THE AUSTRALIAN SCRABBLE PLAYERS ASSOCIATION (ASPA)
RULES OF TOURNAMENT PLAY
January 14, 2020
rules are those which apply for the National Championships, as resolved
by the Council of the Australian Scrabble Players Associations. These
rules are used at all tournaments of the Australian Scrabble Players
Association. The rules may be varied for particular tournaments, but
any variations must be announced in advance so that they may be known
by players before registering for the tournament, except in the case of
an emergency. All decisions of the Tournament Director (TD) on disputes
or clarification of rules are final. Where these rules vary from those
published from time to time in Scrabble sets by copyright holders, the
ASPA Rules of Tournament Play will apply.
1.1 It is the
responsibility of both players to determine before commencing play that
there are 100 correct tiles. There can be no appeal if an incorrect
number or incorrect distribution is discovered later.
pre-tournament information should specify how the first player in each
game will be decided. This may be by drawing tiles, use of a computer
program, use of a "balanced start" record card, or another method as
determined by the tournament organiser.
starts: either a computer program or a record card of starts is used to
determine who shall start each game, with the objective being for
players to have roughly the same number of starts. This system is
referred to as "balanced starts". When a record card is used, the
player who has had fewer starts plays first. If both players have had
an equal number of starts, tiles are drawn (see 1.4) to see who plays
tiles: for each game, each player draws a tile from the bag placing it
face up in full view. The player with the letter closest to the start
of the alphabet goes first. A blank is considered to come before an
"A". If both tiles are the same, the players will each draw again until
there is a decision. The player who is to go second returns the tiles
to the bag and shuffles the bag, ready for the game to begin. No tiles
shall be returned to the bag until a decision is reached.
1.5 When the
first player has taken a tile out of the bag, the time clock may be
2.1 If at
least one player wants to use a time clock, it must be used, subject to
availability and the agreement of the TD.
2.2 The time
allotted is to be equally divided between the two players. You may ask
for a time clock before play commences or during the game. In the
latter case, the time remaining will be equally divided. The time
allotted for games played in the Australian National Championships has
been set by CASPA at 25 minutes per player.
2.3 If a
player is not there on time, the Tournament Director may start that
person's clock. If two players are absent from a board, the TD will
start one clock. When the first player arrives, each player has half
the elapsed time deducted, and the second player’s clock is set running.
2.4 A player
who is not present before the time on that player's clock has expired
forfeits that game.
player must keep score by writing down both players' scores for their
moves and both players' cumulative scores, before making his/her next
If your opponent is not doing this, ask them to do so. If they continue
to not record scores and totals, call for the TD. If this omission
occurs in a game where a clock is in use, the TD should direct the
player to complete the required record of scores with his/her clock
running. This may occur during or at the end of the game, depending on
when the omission is brought to the TD's attention .
3.2 An error
in the score for a move or cumulative score may be corrected at any
time until the result sheet/s have been signed by both players.
must neutralise the clock while resolving a discrepancy.
tile tracking is permitted only when time clocks are in use.
5.1 You must
hold the tile bag above the level of the table and so that no tiles in
the bag can be seen. Remove tiles in full view of your opponent.
You must show an empty hand both before
drawing tiles, and after you have placed the
drawn tiles onto the rack or table. You may not
put your hand back into the tile bag whilst you
still have tiles in that hand. All drawn tiles must
be placed on the rack or the table before drawing
too many tiles)
If, before any newly drawn tile has been placed on
the rack, a player discovers that they have too many tiles, they must
advise their opponent and neutralise the clock.
They must then place all the newly drawn tiles face down on the
table and invite their opponent to remove the excess tile(s).
If any newly drawn tile has touched the rack,
the player must place all their tiles on the rack or the table and
invite their opponent to remove the excess tile(s).
If it is an opponent who discovers that a player
has too many tiles, they must advise the player and
neutralise the clock. The player must display their rack
while the opponent chooses the excess tile(s) to be removed.
In each case, both players must see the tile(s)
before they are returned to the bag.
too few tiles) If you have too few tiles, you must draw the rest from
whatever tiles are in the bag at that stage, even if your opponent has
drawn tiles already.
You must, in this order:
- place the tiles on the board with a minimum of
- declare any blanks played, in accordance with section 7 “Playing a Blank”.
- announce the score for the move. The score may
- press the time clock if time clocks are in use.
- write down the score for the move.
- wait for your opponent to write down the score for
move. (Until they do so, they are notionally considering a challenge.
After they have finished writing the score for the move, their
opportunity to challenge is gone.)
- draw replacement tiles.
