The Official South African Scrabble Tournament Rules

Revised March 1999

The South African National Scrabble Players' Association

Jo-Anne, 6 Safari road, Thornton, 7460, Cape Town
Tel: (021) 531-4917 Fax: (021) 23-5661


The following rules shall apply to all SANSPA (South African National Scrabble Player's Association) organized tournaments. The SANSPA Rules Committee has attempted to compile as comprehensive a set of rules as possible but there may still be situations outside the scope of this document. In such cases the tournament director will make a decision, according to his/her discretion, to find the fairest solution possible. The tournament director's decision will be final and binding.

These rules are based largely on the NSA (National Scrabble Association USA) tournament rules with input from the APSP (Association of Premier Scrabble Players UK) and ASPA (Australian Scrabble Players Association) but have been extensively adapted and agreed upon by the SANSPA Rules Committee.

The current Committee members are: Dylan Early, Anita Kassel, Gerald Davids, Llewellin Jegels and Debbe Hossy.


All players are honour bound not to cheat.

It is the responsibility of every member, while playing, not only to guard against any action of his/her own which might incur suspicion or misinterpretation, but also immediately to draw to the attention of his/her opponents any such action on their part. If dubious conduct persists the tournament director should be notified.

If any player is caught cheating he/she will be disqualified from the tournament immediately. All games played by that player will be awarded to his/her opponents. The guilty player will be automatically banned from SANSPA tournaments for an indefinite period of time and will have their membership revoked.


3.1 Redwood International Scrabble Wordlist

All words appearing in the 1997 edition of the Redwood International Scrabble Wordlist are acceptable.

3.2 Official Scrabble Words (OSW) 3rd Edition

If a word does not appear in the Redwood International Scrabble Wordlist but does appear in the OSW 3, it is acceptable.

3.3 The Chambers Dictionary

If a word does not appear in the OSW 3 but does appear in the 1993 edition of the Chambers Dictionary, it is acceptable if:

  • It is a main entry or inflected form or alternate spelling in bold print.
  • And if it is not capitalized, hyphenated, contracted or listed only as part of a multi-word phrase.

3.4 Merriam Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

If a word longer than 8 letters does not appear in the Redwood International Scrabble Wordlist but does appear in the Merriam-Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition, it is acceptable if:

  • The word appears as a main entry or inflected form or alternate spelling in bold print
  • And if it is not capitalized, hyphenated, contracted, foreign or listed only as part of a multi-word phrase.

NOTE: Any word used in the definition of a word, but not listed in the dictionary itself, will not be acceptable. Note also, Merriam-Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition should only be used for words longer than 8 letters; it is not authoritative for words shorter than this.


4.1 Boards

As far as possible, de luxe boards are to be used.

4.2 Tiles

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.

4.3 Racks

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.

4.4 Clocks

Chess clocks must be used for all SANSPA rated tournaments. When using clocks, each player is allowed 25 minutes time to complete all plays. (See 8. Using the Clock.) There is no limit on the time taken per turn.

Digital clocks shall be considered equally as acceptable as analog clocks. Clocks are to be used in preference to sand-timers.

4.5 Second Player's Preference

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.

4.6 Letter Frequency List

The only papers allowed at each player's station are one Score Sheet, one Result 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. Players are allowed to make use of blank paper for calculations if so desired.


5.1 How To Play

5.1.1 The First Play of a 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.

5.1.2 Missing the Center Square

If the first word played on the board does not cover the center square, and the turn has ended (see 7.2 End of Turn), 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.

5.1.3 Subsequent Plays

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. Players accumulated points for each word according to the prescribed scoring rules. (see 5.2 How to Score)

5.1.4 Arranging Tiles on the Board

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.

5.1.5 How New Words are Formed on the Board

You may:

  • Add one or more letters to a word already on the board.
  • 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.
  • Place a complete word parallel to a word already played, so that adjoining letters also form complete words.

