGLEVS PETRALE PETRALES PINEALS PREMIXT PYROLIZE REDTAIL REDTAILS RHYTONS SEVRUGA SEVRUGAS SILKIES SMOOTHES TENIASES TRAPEZII UNSELL UNSELLS VOGUER VOGUERS WHINGING.
See the Dictionary Committee page for explanations.
As of June 2003, the "Official Long Words List", compiled from MW10, is the sole reference for words longer than 9 letters not appearing (as inflections) in TWL. (The printed list may available from Merriam-Webster, as with the OWL.) The list itself is available as a free download.
The NSA dictionary committee created the Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd ed., as successor to TWL98. It is the the first descendant of OSPD1 to be updated using dictionaries other than Merriam-Webster's Collegiate. OWL2 incorporates words and their inflections from any of the current Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.), American Heritage College Dictionary, Random House Webster's College Dictionary and Webster's New World College Dictionary.
Most North American tournaments are ranked according to win-loss record first, followed by the total of point spread in each game. A few tournaments score according to a predetermined number of credits for winning and for each ten points of margin. UK tournaments sometimes use sum-of-scores (the sum of the number of wins by one's opponents), and Australian tournaments variously use total game score or spread as the secondary factor.
In small tournaments or ones in where the field is sufficiently divided, each player plays every other once. This is called a round robin.
In all the other tournament designs, whom one plays depends on where one stands in the tournament so far. In the first round, generally the players' pre-tournament ratings temporarily stand in for the tournament rank.
The modified form of Swiss pairing used at North American Scrabble tournaments is best described by example. Suppose 64 players are at the tournament. In round one, the first player plays the 33rd, the second plays the 34th, etc., and the 32nd plays the 64th. In round two, the same top-plays-middle is used for the top and bottom halves of the tournament separately: 1 plays 17, 2 plays 18, down to 16 plays 32, and 33 plays 49, down to 48 plays 64. This continues with groups shrinking by a factor of two at each round.
Because determining the pairings between rounds can take so long in this method (computers are fast, but data entry can be slow), often the field is divided into four groups, instead of two. So with 64 players, 1 17 33 49 would be grouped together, as would 2 18 34 50, and 16 32 48 64. These groups of four then each play a round robin.
Note that this "speed-pairing" method provides the better players an advantage. Denote the four quartiles in order as A, B, C, D. Then the A player plays a B, C and D, while the D plays an A, B and C; this tends to reinforce the pre-tournament estimate of the players' strengths, and thus detracts from the aim of a tournament -- to recognize performance, not rank. A simple improvement has rarely been tried, to have each A player also matched against an A from another group, etc. This models the round robin in small, and seems inherently fairer. (If anyone has references to scholarly treatments of the fairness of tournament designs, I would be grateful to be supplied with them.)
In the UK, most tournaments use a version of the Swiss method in which at each round players are paired within groups consisting of those with the same win-loss record.
See also the section on tournament running software.
Using a system based on the Elo system used in chess, North American tournament players get a rating in the range 0 to ~2150 which indirectly represents the probability of winning against other rated players. This probability depends only on the difference between the two players' ratings as follows:
rating probability difference of winning 400 .919 300 .853 200 .758 100 .637 50 .569 0 .500 -50 .431 -100 .363 -200 .242 -300 .147 -400 .081
This represents the area under the standard bell-shaped curve where 200*sqrt(2) points are taken as one standard deviation. (The table shows some sample points on this curve, adequate for good approximations of rating calculations by interpolation, although actual calculations use the exact curve.)
To keep current on a player's actual quality of play, the rating is updated after every tournament played. First, the number of games one is expected to win is calculated. Let's use as an example a two game tournament, in which player P begins with an 1800 rating, and plays opponents rated 1900 and 1725. P's rating is 100 below the 1900 player's, so P is expected to win .363 fraction of a game; P's rating is 75 above the other player's, so P is expected to win .603 of a game (halfway between .637 and .569).
So in the two games, P is expected to win a total of .966 games. Let's say P won one game. That's .034 more than expected. P's rating goes up some constant multiple of this number. Well, actually it's not a constant, but depends on how many tournament games P has ever played and how high P's rating is.
games played 1-49 50+ Pre- below 1800 30 20 tourney 1800-1999 24 16 rating 2000 & up 15 10
See also explanations by John Chew, Paul Sidorsky, and ASPA, and a novel numerical approach from Joey Mallick.
The UK ratings are somewhat similar but simpler: the probability of the better player winning is taken as 50% plus the rating difference as a percent, but no larger than 90%.
The Australian and New Zealand rating systems are the same as the North American, and South Africa has adopted the Australian system. Each operates independently, so player ratings are not directly comparable, although they tend to be comparable at an offset.
Current North American, UK, Australian, New Zealand and South African ratings are available.
Spear, which sells Scrabble sets in 31 languages and 120 countries, organized a Spanish and has considered organizing German and Dutch Scrabble tournaments. Contact David Schwartz. There are now Scrabble competitions in many languages.
The remainder of the information in this section is about English language Scrabble.
Membership in the Australian Scrabble Players Association, which is independent of the trademark holder, is $10 per year, $15 overseas. Its quarterly newsletter, Across the Board, has columns on playing and tournament listings. It may be reached at
The Scrabble Enquiry Centre PO Box 405 Bentleigh Australia 3204 +61 3 578 6767
Bob Jackman Australian Scrabble Players Association PO Box 28 Lindfield NSW 2070 Australia 02 9416 9881 02 9416 9479 fax firstname.lastname@example.org
In Israel, English language Scrabble is played in several clubs, including a very large one in Jerusalem. Play is under North American rules, and the occasional tournaments are rated under a copy of the North American system. All contact information is at
The Thailand National English language Scrabble tournament has drawn more than 1000 contestants, including many top players from elsewhere. For information on the (OSPD-based) yearly tournament usually held around the end of January, contact
Mr. Ravee Joradol Thailand Crossword Club 645/1 Petchburi Rd Payathai, Bangkok 10400 Thailand (662) 252-9607, 252-8147 (662) 252-8147 fax email@example.com
In Thailand, sets are sold without regard to Spear's rights, resulting in its players not being invited to the 1995 World [English language] Scrabble Championships. Similarly, before the change in Rumania's regime, unauthorized sets were sold, and in the ensuing vacuum, Rumania was invited to the 1995 WSC only as an observer. Similar unauthorized sets have at various times been sold in Russia ("Erudit") and Malaysia/Singapore ("Sahibba"). (A Swedish game, "Alfapet", apparently was licensed for sale before Mattel or its predecessors entered the Swedish market.)