- tile track (if desired).
is over when you have pressed the clock (or when clocks are not in use,
written down the score for the move, correctly totalled or not, or
announced "change" or "pass"). Your turn is also over if after placing
your word on the board and announcing the score for the move you put
your hand into the bag, regardless of whether the clock has been
pressed or not.
allowance can be made for mistakes due to poorly aligned tiles
discovered after a move has been accepted, as signalled by the opponent
writing down the score for the move.
6.3 In your
turn only, you may:
- turn a revolving board
- straighten letters on the board
- ask your opponent to confirm the cumulative score.
6.4 When a
non-revolving board is used, both players must agree on its orientation
at the start of the game and it must remain in that orientation
throughout the game except by mutual agreement of the players.
6.5 Players may put their hand in the bag to
count tiles at any time except when the bag is in
use by the player whose turn it is. As with any
time the tile bag is accessed, you must show an
empty hand both before and after such access.
6.6 If a player must leave the room mid-game for emergency/health reasons, the TD should be made aware that this is happening. If at all possible before leaving, the player should make their move, neutralise the clock, and not replace tiles. Their opponent may continue to consider their next move. When the absent player returns, the opponent's clock is started.
7.1 Blanks must be declared in writing on a neutral sheet of paper (such as a results slip).
7.2 The player of a blank must announce and record it before pressing the clock. If they do not, the opponent may immediately restart that player’s clock, requesting that the blank be properly declared.
8.1 You may
change tiles as many times as you wish during a game, as long as there
are at least seven tiles in the bag.
8.2 To change
tiles you must, in this order:
- check that there are at least seven tiles in the bag.
- announce that you are changing tiles.
- state how many tiles you are changing.
- place the stated number of tiles face down on the table.
- press the time clock.
- record the change on the score sheet.
- transfer the required number from the bag to your rack.
- return the unwanted tiles to the bag.
9. You may
pass (i.e. miss a turn without changing tiles) during a game. A pass
10.1 You may
challenge a word or words, word placement, or the legality of an
10.2 To challenge a word or words, you must:
- wait until your opponent has finished their turn;
- refrain from writing down the score for the move (refer rule 6.1);
- say "challenge" and neutralise the clock, or
- say "hold" to warn your opponent not to draw any replacement tiles, as you are considering a challenge. After one minute, your opponent may draw and look at replacement tiles, but keep them separate from any unplayed tiles. There is no limit to the length of time taken on 'hold', as your clock is running. You may say "accepted" and the game continues, or you may say "challenge", in which case you neutralise the clock;
- proceed according to either rule 10.3 or 10.4;
- if your opponent has gone out, and hence neutralised the clock, you have approximately five seconds to accept or challenge the turn, otherwise your opponent is entitled to restart your clock.
10.3 (Self-adjudication) Both players cover or
turn face down any tiles on their racks, and
proceed to the adjudication computer. The
challenger types the word(s) being challenged,
the opponent verifies the word(s) and executes
the adjudication command.
10.4 (Adjudication by challenge slip) Write down
the word(s) and table number on a challenge slip
and show your opponent that it has been written
accurately. Hold up the challenge slip, or call
“challenge”, or take the slip for adjudication.
Both players must cover their tiles until the
challenge slip is returned. When the challenge
slip is returned, both players must see it. Either
player may query the decision and ask that the
slip be returned for re-adjudication. If any word
on the challenge slip does not correspond to
words made on the board that turn, the
challenge slip may be resubmitted with the
correctly recorded words.
10.5 If you
are challenging word placement or the legality of an exchange, call the
10.6 If your
opponent has drawn tiles before you have written down the score for
their move, you may still challenge. In this case if the move is
adjudicated as invalid, you should treat the tiles drawn as excess
tiles, and remove them as in Rule 5.3, and your opponent then puts the
tiles they had played back on their rack.
10.7 Once the
clock has been neutralised (or, without clocks, once the challenge slip
has left the table or both players have left the table to
self-adjudicate) the challenge may be neither conceded nor retracted.
10.8 If the
word is disallowed, the player takes back the tiles played and misses
their turn. The challenge is recorded on the score sheets and the clock
timing is resumed.
10.09 If the
move is allowed, play continues with no penalty to the challenger
(except when a specific penalty challenge system has been advertised in
10.10 You may
challenge only once in a turn, but that challenge may include one or
more words, as you wish. Words challenged together receive a single
decision: if all words challenged are acceptable, the move is allowed;
if at least one word challenged is not acceptable, the move is
(Self-running of challenges) The clock
must not be re-started until both players are seated, and either the
tiles removed from the board or the score restated.
10.12 (Replacement tiles) If the challenge is
upheld (ie the challenged words are disallowed),
any replacement tiles drawn must be displayed
to the challenger before they are returned to the
tile bag. If the challenge is rejected (ie the
challenged words are allowed), any replacement
tiles may be combined with any unplayed tiles.