5.1.6 Board Orientation

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.

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.

In resolving board orientation disputes, 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 tiles.

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. A player may not orient the direction of the board during a challenge until the verdict is received.

5.1.7 Tiles Should Remain on the Rack as much as Possible

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.

5.2 How to Score

5.2.1 Letter Values

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.

5.2.2 Scoring Each Play

The score for each turn is the sum of the letter values in each word formed or modified during the play, plus the additional points obtained from placing letters on premium squares.

5.2.3 Double and Triple Letter Bonus Squares

A light blue square DOUBLES the score of a LETTER placed on it.

A dark blue square TRIPLES the score of a LETTER placed on it.

5.2.4 Double and Triple Word Bonus Squares

The score for an entire WORD is DOUBLED when one of its letters is placed on a pink square.

The score for an entire WORD is TRIPLED when one of its letters is placed on a red square.

5.2.5 Score DLSs and TLSs before DWSs and TWSs

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.

5.2.6 Double-Doubles (DWS-DWS)

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.

5.2.7 Triple-Triples (TWS-TWS)

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.

5.2.8 Bonus Squares Score on One Turn Only

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.

5.2.9 The Blank on a DWS or TWS

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 score value.

5.2.10 Scoring with Two or More Words

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.

5.2.11 Using All Seven Tiles

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'' or a ``bonus''.


6.1 Late Arrivals

It is the given duty of all competitors to be present at the announced time of commencement of any given round. If both players are absent at the start of a round then the Director may start the clock and, when the first player arrives, assign him/her the elapsed time by starting the clock of the second player. Upon arrival, the second player should neutralize the clock and accept the full amount of elapsed time (i.e. that shown on the first player's clock plus that shown on the second player's clock). Only then should the players continue as described in 6.2.

If one player is absent at the start of a round, his/her clock must be started by the Director. When that player arrives the clock should be neutralized. Only then should the players continue as described in 6.2.

6.2 Counting the Tiles

The players must ensure before each game that all tiles are present. 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.

6.3 Shuffling Tiles

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 watching.

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.

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.

6.4 Who Plays First?

If one player has had fewer firsts during the tournament than the other has, 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 draw again.

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.

6.5 Drawing the First Tiles

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 tiles.


7.1 Standard Procedure for Each Turn

Sequentially, this is how a turn should proceed:

  • Step 1: Position the tiles on the board.
  • Step 2: Declare the score.
  • Step 3: Initiate the opponent's clock.
  • Step 4: Record the score for the move and the cumulative score to that point in the game.
  • Step 5: Refill the rack.

Note: A player must record his/her opponent's score for the move and the cumulative score to that point in the game before playing his/her turn. This applies especially to players under time pressure.

7.2 End of Turn

You officially end your turn when you:

  • press the clock.
  • Or when you write your score for that move (the entire score for the move must be written; it is not necessary to compute or write the cumulative score for this rule to take effect).
  • Or when your hand enters the bag to take new tiles.
(The turn has not ended when the score is announced as the player may be counting aloud). No changes may be made to your play once the move has ended. The only two exceptions are losing a challenge (rule 13.3) and extra tiles (rule 16). N.B. Do not hit the clock before the complete score is called.

7.3 Accepting a Play

You officially accept your opponent's play when you:

  • Have written their score for the move in the designated space on the scoresheet (again, the entire score for the move must be written; it is not necessary to compute or write the cumulative score for this rule to take effect).
  • Or, if you allow your opponent to draw new tiles.

7.4 Shifting Tiles on the Board

The player's tiles used for the immediate play may be shifted anywhere on the board until the turn has ended.

7.5 Recording the Cumulative Score

After the player has played a word, announced the score, and started opponent's clock, 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.

** Only when there are no tiles left to draw will there be no warning of penalty if opponent or player fails to record the cumulative score.


Each player is allowed 25 minutes to complete the game. It is the responsibility of each player to ensure, before the game begins, that the clock is set properly and fully wound.