Nigeria and Japan each have an active English language Scrabble tournament scene.
For addresses of many English and other language Scrabble organizations and contacts, see the Appendix.
The following is a summary of which lexicon and challenge rules are used in competitive English language Scrabble play in various countries.
OSPD, OSW, OSWI and SOWPODS are described above. Under single challenge, a turn is lost only by a player making an invalid word that is challenged, so challenges are free. Double challenge has a challenger also risking loss of turn if all the words are valid. Under Singapore's rule, often discussed as a basis for unification, the maker of a bad challenge loses five points. (In Swedish and English language play, Sweden uses ten.)
A movement is afoot, especially strong among top players who have played or have some prospect of playing in the World [English language] Scrabble Championship toward merging the rules. Most suggestions center on using SOWPODS and some middle-ground challenge rule, such as Singapore's or one penalizing a challenger only for the second and succeeding bad challenges in a game. The WSC used SOWPODS and single-challenge until 2001, when five-point challenges were used. (Because the rules are chosen at the discretion of whichever of Hasbro and Mattel is the current host, there is no assurance that future WSCs outside North America will use this rule.) Most players worldwide think convergence is desirable, although this is not so clear for North America.
OSPD OSW Collins(was "SOWPODS") double-challenge Canada Israel% Mexico Thailand@ US - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10pt-challenge= Nigeria~ Sweden - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5pt-challenge+ India Israel% Japan Kenya Malaysia Malta Netherlands New Zealand* Pakistan Romania Singapore Sri Lanka South Africa! Zambia - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - single-challenge Gibraltar Australia& Bahrain Ireland# Philippines United Kingdom# - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - unknown Bermuda Ghana Hong Kong Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi Arabia Trinidad United Arab Emirates
@ While most competitions in Thailand use OSPD, several prestigious international tournaments use Collins, and there is pressure among youth to use the international reference for all.
% Israel outside of Tel Aviv and affiliated tournaments uses OSPD and double challenges; Tel Aviv and its affiliated tournaments use Collins and 5-point challenges.
= Countries using 10-point challenges assess only one 10-point penalty, and only if all words are valid.
+ Most countries using 5-point challenges assess 5 points per word incorrectly challenged only if all words are valid. Except for Singapore, adoption of 5-point challenges has followed its first use, in 2001, in the World [English language] Championship.
~ Nigeria changed briefly from double to 5-point challenges, but then almost immediately to 10-point.
* New Zealand changed from double to 5-point challenges in 2004.
# The UK and Ireland migrated to SOWPODS over 2001, with the adoption of this transition plan.
! South Africa uses 5-point challenges without regard to how many words are played or challenged.
& In Australia, tournaments run under rules other than single challenge can be rated, and a small but increasing number of high-prestige tournaments do use 5-point challenges.
A MUD-like server, MarlDOoM, dedicated to playing crossword games (with boards configurable by the players) is available, as is a FAQ for it, and a FAQ for MUDs generally. A robot normally is on-line to play there. A Windows graphical interface has been created.
Other MUDs have crossword-game play among their services.
Using Internet Relay Chat, the Internet Scrabble Club is quite well done. All you need is a recent browser.
Several servers unlicensed by the rights holders have been closed. Some or all were removed after letters from Hasbro's attorneys.
For now, at least, still running are:
Some mirrors of Net-Scrabble may move from one server to another guerilla-style. Try this one. Scribble is another non-matchplay game.
The international mailing list crossword-games is open to anyone, crossword-games-pro to active tournament players ("cgp"), and wordgame-programmers to anyone interested in design of computer programs for crossword games. The administratrix has a homepage for cgp, and Jim Geary maintains a list of frequently misunderstood things for it. There are also a UK-centred list, a SOWPODS list, and lists for OSPD, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden (for Swedish language play).
No Scrabble-specific Usenet newsgroup exists, and all indications are that such a group wouldn't generate enough traffic. The best newsgroup for discussing crossword games is rec.games.board. The flat-text version of this FAQ is posted there monthly, and occasional questions are asked and answered there.
The Hasbro CD-ROM game and Networdz are discussed on IRC Undernet in #scrabble, on DalNet in #scrabble and #scrabbleparlor and at NewNet. These IRC servers may, and ISC does (in English, French, Romanian, Italian or Dutch), facilitate on-line play.
OSW and Chambers govern Scrabble play in the UK. Australia is moving toward "double-dictionary" play, where words from either Chambers or OSPD are accepted. A few clubs in North America have made this at least optional. An added impetus for this trend is the expurgation of OSPD.
In the UK, a player erroneously challenging suffers no penalty.
The UK had a second form of Scrabble play that faded away in the 1990s: high-score tournaments, where only the total of one's own scores matters. Since one's "opponents'" scores are irrelevant, play in this system aimed for open boards and encouraged elaborate setups often independently mined by the two players.
Stephanie Steele 27 Summit Ct St Paul, MN 55102 firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
Puzzles, contests, gossip, intermediate and advanced tactics, official information from NSA and Milton Bradley, tournament listings and tournament results.
Allan J Simmons Onwords Magazine Onwords Ltd Edington House, The Bow Coldingham TD14 5NE Scotland 01890-771430/771785 email@example.com homepage
homepage, archived here
Jeff Grant 1109 Allenby St Hastings NZ
Mark Watkins firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
Albert Weissman 11 White Rock Road Westerly, RI 02891
For the 12 issues of 1991 and 1992, $34 each; for 1993, $36; plus $2 shipping ($3 USD in Canada).
