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National Rules



Valid from April 1, 2009

The following 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.

1.2 The 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.

1.3 Balanced 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 first.

1.4 Drawing 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 started.


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.


3.1 Each player must keep score by writing down both players' scores for their moves and both players' cumulative scores, before making his/her next move.

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.

3.3 Players must neutralise the clock while resolving a discrepancy.


4. Written 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.

5.2 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 any more.

5.3 (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.

5.4 (Drawing 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.


6.1 You must, in this order:

  1. place the tiles on the board with a minimum of readjustment.
  2. announce the score for the move. The score may be computed aloud.
  3. press the time clock if time clocks are in use.
  4. write down the score for the move.
  5. wait for your opponent to write down the score for the 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.)
  6. draw replacement tiles.
  7. tile track (if desired).

Your turn 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.

6.2 No 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.


7.1 When you play a blank tile you must show both sides of the blank tile and state what letter the blank represents. Both players should record on their score sheets the letter which the blank represents.

7.2 When both players have written the score for the move, this signifies that they agree that the blank is not an ordinary tile inverted. If such an error is discovered later, play continues with no penalty or adjustment.


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:

  1. check that there are at least seven tiles in the bag.
  2. announce that you are changing tiles.
  3. state how many tiles you are changing.
  4. place the stated number of tiles face down on the table.
  5. press the time clock.
  6. record the change on the score sheet.
  7. transfer the required number from the bag to your rack.
  8. return the unwanted tiles to the bag.


9. You may pass (i.e. miss a turn without changing tiles) during a game. A pass scores zero.


10.1 You may challenge a word or words, word placement, or the legality of an exchange.

10.2 To challenge a word or words, you must:

  1. wait until your opponent has finished their turn.
  2. refrain from writing down the score for the move (refer rule 6.1),
  3. either
    1. say "challenge" and neutralise the clock, or
    2. 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.
  4. write down the word(s) and table number on a challenge slip and show your opponent that it has been written accurately, and
  5. hold up the challenge slip, or call "challenge", or take the slip for adjudication.

10.3 If you are challenging word placement or the legality of an exchange, call the TD.

10.4 When a word is challenged both players must cover their tiles until the challenge slip is returned.

10.5 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.

10.6 Once the clock has been neutralised (or, without clocks, once the challenge slip has left the table) the challenge may be neither conceded nor retracted.

10.7 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. A brief note indicating where the word may be found is permitted, but you must not leave your table to argue the case.

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.

10.9 If the move is allowed, play continues with no penalty to the challenger (except when a specific penalty challenge system has been advertised in pre-tournament information)

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 disallowed.

10.11 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.

10.12 (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.

10.13 (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 player going 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 attention.

(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, any additional overtime accrued after the game has ended will be disregarded.  If you do not agree on the appropriate penalty call the Tournament Director.

(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.

11.3a (When 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.

11.3b (When 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.

11.4. 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:

Both players see the tile, and it is placed in the bag.

Any tiles which players had removed from their racks, thinking play was over, are replaced on the racks. Then proceed in this way:

  1. If both players have 7 tiles on their racks, play resumes. 
  2. If only one player has fewer than 7 tiles on the rack, that player then draws from the bag and play resumes.
  3. 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,
  4. 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.
(NOTE: Under no circumstances can any moves be replayed)

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 sheet has 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, are replaced on the racks.

c. Players determine (while time clocks are neutralised) who should have drawn replacement tiles 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 is recalculated.

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.


12.1  No dictionaries, word lists, or similar may be consulted by players during the game.  The official reference for adjudication at tournaments is as approved by CASPA from time to time.

12.2  Approved 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. However, if 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 separate tile-tracking sheets, may be examined by the opponent before the game.

12.3 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 rules has occurred, or if it was a mistake. The TD may impose an appropriate ruling or suitable penalty.

 12.4 Players must 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 game.

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 appropriate.

Australian Scrabble® Players Association (ASPA)
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