The clock is started when the first player sees their first tile and stopped at the end of the game. The clock will be neutralized when play is interrupted, but only for the reasons stated in rule 14. If players exceed the allotted 25 minutes, a time penalty will be levied. (see 18.5 Time Penalties)

Reference is made throughout these rules to ``neutralizing'' the clock. This means depressing the clock buttons so that neither player's clock is ticking.


9.1 How to Draw Tiles

When drawing tiles, hold the bag at eye level and look away, 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 considered cheating (see 2. Conduct) and is grounds for expulsion from a tournament.

9.2 Drawing Tiles - A Second Method

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 9.3 Overdrawing). 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.

9.3 Overdrawing

A player may not have more than 7 tiles on his/her rack at any time. If a player draws too many tiles, ALL the tiles must be placed on the rack (or table) whether they have been seen or not, and the opponent will take off the excess tiles in the following manner:

One tile too many :
The opponent takes off three tiles, looks at them all and places one back in the bag.
Two tiles too many:
The opponent takes off four tiles, looks at them all and places two back in the bag.
Three or more tiles too many:
The opponent takes off two more than the excess, looks at them all and places the excess tiles back in the bag.
NB: The player has the right to know which tiles are returned to the bag.

9.4 Underdrawing

A player may not have less than 7 tiles on his/her rack at any time unless the bag is empty. If a player has drawn too few tiles, he/she must take the necessary number of tiles from the bag after having drawn this fact to the opponent's attention. If a player notices less than 7 tiles on his/her opponent's rack, he/she must inform the opponent and insist that the rack be replenished immediately. No penalty is levied for underdrawing.

If a person makes a play from a rack of less than 7 tiles, ends the turn (see 7.2 End of Turn) and then notices the error, the move may not be rescinded. If a player empties his/her underdrawn rack on any given move, that player must receive the correct score but without the bonus 50 points, e.g., if they announce the score to be 63 then they score 63 - 50 = 13. If a player ``plays out'' from an underdrawn rack the game will not end automatically but will continue until all the tiles are used, if possible (see 18.3 Undrawn Tiles).

9.5 Drawing Tiles Out-of-Order

When tiles are drawn out-of-order, (that's when Player A has played but not drawn tiles, and Player B plays and draws tiles before Player A 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.


10.1 How to Exchange Tiles

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. A player may exchange tiles as often as he/she wishes during a game. When exchanging tiles, 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 clock, 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 ends the turn.

10.2 When to Exchange Tiles

A player may exchange tiles on any turn or turns, provided there is a minimum of seven tiles in the bag.

10.3 When Exchanges Occur at the Wrong Time

If a player exchanges one or more tiles when there are fewer than seven tiles in the bag, that player shall be penalized, but only if opponent realizes the misplay before ending his/her turn. In that case opponent neutralizes the clock and looks at all the tiles in the bag, 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 bag and opponent's clock is started.

There is one more important rule pertaining to inappropriate tile exchanges. Consider the interval of time after the opponent's clock 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 lose his/her turn without exchanging any tiles, and no further penalty shall be enforced.


A player may pass a turn for a zero score. A pass is defined as ending your turn without making any change to your rack or the board. The game ends automatically if six successive scores of zero occur. Zero is scored for a pass, tile exchange or a lost challenge.


12.1 Recording the Blank Letter

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 clock. The player may change and reprint the letter s/he wishes the blank to represent as often as s/he likes before ending his/her turn. After the turn has ended neither player may change the letter the blank represents.

12.2 Misunderstanding the Blank Letter

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.

12.3 Failure to Designate the Blank

If a player has not designated which letter the blank tile represents before initiating opponent's clock, opponent may immediately neutralize the clock and demand to know 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 clock. It is suggested that repeated offenses be penalized by Director (subtract 50 points from offender's total spread).