Also, compiled from the pages of Medleys, "The Art and Science of Anamonics" and "Complete 7+1 Anamonics #1-2100".
$5 and $29 respectively; plus $0, $2 shipping.
"Expert Analysis -- Consensus Game" #1, #2, #3, #4, and "Expert Analysis -- Consensus Extras" vol. 1, vol. 2, $29 each; plus $2 shipping.
The second and subsequent least expensive items are charged half the above shipping costs.
The entire run of Medleys has been reissued as part of Archive: Two Word Game Classics.
Jim Geary 31 West Cochise Dr Phoenix, AZ 85021-2484 (602) 943-5281 email@example.com
(Out-of-print books listed can be located, among other ways, through Advanced Booksellers Exchange.)
The outstanding books below are The Scrabble Player's Handbook, How to Play Scrabble Like a Champion How to Win at Scrabble (the 2004 Fisher/Webb book, not the 1953 book of that title) and Can-Am 2002. Also superb, with more elementary material, is Everything Scrabble (3rd ed.). Word Freak is just as good at illuminating the North American competitive Scrabble scene.
(At Hasbro's last-minute insistence, the title was changed from "... Competitive Scrabble" to "... Competitive Scrabble Players," the significance to them being the use of "Scrabble" as an adjective. This required gluing in a replacement cover page in the first US printing. The UK edition did not require this change.)
Until Collins began publishing books useful to competitive Scrabble, Chambers had the license from Mattel to publish Scrabble titles. Some of these are still in print, but be aware that those providing word lists, as these are based on the superseded Chambers official Scrabble Words International, and beware of their Family Scrabble Dictionary (2001), as it "omits vulgar, obsolete and offensive terms."
Since the list of words from a dictionary has uncertain copyright status, people having such lists for personal use shy away from sharing them. However, a copies can be found using Web searches.
Also available are a Palm-formatted file of all TWL definitions and a large list of Anamonics, compiled by John J. Chew III. SOWPODS also is available. One site currently offers TWL + Long Words in one file, SOWPODS, and the French reference ODS.
Robert Gillis P.O. Box 9124 Huntsville, AL 35812-0124 homepage firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Wagner 815 E Fremont Ave #53 Sunnyvale, CA 94087 email@example.com homepage
Hinkler Book Distributors Pty Ltd 20-24 Redwood Dr Dingley, Victoria 3172 Australia (03) 9558-0611 firstname.lastname@example.orgDistribution was halted by an injunction issued in Australia at the behest of Chambers, after which Hinkler and Chambers announced plans to collaborate on future Scrabble-related titles.
Geoff Wright PO Box 13 Brunswick Australia 3056
Barry Harridge email@example.com
Lois Kahan 392 Central Park West New York, NY 10025
Arlene Fine 87 Sandler Rd Percelia Estate Johannesburg 2192 South Africa firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Harridge email@example.com free copy for personal use (980K)
Bob Jackman P.O. Box 28 Lindfield NSW 2070 Australia firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
As shipped, this device provides the expurgated OSPD4. To convert it to use OWL2, enter these codes:
* press CLEAR * type **OTCWL at the READY screen * press ENTERThis must be done after every battery change.
There may be a few corrections to this device. So far, only CINEPLEX (which comes from OSWI) has been confirmed as a mistaken inclusion.
Franklin information page (800) 266-5626, (609) 386-2500 Word Gear information page
Bob Smith 1785 O'Farrell St #7 San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 931-0141 (415) 968-7297 fax email@example.com GameWare homepagealthough I have heard complaints about Smith's service. Smith ships each device with a card listing all the current corrections. Although it is becoming less useful, Smith raises its price as time passes.
The Franklin OSPD2 was withdrawn, possibly because of wrangling between Franklin and Milton Bradley about its proceeds. See the successor version.
The manual is provided by Franklin.
See also Barry Harridge's list.
homepage users' mailing list iPad version iPad Lite version
Randy Hersom 115A Rhyne St Morganton, NC 28655 (704) 437-6841 firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Fendall Recroom Recware P.O. Box 307 Pacific Grove, CA 93950
archived LeXpert homepage (archived Windows download) third-party home for Windows LeXpert third-party executable and update for Collins data files for Collins
Dr Graham Wheeler email@example.com homepage
Mendel Cooper P.O. Box 237 St David, AZ 85630-0237 firstname.lastname@example.org Wordy Web page Judge Web page
4414 Sparta Way N Las Vegas, NV 89030 (702) 656-7570
Ian Burn 8 Cromer Close Reading, Berks England RG31 5NR
Barry Harridge 1B Gladstone St Windsor VIC 3181 Australia (03) 9510 9381 email@example.com
Bryson Limited 10 Wagtail Close Twyford Reading RG10 9ED United Kingdom +44 118 9344153 +44 118 9344153 fax firstname.lastname@example.org homepageFrances (Windows 95), $26 on CD-ROM. Builds and prints lists, or displays them in a slide show.
Carlene Wallis 1968 Fieldcrest Dr Sparks, NV 89434 email@example.com
All listed tournament software is free to use.
The following short exploration of some of this is not meant to be a guide to everything needed to play well, only to suggest the kind of thinking required.
As a corollary, also consider what replacement tiles you're likely to draw. For example, if the choice between playing FARM and FORM is otherwise indifferent, and there are many "A"s unplayed but few "O"s, use the A to minimize the likelihood of duplication on the next rack.
The simplest application of attending to leave is attempting to keep good tiles. On average, S, E, R, and so on, form words most flexibly, and are particularly conducive to bingos. Choices between letters lower down also matter: P is better than B. But racks with Z or X tend to score high without playing long words. Which type of "good" letter is best to keep varies.
In applying all these ideas, consider the board situation. If there is a prime spot for a T, not used by the candidate plays, but none for an S, prefer to play off the S. If the letters available to be played through are mostly consonants, lean further toward keeping vowels.
