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Official Scrabble RULES

Official Scrabble RULES

The WMSF has established these rules and they are to be used in all WMSF sanctioned events.

The following rules are designed solely for English language play.

The WMSF which is the governing body of Scrabble has established these rules and they are to be used in all WMSF sanctioned events. The rules of Scrabble are in essence the same but small differences may change in how certain decisions are interpreted and it is the duty of the player to familiarise his or herself with the rules before taking part in a tournament. The rules cannot cover every contingency and should there be any doubts, the Tournament Director’s (TD) ruling is final.



Official Dictionary

  • The official word list or dictionary is a list of words deemed acceptably for use in tournament play. This is done in conjunction with the brand owner of the game and the publisher of the dictionary.
  • The word list is frequently updated with additions and deletions and as such all players must be familiar with the most current version.
  • The current official word list is : Collins Official SCRABBLE® Words, 4th edition,


The Game Set

  • All Scrabble sets in English must conform to the prescribed number of tiles (100) and their distribution (The number of As,Bs, Cs etc) .
  • All Scrabble sets will contain a tile bag, two racks, a board and the tiles. A timer is necessary for tournament play.
  • It is the duty of both players to check the tile count and the distribution before starting a game. Once a game has been started the player must play with the tiles they have. No appeals will be entertained.
  • Tiles used in tournament play should not be indistinguishable in any way from one another. The surfaces should be smooth and indistinguishable when touched.
  • Tiles used should fit the Scrabble board perfectly and not cause tiles to be raised or stick out in a manner that may impede play.
  • Scrabble boards used for tournament play should be rigid and have molds to prevent the tiles from moving about when placed.
  • Players need to ensure that all the tiles are placed on a Scrabble rack and that the number of tiles are clearly visible to the opponent.
  • Scrabble bags cannot be used if the material allows a player to visually recognize a tile through the material.
  • Digital timers are the recommender timers for tournament use. Both players need to be familiar with the timer and seek help from the tournament director if they are unclear as to how to operate the timer.
  • Analogue timers (chess clocks) are to be used as a last resort.
  • If a player/players are unhappy with the equipment being used, they may call the tournament director to seek clarification.
  • It is the duty of every player to keep score during tournament play. Players should confer regularly to ensure that the correct score is being kept. The timer should be neutralized if there is a scoring dispute.


Starting the Game

Determining Who Starts

Tournament software will typically determine the starts and replies for tournament play. Should such a system not be available, then the players must determine who starts on their own.

This can be done by both players drawing a tile each. The player who draws the tiles closest to the beginning of the alphabet starts. A blank tiles precedes the letter A. If both players draw the same tile, then they draw again until a starter has been found.

Players must keep track of their starts and replies on the individual scorecard and compare starts and replies with their opponents to determine who starts. The player with fewer starts when compared to the opponent will start. If both players have equal number of starts and replies, then they will draw as indicated above.


Starting the game

Both players should be present in order for a game to be started. If only one player is present, the opponent after consulting with the tournament director will start the clock. The tiles will remain in a 10 x 10 grid on the board until the opponent has arrived. Only when the opponent is seated will the clock be neutralized.

The players will then put the tiles into the bag and the game will commence with the time remaining on the clock of the player who is late.


Playing a Word

The first word played must cover the double letter square to be considered a legal move. Subsequent moves will entail words being played connected to one or more words on the board. Failure to connect words will be deemed an invalid move.

The proper move procedure is as follows:

  • Place the letters on the board;
  • Announce the score
  • And then hit the clock to signify that the move is complete
  • Draw replacement tiles and then record your score


Completion of Turn

A turn is declared complete when :

  • The player has pressed the clock to signify completion of turn; the opponent may then choose to accept or challenge the turn.
  • The opponent fails to press the clock but instead withdraws at least one tile from the bag; this also signifies that the turn is complete and the opponent may then choose to accept or challenge.


Challenging a turn

Some tournaments may have a penalty attached to an unsuccessful challenge. The opponent may utter “hold” to indicate that he or she reserves the right to challenge. “Hold” needs to be uttered before the player draws fresh tiles. It is advisable to be alert when your opponent plays and utter “hold” if there is any doubt in your mind. Failure to hold and drawing of fresh tiles by your opponent means that your right to challenge is over. 

Once a move has been completed, the opposing player may issue a challenge. The challenge procedure is as follows:

  • Utter “ Challenge” or something similar
  • Neutralise the clock – Once the clock has been neutralized, the player must challenge regardless of penalties incurred.
  • Inform the opponent of the word/words being challenge.
  • Write the word/words on a piece of paper
  • Adjudicate using the adjudications software provided. Some tournaments may allow players to self-adjudicate using their handheld devices.


Exchanging on turn

A player may exchange as long as there 7 or more tiles in the bag. The player may inform the opponent that he or she wants to do a tile count to check the number of tiles remaining.

The procedure for exchanging is as follows:

  • Announce that you’re exchanging and state the exact number of tiles beng exchanged.
  • Place the tiles to be exchanged face down on the table.
  • Press the clock to signify completion of exchange. Once the clock has been pressed, you must go through with the exchange. In the event that there are less than 7 tiles, your turn is forfeit.
  • Withdraw the number of replacement tiles you need
  • Put your old tiles into the bag.



When playing it is possible for a player to draw more tiles than is needed. This is known as an overdraw situation.

This can be remedied by the doing the following:

(a)  if NONE of the newly drawn tiles have touched the overdrawing player's rack then:

(i) the overdrawing player places ONLY the newly drawn tiles face down onthe table and shuffles them randomly;

(ii) if the overdrawing player has 6 tiles on the rack, then the opponent turns up the newly drawn tiles face up and gives one tile to the player and returns the rest to the bag.

(iii) if the overdrawing player has 5 or fewer tiles on the rack, then the opponent turns face up X+2 of the newly drawn tiles. X being the number of tiles overdrawn. The opponent looks at the X+2 tiles and gives the opponent the necessary tiles to complete the rack while returning the rest to the bag.


(b) if AT LEAST ONE newly drawn tile has touched the overdrawing player's rack then:

(i) the overdrawing player must place the newly drawn tiles AND the tiles on his rack face down. He will mix them up and the opponent will select X+2 tiles and look at them face up. He will choose which tiles to return to the bag and the rest of the tiles which must number seven will be given to the overdrawing player.


 Ending the Game

The game ends when a player has no more tiles to play and the bag is empty. Once an opponent has played the last move he must neutralize the clock and wait for the opponent to accept or challenge the move.

The opponent has 10 seconds to decide on whether to accept or challenge. Once 10 seconds has elapsed, the player who has played out can restart his opponent’s clock.

The value of tiles remaining is multiplied by 2 and then added to the score of the player who has played out.

Player who have gone over the preset time limit will incur time penalties. This occurs when the timer on a digital clocks start counting into the negative (-00.01). For every minute and part thereof that a player goes overtime, 10 points is deducted from the final score.

The game can also end if there are six consecutive turns of zero scores, which includes passes and exchanges. The player will minus the value of the tiles remaining on their racks from their score and the winner be the player with the highest score.

The game ends when the player have agreed on the final score. If no agreement is reached, then the player must consult each other’s score sheet and determine the score by move until the scores in concordance.

The winning player will fill in the result slip and the opponent will sign to confirm the score. Once this has been signed and handed in, the result stands and cannot be altered.


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