If a blank remains undesignated, the player whose turn it is at the time may assign any logical value to the blank. However, the Director may be called to determine if there is any willful misusage of this blank designation rule, and he/she will have the power to intervene if necessary.

12.4 Verifying the Blank

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.


13.1 Procedure for Challenging

If player A is considering whether or not to challenge a move, he/she must say ``hold'' so that player B does not proceed to take tiles. Note: player A may call a hold (on his/her own time) for approximately 20 seconds after which he or she must make a decision to challenge or not. If player A wishes to challenge a word, he or she must say ``challenge'' and neutralize the clock. At this point, the decision to challenge may not be taken back. The challenger then prints the challenged word/s on a challenge slip and the player verifies that the word/s are correctly and legibly written. If more than one word is challenged they must all be challenged simultaneously. Only one verdict will be received for a challenge, i.e., either ``acceptable'' or ``unacceptable'' regardless of how many words were challenged (Players are not entitled to know which words are correct or incorrect). When the word/s is being challenged, the remaining player must turn his or her tiles face down and leave the board unturned. If runners are available, players may not leave the table. If runners are not available, the challenger will have to take the challenge slip to the word judge but may not look at the dictionary.

13.2 When to challenge

The time for player A to challenge is when player B has ended his/her turn (see 7.2 End of Turn) and before player A has officially accepted the play (see rule 7.3).

Note: Player B may not rush to take replacement tiles before completing the ``Standard Procedure for Each Turn'' (rule 7.1). If player B takes tiles without following this procedure, Player A may then still challenge. If the verdict is unacceptable, the excess tiles will be removed from Player A's rack according to rule 9.3 (overdrawing).

Note: The Challenger may record the score for the turn after the challenge has already been made.

After player B has ended their turn, he/she cannot make any changes to the board. After player A has accepted the play, he/she cannot challenge or make any changes to the board.

13.3 When the Word Judge says ``Unacceptable''

If any challenged word is judged unacceptable the player returns the offending tiles to the rack, loses the turn (scores zero) and then restarts the clock 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.

13.4 When the Word Judge says ``Acceptable''

If all words listed on the challenge slip are judged acceptable, the words remain on the board and neither player is penalized. The challenger starts the clock and play resumes.

13.5 Second and Third Opinions

If either player disagrees with the verdict they may ask for a review of the verdict (additional words can not be added to the challenge slip at this point). A third opinion may also be asked for. If a third opinion is requested it will be dealt with by the Director whose judgment will be final.

13.6 Suggest Checking the latest Webster's Collegiate, and the Chambers Dictionary

Players (and observers) are allowed and advised to prompt the word judge to look in the latest edition of Merriam Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, (see 3. Dictionaries) or the Chambers Dictionary for challenged words of nine-letters or more if these words aren't listed in the Redwood.

13.7 Who Adjudicates Words?

Only the director or designated staff may rule on the validity of a challenged word.

13.8 Incorrect Adjudication

After the game has ended and before the result card is signed, players may personally double-check any dubious challenges. If the Word Judge has made a mistake, the game must be replayed immediately if the outcome could have been different as a result.


Play may be interrupted and the clock neutralized for the following reasons only:

  • When a turn is challenged (rule 13.1)
  • When clarifying a difference in scores (rule 14.1)
  • When verifying a blank's designation (rule 12.3)
  • When awaiting a rules resolution or announcement by the director
  • When enforcing the rule on overdrawn tiles (rule 9.3)
  • When tiles are missing (rule 15)
  • When extra tiles appear (rule 16)

14.1 Verifying the Score

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 clock is running, and NOT while his/her opponent's clock is on. Only if there is a discrepancy should the clock be neutralized.

14.2 Leaving the Playing Area

A player may ONLY leave the playing area in an emergency after making a play, starting opponent's clock, recording the cumulative score and NOT drawing tiles. If a player must leave the playing area on his/her own turn, the Director shall have the power to intervene using his/her experience and judgment.