Tracking allows better rack balancing: knowing there are many more "A"s than "O"s outstanding allows one to lean toward playing an A. It keeps one aware of whether the Q is outstanding, and of the risk and opportunity in other tiles which fit particularly well or poorly with the board.
Finally, once no tiles remain in the bag, tracking determines what exactly is on the opponent's rack. Just before the bag is empty, it allows fairly confident guessing what the opponent has. These allow all kinds of end-game play: set-ups, plays to assure the opponent cannot go out and enable one to throw out all rules of thumb and simply analyze cases for how to win.
It is generally best not to challenge a bingo if an alternative bingo was playable. I once played (P)SCHENT for several fewer points than CH(A)STEN because I knew my opponent would be outraged that I'd try such a stupid word on him. He should have calmed his emotions and considered my alternatives. Of course, had he found the over ten point better play, he might have inferred I had missed it, and challenged.
Consider the possibility that you are better off with the (possibly) phony word on the board. If it creates a lucrative opening for you, makes especially good use of your rack, or wastes your opponent's blank, offset the point benefit to you against the benefit to opponent of not losing this turn. Weight this calculation using your degree of certainty as to whether the word is good.
Use your right to challenge all words formed. Since the director gives only one ruling on the acceptability of all challenged words, your opponent may be uncertain which word was phony and try the bad word again.
Study the words most likely to occur. Know the two-letter words cold, since they are essential to common parallel plays. On the way to learning the three-letter words solidly, learn all front and back extensions for the twos. Learning the part of speech and the meaning of the two-letter words helps many people assimilate this; it is a technique that allows many to derive dual benefit from all kinds of study.
Also extra likely to occur because of the reward, as well as worthy of special study simply because of the reward, are the seven- and eight-letter words. Many techniques are possible.
One top player has memorized an ordered list of these words each of which is the first element of one of a set of subsidiary lists which encompass the entire set of bingos. That method is only for the very dedicated. Practice anagramming by matching the remaining letters to a common suffix or prefix. Some claim success in extending this technique to allow recognition of words which, for example, contain the letters ING but form only a non-"-ING" word, such as LINGOES.
Unless you have a photographic memory, try to learn words in small enough sets that you can master them to the point that you recognize both when you can and cannot anagram to one of them. For example, learn the list of all eight letter words containing exactly the vowels EEIIO (EOLIPILE and others). Then the phony OLEINIZE will not get by you, nor will you try it yourself.
Try Anamonics, a memory-efficient technique for learning, positively and negatively, which letters 6- and 7-letter sets anagram with to make words. For example, the letters of SLANDER make an 8-letter word with each of the letters in CALL GOD A PIOUS CHUMP. For this and other very effective techniques, see back issues of Medleys.
Practice anagramming at any time there are words around you on whose meaning you do not need to concentrate. This will soon take over your life so that even reading the newspaper, SENATOR will translate to TREASON and ATONERS, deeply affecting your world-view.
In the 1998 and 2004 North American championships, the four and seven divisions from expert down had the following statistics for points scored per side:
1 2 3 4 overall mean 387.5 369.8 359.1 341.5 364.7 stddev 60.5 57.4 54.7 55.4 59.3 median 371 367 348 326 363
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 overall mean 391.3 380.3 369.6 362.4 353.2 342.0 327.8 368.3 stddev 62.1 59.8 56.9 55.0 53.6 51.9 54.2 59.9 median 389 378 368 360 351 340 326.5 366
As the expert division grew from 126 to 173 and the whole field from 535 to 837, the increases in mean and median appear to support the widely held belief that the standard of play has risen.
In the 1983 North American championship among 32 selected players, players got 2.9 bingos per game between them in games that happened to be annotated. John O'Laughlin has calculated the probability of having a playable bingo on the first rack as 12.92% (or 1/7.74) for OWL2 and 15.07% (1/6.64) for OWL2+OSWI.
The following records are for sanctioned (that is, in an official club or tournament) North American play. Some UK and other records are mentioned, but not those occurring under high-score rules. Note that scores from North America are not strictly comparable with others because there the first to play out receives the value of opponent's tiles twice rather than once. Games played under SOWPODS allow higher scores.
The high individual score was obtained in a Massachusetts club by Michael Cresta, who scored 830 against his opponent's 490. Joel Sherman holds the high tournament score record, with 803, in a 2011 Connecticut tournament. (Internationally, in the 2014 Sri Lanka International Scrabble Championship in Colombo, Hasham Hadi Khan scored 876, the world tournament record. In the 2012 Northern Ireland Championship, Toh Weibin scored 850. In a Malta club in 1986, Godfrey Magri Demajo scored 792 using OSPD; the UK club record is Peter Preston's 793, in 1999 using OSW; is 785, by Jackie McLeod in 2002 under SOWPODS; in a 2007 SOWPODS tournament in Australia, Russell Honeybun scored 764; in a 1993 Auckland, New Zealand, club game, John Foster scored 763; Evan Cohen scored 738 in Israel.) (Nick Ballard scored 792 at a Chicago club, but used 4 phony bingos, and did not report it. Australians generally agree not to count Edward Okulicz's 750 in 2004 against an uncooperative opponent.)
The high combined score of 1320 was achieved in the above-mentioned game by Michael Cresta and Wayne Yorra, 830-490. (The North American tournament record is 1134, by Keith Smith against Stefan Rau, 582-552 -- also the record high loss -- in a 2008 Texas tournament. In the 2009 WSC, 1157 was reached by Phillip Edwin-Mugasha and Vannitha Balasingam of Malaysia, 627-530. The UK club record of 1134 was reached by Noel Turner and David Reading, 698-436 in 2006 in a Newport, England, club, the tournament record of 1129 by David Webb, 627-502 over Nigel Richards in the 2011 UK Open, the Australian, 1224, by Edward Okulicz and Michael McKenna in 2014, and the Zambian by Aaron Chong and Pui Cheng Wui at 1106 (including 25 points in 5-point-challenge credits).)
