ORLANDO, Fla. — One of the top young Scrabble players in the country has been kicked out of the game’s national championship tournament in Florida after he was caught hiding blank letter tiles, organizers said Tuesday.
John D. Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association, said that a male player was ejected from the 350-player event in Round 24 of the 28-round event.
The cheating was spotted by a player at a nearby table, who noticed the ejected player conceal a pair of blank tiles, which can be used as wild card letters. When confronted by the tournament director, he admitted to it, organizers said.
Williams, who has served as executive director for 25 years and co-authored a book on the popular Hasbro board game in 1993, said this was the first incident of cheating at a national tournament. However, he said it’s been known to occur at smaller, regional events.
“It does happen no matter what. People will try to do this,” he said. “It’s the first time it’s happened in a venue this big though. It’s unfortunate. The Scrabble world is abuzz. The Internet is abuzz.”
Williams would not identify the player by name or age because he’s a minor. There are four divisions and he was competing in Division 3.
He said Division 3 is equal to “any great living-room player out there.”
In Scrabble matches, players accumulate points during one-on-one matches by pulling random letter tiles from a bag of 100 and trying to create words.
A total of 98 tiles have letters on them and two are blank. Blank tiles can be used as wild card letters to complete words.
The ejected player had concluded a previous game and never reinserted the blank tiles into his bag in an attempt to use them at his discretion in the next game, organizers said.