If a contestant leaves the table during a game, the clock 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 clock 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.


If during play a tile/s are found out of the bag, it may be put back into the bag after both players have seen what the tile is. If players have fewer than 7 tiles on their racks an effort shall 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 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 game is over (see rule 18.2) it will not be replayed if tiles are found to be missing. The onus is on the players to ensure beforehand that there are 100 tiles in the bag.

If, during a game, players notice that tiles are missing while all 100 tiles were present before the game began, the clock will be neutralized and the game suspended until the missing tile/s is found. If the tile cannot be found, a replacement tile from another set will be used if possible. If the tile/s cannot be replaced the game will be replayed if requested by either player; otherwise play will resume with an incomplete set of tiles (the incomplete set must be reported). If cheating is suspected the Director must be called who will make a decision according to his/her discretion.


16.1 Discovering Extra Tiles

If it happens that extra tiles appear on the board the following procedure applies:

If player A notices that player B has placed an extra tile/s on the board before player B takes new tiles, then:

  • the extra tile/s must be removed from the game altogether
  • the remaining letters of the word must be removed and returned to player B's rack
  • player B must replenish his/her rack from the bag and play again (regardless of whether the turn has ended).

If player A notices that player B has placed an extra tile/s on the board after player B has taken new tiles and before player A has taken new tiles, then:

  • the extra tile/s must be removed from the game altogether.
  • the tiles drawn should be regarded as excess tiles and returned to the bag (according to rule 9.3).
  • the remaining letters of the word must be removed from the board and returned to player B's rack.
  • player B must play again (regardless of whether player B's turn has ended).

Note: At this point, if player A has already displayed his/her letters, (regardless of whether player A's turn has ended) he/she has the option of a free tile exchange after the above procedure has been carried out.

If player A has already taken tiles before noticing the excess tile/s, the game must be halted and every effort made to reconstruct the game to the point before the error occurred. If this is not possible, the ``innocent'' party will have the choice of replaying the game. If it cannot be determined who was responsible for playing the excess tiles, the game will have to be replayed. If cheating is suspected, the Director must be informed who will make a decision based on his/her discretion.

16.2 Drawing from the Wrong Bag

If tiles have been taken from the wrong bag, they should be returned to the correct bag.

If the ``guilty'' parties (Players C and D) have already finished their game when this is noticed, their game will not be replayed. If the game is still in progress, Players C and D will resume their game after the extra tiles have been removed (even if they are on a player's rack).

If the ``innocent'' parties (Players A and B) have already finished their game when this is noticed, their game will not be replayed. If the game is still in progress, Players A and B will resume their game after the missing tiles have been returned to the bag or the player who should have drawn it/them.


When using smooth tiles, you may put your hand into the tile bag and count the number of tiles remaining after stating your intention to do so. Make sure that your opponent does not think you are ending your turn (see 7.2).

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.


18.1 When Does the Game End?

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. If it happens that the board is so blocked that no further play is possible, each player must pass their turn. On the 6th consecutive pass the game will be considered over.

18.2 Procedure for Ending the Game

The player going out must announce that they are doing so and start the opponent's clock as normal. The opponent must then challenge or accept the play. If he/she challenges, the normal challenge procedure applies. If he/she accepts the final play he/she must neutralize the clock. This is the precise point at which the game is over and no further changes may be made to the board (except in the case of 18.3 Undrawn Tiles). When the game is over, the player/s with tiles still on their rack must reveal these tiles to the opponent.

If, for whatever reason, the clock is not neutralized after the last play, the game shall be considered finished when the opponent has revealed his/her unused tiles or the point value thereof. This act of revealing the unused tiles ends any further enlargement of any time penalties accrued.

18.3 Undrawn Tiles

If the game has ended (the result card not yet signed, see rule 18.10) and one or more tiles remain undrawn (still in the bag), the players must determine who should have drawn the tile/s. That player must then draw the tile/s and play will resume as follows:

  • If the tile/s belong to the player who ``played out'', the other player's next turn is started by starting their clock and plays resumes.
  • If the tile/s belong to the player who did not play out, the game will obviously be considered over.