The highest losing score of 545 was achieved or suffered by Kevin Rickhoff of California in the 2006 US Scrabble Open. (In New Zealand, John Foster has lost with 513, in the UK, Craig Beevers lost with 545 in a 2011 tournament, and in Australia, Karen Richards lost with 517 in a 2009 tournament.)
The high margin of victory including phonies was by Ken Lambe of Michigan, who scored 716 versus his opponent's 147, using a single phony.
The high single turn, 365 points for QUIXOTRY, was achieved in a club game by Michael Cresta of Massachusetts. (Randy Amatoeng scored 374 in Ghana, Magri Demajo 392 in Malta in 1986, Neil Talbot 347 in a Wellington, New Zealand club in 2003, Marjorie Smith 320 points in a Nottingham, England tournament in 1998, and Wilma Whiteford 329 in a Hillcrest, South Africa, club in 2004.) The high opening turn, 126 for MUZJIKS, was reached by Jesse Inman of South Carolina in the 2008 North American championship; Joan Rosenthal of New South Wales achieved 124 for BEZIQUE in 1997.
Longest consecutive opening sequence of bingos by one player is six, by Kevin Fraley and Jerry Lerman, both of California, in 2006 and 2011 tournaments, respectively, in Nevada.
The most bingos by one player is eight, by Jerry Lerman in a 2011 Nevada WGPO tournament. Counting only tournaments and clubs licensed by the trademark holders, it is seven, in tournaments by Joel Sherman in 2011 in Connecticut, Bobor Edewor in 2011 in India, Nigel Richards in 2010 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Nigel Peltier in a 2010 Nevada, tournament, and in clubs by Judy Levitt in 2011 in California, Robert Kahn in 2010 in Florida, Russell Byers in 2006 in Nottingham, England, and Jeff Grant in 1997 in Hastings, New Zealand.
The most by both players combined is 11, by Jerry Lerman and Kenji Matsumoto in a 2011 Nevada WGPO tournament. Elsewhere, the most is nine, by Mark Nyman and Nigel Richards in a 1999 Thailand tournament, Dave Wiegand and Carl Johnson in a 2008 Nevada tournament, and Adam Logan and Jesse Day in a 2008-2009 New York tournament.
These records allow words only from the OWL2 and OLWL.
The highest-scoring single play, found by Benjamin Woo of Vancouver, B.C., shown with the hooked words:
A1 OXYPHENBUTAZONE 1458 1A OPACIFYING 63 2A XIS 10 4A PREQUALIFIED 30 8A BRAINWASHING 63 11A AVOIDABLE 15 12A ZOOgAMETES 30 15A EJACULATING 63 +bonus 50 ---- 1782
The highest combined score, found by Nathan Hedt of Australia:
8C ROUSING 68 B6 ALAMEDA, AROUSING 70 A4 ROT, TA 6 A4 ROTE, EL 6 4A RE 2 3B OD, OE 8 2A IT, TOE 10 9A Hm 4 11A ID 3 12B AT 2 13A US, ALAMEDAS 10 A1 MICROTECHNIQUES 1277 COD, CAROUSING, QAT, NE 12A QATs 24 H5 IDENTIFY 69 5E RAVIGOTE 98 11E WOLFLIKE 122 L4 REINJURES 146 8L JIB 12 N7 AB 4 6N WE, WAB 29 05 HE 5 05 HEN, AN 8 10L RE 2 12L SPA 5 13N MO, AM 8 11N LA, LAM 7 10L REF, FLAM 31 10L REFT, TA 9 O9 UTA 3 14N EN, FLAME, ON 26 N10 FLAMED 12 O1 OXYPHENBUTAZONE 1587 DE, JIBB, SPAZ 2N AX 18 H1 OVERIDENTIFYING 293 +2 times "A" 2 ---- 3986 M O O I T V A X C O D E Y R E R R P O R A V I G O T E H T A D I W E E L E N A N C A R O U S I N G J I B B H m T U U N E I R E F T I D W O L F L I K E L A Q A T s Y S P A Z U S I M O E N E N S G D E
A comparable effort has been made Johan Rönnblom in Swedish.
The position from which no play is possible no matter what tiles are held, which is reached with the fewest plays and tiles (found by Kyle Corbin of North Carolina) is:
(J) J U S S O X (X)U
Without using or allowing blanks, the smallest, found by Rick Wong of California, is:
F HUP FUCI PIU
In Anagram Scrabble (Clabbers, to some), where in the usual game, a word in the dictionary may be used, the adjacent tiles need only anagram to such a word. A player when challenged must come up with a single word to which the challenged set of letters anagrams. Tiles are still fixed in position once placed.
In an idea discussed in Medleys, called New Scrabble, the role of luck in the draw of blanks is reduced in that both players have one blank, not in the bag, which they may use to replenish their rack once during the game.
Ecology Scrabble allows recycling blanks, in accordance with a common "house rule".
In Duplicate Scrabble, players all play the same board, competing for high score on each move. Duplicate tournaments are held in France.
Open Sequence Scrabble, which has been used as the basis for English language duplicate competition, is easy to play by e-mail. Two players have an ongoing game on the Web.
Open-book Scrabble by snail mail used to be run by Medleys. Perhaps suggestions on how to run such games are available from there.
Nate Hekman runs e-mail games with an automated intermediary.
Matchups resumed running play-by-mail competition early in 1997. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the UK, the Postal Scrabble Club is very active.
Hasbro will replace without charge individual lost tiles from in-print sets sold in North America. Contact
Hasbro, Inc. Consumer Affairs (888) 836-7025 (401) 431-8697 email@example.com infoMattel will do the same for sets sold outside North America. Contact
Mattel UK Consumer Response Mattel House Vanwall Business Park Vanwall Road Maidenhead Berks. SL6 4UB 01628 500306 firstname.lastname@example.org
Standard-issue tiles are "braillable", that is, particular letters (and especially blanks) can be distinguished inside the bag by feel, and "false blanks" may be played, since the back of all tiles is the same as the front of a blank. Protiles, which are preferred according to tournament rules, prevent this. They are long-lasting, and the seller replaces lost tiles without charge. Available for $19 or $15, depending on style, with discounts for bulk purchases negotiable, from
Robert Schoenman PO Box 6549 Bellevue, WA 98008 email@example.com homepage
A variant of these with the seller's initials gracing the face of the blanks is sold by SamTimer.