11.1 (a) The
out must neutralize the clock on completion of the final move.
(b) If you notice that
your opponent has forgotten to neutralize the
clock after the game has ended, you must bring the matter to their
(c) Further to (b), the
outcome of the game cannot change as a result
of the clock not being neutralized at the end of a game. That is,
additional overtime accrued after the game has ended will be
disregarded. If you do not agree on the appropriate penalty call
(d) If you have used all
your tiles in an accepted move and the bag is
empty, the value of the tiles on your opponent's rack is added to your
total score and subtracted from theirs.
11.2 The game
ends automatically if six successive scores of zero occur, obtained
from passes, successful challenges or tile exchanges. The value of the
tiles on each person’s rack is subtracted from their total score.
you are not using a time clock) If the end of time for play is
announced, you may complete your move only if you have started to put
tiles on the board by the end of the announcement. If your rack is not
full and there are tiles in the bag, you must replenish your rack as
usual. Then the value of tiles on each person’s rack is subtracted from
their total score.
you are using a time clock) If you go over time, you will be penalised
10 points per minute or part thereof. This penalty is deducted from
your total score but not added to your opponent’s score. A digital
clock is not in overtime until –0:01 is shown.
If a tile is discovered outside the bag (e.g. on the floor, under
the board) at any time during the game and before the result sheet/s
have been signed, the procedure is as follows:
see the tile, and it is placed in the bag.
which players had removed from their racks, thinking play was over, are
replaced on the racks. Then proceed in this way:
(NOTE: Under no circumstances can any moves be replayed)
- If both players have 7 tiles on their racks, play
- If only one player has fewer than 7 tiles on the rack, that
player then draws from the bag and play resumes.
- If both players have fewer than 7 tiles on their racks,
players determine (while the time clocks are neutralised) which one
should have drawn replacement tiles earliest; that player then draws
from the bag and play resumes. However,
- If after the appropriate player has drawn from the bag,
only one player now has tiles on the rack, the game is over and the
result is recalculated as necessary.
11.5 The onus is on both players to verify that the
bag is empty. If tiles are discovered in
the bag (which players had thought to be empty) before the results
been signed, the procedure is as follows:
a. If one player has
seen the tile/s, it is shown to the other player.
b. Any unplayed tiles
which players have removed from their racks, thinking play was over,
replaced on the racks.
c. Players determine
(while time clocks are neutralised) who should have drawn replacement
first. This player then adds the tile/s
to their rack.
d. If both players
still have tiles, play resumes. If only
one player now has tiles on their rack, the game is over and the result
11.6 The game
is finished when both players have signed the result sheet/s to show
that they have agreed on the final total scores. Before this, the tiles
may not be moved. No changes can be made if unused tiles are discovered
after the result sheet/s have been signed by both players.
11.7 After the result sheet or sheets have been signed, both players should check that both players' names have been written clearly. The winner must submit the result sheet to the official scorers promptly. The loser must arrange the 100 tiles in a single layer pattern of a 10 by 10 tile square or in four 5 by 5 tile squares.
PLAYERS’ RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
12.1 No dictionaries, word lists, personal electronic devices or similar may be consulted or used for word adjudication during a game in a rated tournament. The official reference for adjudication at tournaments is as approved by CASPA from time to time
rotating boards and digital clocks
take precedence over non-rotating boards and analogue clocks.
Disputes over seating
and board placement are to be settled by drawing a tile.
this does not settle the dispute, consult the TD. If there
is a dispute
regarding equipment, consult the TD before play commences.
The TD may refuse use of unsuitable
equipment. Personalised score
sheets are allowed. However, all papers
brought to the table, including
sheets, may be examined by the
opponent before the game.
The onus is
on each player to be familiar with the rules and to know
when adjudication is required. If players
are unsure of the rule which applies
to a particular situation, they
should consult the TD immediately
for clarification. A player who suspects
that an opponent has violated a rule should consult the TD immediately.
The TD will attempt to determine if a deliberate act to violate the
has occurred, or if it was a mistake. The TD may impose an appropriate
or suitable penalty.
be courteous, and not distract opponents or other players in
any way. Players must avoid
unduly obstructing opponents' view of the board. Observers may watch
discreetly, subject to acceptance of the players. They
may not distract, interfere with, or
influence other players. Clocks may be
neutralised while observers are dispersed. The TD may declare a
game forfeit. This may occur when a player has abandoned a game,
committed a flagrant breach of rules, or arrived too late to play the
Queries regarding rules should be firstly addressed to the
relevant State Committee.
Suggestions re changes to rules will then be forwarded to the
National Rules Coordinator by the State Rules Representative, as