18.4 Final Scoring Adjustments

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.

18.5 Time Penalties

Time penalties are enforced in the following manner:

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 in doubt, the players must call the Director whose decision will be final.

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

18.6 Winning, Losing or Tieing

The player with the highest adjusted score, after time penalties have been deducted, 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.

18.7 Winners and Losers

At the end of each game, the loser must arrange the tiles in a 10 by 10 square on the board so that players can see that all 100 tiles are present at a glance before starting the next game. The winner must complete the result card and deliver it to the Director, after it has been signed by both players, for the posting of scores and the pairing of players in the next round.

18.8 Leaving the Playing Area

As a courtesy to other contestants, players should leave the playing area when their round is over.

18.9 Recounting the Game

A recount of the game will be permitted provided the result card has not yet been signed (see 18.10 The Result Card). No one but the players themselves will do the recounting. If there is a time shortage the Director may call a halt to the recount.

18.10 Result Cards

Once both players sign the result card, they are attesting that the score is correct and no other scoring adjustments will be made for that game.


19.1 Odd Number of Players

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.

19.2 Absence

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.

19.3 Resignation

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 differential will be -50. If behind, the differential will be -(50 points plus whatever the spread is at the time of departure).


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.


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 South African National Scrabble® Players Association (SANSPA) for possible subsequent disciplinary action.


There are many grey areas for which cast iron rules cannot apply. What follows is a list of some of these confusing areas and several guidelines according to which players are expected to conduct themselves:

22.1 Punctuality

Players are expected to arrive punctually for tournaments.

22.2 Smoking and Cellular Phones

Smoking and cellular phones are prohibited in the playing area of SANSPA organized tournaments.

22.3 Shuffling Tiles Before the Game Begins

It is considered discourteous for the first player not to ask his/her opponent if (s)he would like to shuffle the tiles before the game begins.

22.4 Unnecessary Conversation

Once games have commenced players should not talk to anybody beyond what is necessary to apply the game rules. Kibitzing is strictly prohibited.

22.5 Announcing a Play

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

22.6 Turning the Board

Turning the board after your play is not considered an essential part of the turn. It is the right of the player whose turn it is to orient the board as they wish.

22.7 Challenges

If you are considering whether or not to challenge and then decide not to proceed with the challenge, you should inform your opponent of your decision. Similarly, you should not rush to take tiles if your opponent is thinking of challenging.

22.8 Undesignated Blanks

Players are advised to clearly designate what letters the blanks represent to avoid confusion and possible penalties.

22.9 Drawing Tiles Out-of-Order

If a player draws tiles out-of-order 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.

22.10 Drawing Too Quickly

It is unethical to draw replacement tiles so quickly that the opponent doesn't have a few seconds to consider the move.

22.11 Leaving the Playing Room

After completion of the game players should remain silent and leave the playing area so as not to disturb those people still playing.

22.12 Stuck with an Unplayable Tile

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.

22.13 Ending the Game

If your opponent plays out, it is not sufficient to just tell him/her the value of your tiles, you must actually display all your tiles.

22.14 When the Clock is Still Ticking After the Game

If the player going out forgets to neutralize the clock (either starting opponent's clock or keeping his/her own clock 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.

22.15 Colluding with Opponent

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 SANSPA tournaments.

22.16 Adding/Subtracting Incorrectly

If it happens that a player adds incorrectly, it is unethical of the opponent not to bring this fact to the player's attention. Similarly, it is unethical of any player to take advantage of an opponent who forgets to enforce the overtime penalty.

22.17 Using the Rules to Take Advantage

It is unethical of a player, with a superior knowledge of the rules, to unduly confuse and disadvantage the opponent.


Hosted (but not authored) by:

Steven Alexander (

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