Protiles in a 3-piece design (front and back encasing a paper letter), in standard and jumbo fonts, $25 + $4 shipping, are made by Marsha Peshkin.
For $8.50 per set, Nate Kates will imprint the back of plastic Protiles with a name of up to 4 or 5 letters.
Nate Kates 8170 Reche Canyon Rd Colton, CA 92324
A version of Protiles for Armenian Scrabble is available, at least in North America, from:
Onnig Dombalagian firstname.lastname@example.org
In the UK, Spear makes Tournament Tiles, which besides having thinner, harder-to-braille ink than the regular Spear tiles, do not wear as quickly, nor smudge when wet. Available from Philip Nelkon for #6.
Imran Siddiqui of Pakistan makes comparable tiles, but may not be exporting them out of Pakistan.
Extra-long maple racks are $10/pair with shipping from
Jack's Better Racks Jack Jones 6291 Chimney Rock Trail Morrison, CO 80465 (303) 697-4754, 697-9805 fax
Chess clocks, used to time games at clubs and tournaments, are available where chess paraphernalia is sold, but avoid analog models on whose faces the individual minutes past zero are not marked, and digital models which do not show seconds past zero.
A table comparing attributes of various models is available.
Analog quartz clocks are sold by Matchups, $70 + $5 shipping, wind-up clocks for $42.
The following clocks all are well suited to Scrabble, and are assigned equal highest preference by NSA rules.
The US Chess Federation sells various clocks. Their Game Time, at $120 to non-members, seems to be their best suited digital.
A wood-housed precision analog quartz clock may still be for sale, at $125 with padded case. It features a second hand which stops at discrete positions to assure rulings as precise as those using a digital clock.
Richard Buck 10 Gilkey Ct Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 923-8909 email@example.com homepage
A digital model, called the "Adjudicator 3000," is $110 USD plus $6 shipping. It has a slanted face with one-inch numbers showing seconds of overtime and 60-second courtesy draw and low-battery indicators, and is reprogrammable.
Gene Tyszka 1060 Argus Dr Mississauga ON L4Y 2L8 Canada (905) 270-9662 firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
The "2Timer" is similar to the above, and has a 20-second hold indicator. It is $90, but introductorily $80 for chess and Scrabble club members.
2Timer c/o McIntosh Electric Co. (MELCO) 10101 SE 3rd. St. Box 304 Bellevue, WA 98004-607 email@example.com homepage
The "SamTimer", a similar model sold for $109 (+ $10 for padded bag + $6 shipping), long was the only choice for one-inch numbers showing seconds of overtime. It has a slanted face and a 60-second courtesy draw indicator and is larger than competing models because it shows an hours digit, since it is also sold for chess.
Sam Kantimathi 300 Salmon Falls Rd El Dorado Hills, CA 95762-9786 (888) SAM-TIME (916) 933-5000, 933-5222 fax firstname.lastname@example.org SamTimer homepage
In the UK, available for £74 postpaid from
Tilefish 12 Northfield Terrace Edinburgh EH8 7PX 0800 043 0059 email@example.com homepage
In Australia, for AU$100 plus postage from
Marjorie Miller 25 Alfred Street Lower Templestowe Victoria 3107 (03) 9850 2366
Out of production but still in circulation is a light, simple digital clock with the minimum features to make it one of the models preferred by NSA rules. It is fixed to start at 25 minutes per side.
In addition to various plain, deluxe (rotating) and travel editions sold by the trademark holders, a few types of circular rotating boards are sold. These generally incorporate an authorized deluxe board's plastic grid for positioning tiles and usually its paper markings. Cymbal bags fit most of them well. For information, write to any of
|Mike Connally||P.O. Box 420|
Bulverde, TX 78163
|Sam Kantimathi||300 Salmon Falls Rd|
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
|Ossie Mair||5420 NW 78th Ave|
Lauderhill, FL 33351
(954) 817-8392 cell
uniquely compact, lightweight
nesting "Star Board"
|Peter Manzolillo||2526 S St Marks Ave|
Bellmore, NY 11710
|(516) 249-7772 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Eugene Murray||(317) email@example.com|
round boards personalized with fabric
|Gene Tyszka||1060 Argus Dr|
Mississauga ON L4Y 2L8
|Roy Blizzard*||2132 Marwood Ln|
Albemarle, NC 28001
|Evi Pike*||(905) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Phil Rosenberg*||864 Colonial Ave|
Union, NJ 07083
|Eileen Willis*||3664 Danielle Ct|
North Liberty, IA 52317
Krylon No. 1310 Dulling Spray should serve to remove the deluxe board's glare for those who find it annoying.
Blind players do play in tournaments, bringing their own Braille sets, which have visible printed letters. Aids include "Megawords", a Scrabble clone with both Braille board and tiles, sold by Independent Living. They also sell tactile tile overlays, while Columbia and Badger sell Braille tiles alone, and Protiles are sold in a special jumbo, high-contrast version. Braille and Low-Vision Scrabble, variants of the deluxe turntable edition, are the most widely sold alternative. Independent Living sells a Mattel Large Print Scrabble. Prices vary greatly and sellers change often, but currently include:
Independent Living Aids 200 Robbins Ln Jericho, NY 11753 (800) 537-2118 email@example.com homepage Badger Assn of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc. 912 N Hawley Rd Milwaukee, WI 53213 (414) 615-0111 (414) 256-8744 fax (877) 258-9200 homepage firstname.lastname@example.org LearnMore Shop MaxiAids, Inc. 42 Executive Blvd Farmingdale, NY 11735 (800) 522-6294 (order) (631) 752-0521 (info) (800) 281-3555 TTY (631) 752-0738 TTY (631) 752-0689 fax email@example.com homepage Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired of San Francisco 214 Van Ness Ave San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 431-1481 (415) 431-4572 tty homepage Sight Connection Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted 9709 Third Ave NE #100 Seattle, WA 98115-2027 (800) 458-4888 (206) 525-5556 firstname.lastname@example.org homepage Visionary Store Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind 6200 Baltimore Ave, Suite 100 Riverdale, MD 20737 (240) 737-5190 email@example.com homepage Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind Equipment Resource Centre 201 High Street Prahran Victoria 3004 Australia 03 9520 5588 03 9520 5585 fax firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
The Franklin Mint sells a Scrabble set (complete with a copy of the OSPD2), with wooden board and shiny metal tiles, for $495, even higher in the UK. No serious player I know owns one except a few who have won this garish item as a Franklin-donated tournament prize.
Evi Pike also sells game carrying bags, $16-25; tile bags, $6-$14; round board covers $7-$18; and book covers, $5-$6. Prices vary due to specialty fabrics; matching sets on request. Mike Connally sells Protiles, bags and nameplates.
Luise Shafritz sells lined tile bags with a spring device to prevent tiles from falling out, clock protectors, TWL98 covers and other items. Bags are $12 including US shipping.
4431 Angelo Rosa St. Las Vegas, NV 89134 (702) 254-9103 email@example.com
Peter and Trudy Olson sell silk tile bags with rounded corners for $21, by money order, including postage. P.O. Box 236, McKenna, WA 98558, (360) 894-1340.
Punch bound books of 100 score-sheets in various colors and tracking orders, with or without board diagrams, are available for $5 each plus $3 shipping for up to 3 books from
Danny Gatlin 191 Lakeshore Rd Jackson, MS 39212
Here are listed various somewhat fetishistic objects not usable for playing Scrabble.
The cuff links are of individual Scrabble tiles; Q, U, V, X, Y and Z are not available. The others depict the board from the deciding game of the 1993 World [English language] Scrabble Championship; on the handkerchief, the board is exact, on the others, it is taken from a continuous fabric of that board, resulting in distortions. The players (and authors?) of that game (Mark Nyman and Joel Wapnick) are not credited and are not being compensated.
Magnificent Mouchoirs Quayside Lodge William Morris Way London SW6 2SY +44 171 371 7017 +44 171 371 7115 fax
There are (1) Scrabble-playing programs licensed in the US and UK; (2) "crossword game" programs which can be configured to play Scrabble; and (3) programs which ignore the trademark and copyright issues. All are represented below.
Often programs written independently of Hasbro and Mattel are withdrawn because of threat of legal action by one of them. Sometimes, the program is acquired and redeveloped by them (e.g. Maven and Niggle). Links for withdrawn programs will sometimes be left here because knowing the filename can help find the file somewhere on the Internet despite the author's care not to provide it. Filenames are gradually being added to the listings for the same reason.
Only programs which themselves play Scrabble or provide on-line intermediaries are listed, not those which solely provide an electronic set. Most allow or require configuration to the same board layout, tile distribution and values as is standard.
The most recent and advanced published research on writing strong computer Scrabble players is the 2002 dissertation (apparently not deliverable to the US) of Brian Sheppard, author of Maven:
Towards Perfect Play of Scrabble IKAT/Computer Science Department Universiteit Maastricht ISBN 90-5278-351-9, €22.50 firstname.lastname@example.org purchase page, email@example.com
The description of CRAB includes a reference on efficient Scrabble move finding. An improvement on the method described there appears in:
A Faster Scrabble Move Generation Algorithm Steven A. Gordon Software Practice and Experience, 24:2, Feb 1994, pp. 219-232
The following paper compares approaches for move selection:
A Comparison Between Probabilistic Search and Weighted Heuristics in a Game with Incomplete Information Steven A. Gordon AAAI Fall 1993 Symposium on Games: Playing and Learning, AAI Press Technical Report FS9302, Menlo Park, CA
Mark Wutka explains the data structures suited to word-finding and provides other utilities in his excellent page.
Candidates for game log file formats are John Chew's gcg (used by Quackle), or for readability in two columns, James A. Cherry's log2 and comm_log.
homepage users' mailing list
SoftSpot Software 214, Chorley New Road Bolton Lancashire BL1 5AA United Kingdom firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
Cygnus Cybernetics Corporation 147 N Washington Ave Fort Collins, CO 80521 (970) 221-2614, 493-5370 fax email@example.com Cygnus homepageA variant of CrossWise is sold in the UK.
Note that the shipping charge for orders of multiple items is $3.50 for the first $30 of merchandise, plus $.50 for each $10 up to a maximum of $6.
Ted Gruber Software P.O. Box 13408 Las Vegas, NV 89112
The unregistered version of Literati v1.15, available there or thence, is limited to using the provided small dictionary and a non-Scrabble board; registering at $25 plus shipping ($4 in the US) brings a full dictionary but still not a standard board.
MVP Software 1035 Dallas S.E. Grand Rapids, MI 49507-1407
Matchups c/o Susi Tiekert firstname.lastname@example.org sales email@example.com support Matchups Price List
Eidos Interactive +44 121 356 0831
Vic Rice 4026 Bayou Grove Dr Seabrook, TX 77586and from the bulletin board system (BBS) where the author resides:
Ed Hopper's PC Board (713) 782-5454
Dr Graham Wheeler firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Hall 1007 Cable Creek Dr Grapevine, TX 76051 email@example.com Scrabble Door homepage
Hasbro has required the author to withdraw these programs. Until Mattel takes similar action, it is available for use outside North America, from the UK and Australia. Further information is available.
Current information and coordination of Networdz play on the Net is at ScrabbleOn another ScrabbleOn and NewNet (which supplies a substitute SOWPODS dictionary).
Freeverse Software 447 W 24 St New York, NY 10011 (212) 929-3549, 647-0562 fax firstname.lastname@example.org homepage
producer's information page download pageAlthough based on Maven, this Hasbro product on CD-ROM falls far short of it. The ability to alter the position has been removed, the board is seen only from a non-perpendicular perspective, it sometimes deals 3 blanks, doesn't show a clock in tournament mode, requires 25MB of disk although 5MB is claimed, and even a human opponent cannot play a phony. It allows play over modem, local network or the Internet, except that this doesn't work yet on the Mac, and Internet users by default are routed through a pay-per-minute service. For related chat, go to Microsoft Gaming Zone or see above. Available at as low as $18, it plays in English, featuring the ESPD, not the full OSPD (but the dictionary is customizable, and there's help for Mac users), French, German or Spanish. Hasbro Interactive is at (800) 638-6927, (617) 746-2903 or (508) 921-3722, and provides web, e-mail/e-mail support.
Being a Hasbro product, it is available only within Hasbro's domain, the U.S. and Canada. Spear's separate CD-ROM game was released in November 1999, at about #30; Support is at 0870 741 6821.
Infogrames (now a division of Atari), which took over Hasbro Interactive in January 2001, provides a patch for version 2. Another apparently official patch fixes play via MSN Gaming Zone, but reportedly disables all other Internet play. Unofficial resources include Nancy Overman's excellent page about using the program over the Internet (she also supplies official patches for versions 1 and 2 of Hasbro's CD-ROM game; filenames scrpatch.exe and Scrabblev2_0Patchv1_2.exe, in case these go missing and a Web search is needed), Nina Gary's on its flaws, help on playing at the Zone, replacement dictionaries from John Chew, Bob Weiss and Mark Wutka (the latter including dictionary utilities and explanations).
A version for Windows CE (including PalmOS) was due out in March 1998, at about $30. How similar it is to the CD-ROM version is not yet known.
A play-by-email version was published by Hasbro. Exchanging tiles can yield back some of the same tiles. Suggestions for how to continue using it despite the shutdown of Hasbro's server are provided by Nancy Overman.
homepage homepage for eBookman version
See also the following reference to Scrabble jargon:
[This is under construction -- sorry about the mess in this section.]
Scrabble's trademark and copyright protections and its owners have been involved in several lawsuits in the USA. This section describes some of those. (None of this is to be taken as legal advice -- anyone needing to know how the law applies to their situation will have to consult an attorney willing to take them on a client.)
Worth v. Selchow & Righter Co., 827 F.2d 569 (9th Cir. 1987) (defendant's trivia game did not infringe copyright of trivia encyclopedia because it copied only a fraction of the game's facts and organized them differently), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 977 (1988).
Landsberg v. Scrabble Crossword Game Players, Inc., 736 F.2d 485 (9th Cir.) (holding that defendant's "Scrabble Players Handbook" did not infringe the copyright on plaintiff's draft book "Championship Scrabble Strategy", submitted by plaintiff to defendant, because, although the lower court found defendant surreptitiously retained copies of and copied from plaintiff's work, what was taken was at most uncopyrightable ideas; for example, defendant "had taken" its "notational system"; but remanding on whether its conduct violated an implied-in-fact contract to compensate him if it used his ideas, and for possible attorneys' fees for "vexatious, oppressive, obdurate and bad faith conduct of [the] litigation," 736 F.2d at 491), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1037 (1984).
Horn Abbott Ltd. v. Sarsaparilla Ltd., 601 F. Supp. 360 (N.D. Ill. 1984) (temporarily enjoining sale of a book "In Further Pursuit of Trivial Pursuit", which reproduced all 6000 questions and answers in plaintiff's game (plus explanations) and imitated its "trade dress").
Selchow & Righter Co. v. Decipher, Inc., 598 F. Supp. 1489 (E.D. Va. 1984) (defendant's "Real Questions For Your Trivial Pursuit Game" infringed the trademark licensed to plaintiff by imitating the trademarked product's appearance, or "trade dress" and by overuse of the term "Trivial Pursuit," where these were not functional).
Selchow & Righter Co. v. McGraw-Hill Book Co., 580 F.2d 25 (2d Cir. 1978) (preliminarily enjoining publication of defendant's "The Complete Scrabble Dictionary" as tending to render plaintiff's trademark generic; noting however, that "[t]he extent to which it has come into general use to describe a game or games rather than their origin or source of supply is fairly open to proof." 580 F.2d at 28).
Selchow & Righter Co. v. Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc., 192 USPQ 530 (S.D.N.Y. 1976) (denying a preliminary injunction against defendant's "The Scrabble Book" based on plaintiff's failure to show irreparable harm from its publication).
Production and Marketing Co. v. E.S. Lowe Co., 390 F.2d 1013 (Ct. of Cust. & Pat. App. 1968) (denying defendant use of the name "Scribbage" for a crossword game, as infringing on "Scrabble").
This article is copyright 1993-2004 Steven Alexander. Except as follows, all rights are reserved. Copies may be made in propagating any of the entire Usenet newsgroups on which this is posted by the copyright holder. Archives accessible by ftp which collect all available FAQs or entire Usenet newsgroups may maintain a copy. Individuals may make single copies for personal, non-commercial purposes. Each copy permitted must be complete. Other than the above, no permission is granted to copy or distribute. No permission is granted to prepare derivative works.
In an effort to keep the FAQ actually and apparently credible, I don't accept anything of value (other than newsletters) from people who sell things reviewed, although sample pages, manuals, or the like can be helpful.
Many thanks to Graeme Thomas, John J. Chew III, Jim Homan and Stewart Holden for numerous corrections and improvements. Also to Barry Harridge and Philip F.X. Ryan for information on Australia. Thanks to the late Edith Berman, Gary Dismukes, Steven Gordon, John C. Green Jr., Adam Logan, Maggie Morley, Larry Sherman and Harriet Strasberg for helpful comments, and to the members of the mailing list crossword-games-pro, who ferret out and share much useful information.
If you have suggestions or better information on anything here, please mail me at with "FAQ" in the subject. Street address and fax number are available upon request.
Steven Alexander ()
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