How Many Points is “Cheat?”



For some reason I have always loved Scrabble. The reason it is odd is that I am spelling impaired. I can remember odd and useless information I heard two decades ago but struggle with “i” before “e”.

I did not get captured in the “Words With Friends” trend simply because I like to play games face to face and just dislike staring at a screen all day. But for years I played Scrabble, and was beaten like a drum. I can only remember one game that I won by any margin and I did so my playing “zygotes” on a triple word score on my last play.

Even liking Scrabble I was surprised to see that there is a national Scrabble league, and more so that one of its top players was caught cheating. I guess in hindsight a league is sort of natural, but cheating, really? What did he do, sneak a peak at a dictionary?

First the league. The organization, based in the United Kingdom is called the Association of British Scrabble Players (ABSP). (Worth 8 points!) Founded in 1987, way before the Words With  Friends wave, it has around 70 events a year and a bi-monthly magazine entitled OnBoard. You can apparently win money at the events, or at least you could in the past since its Money List has not been updated online since 2014.


This is just the league that had the scandal. According to Wikipedia there has been an English-Language Scrabble World Scrabble Championship since 1991 with more than 30 countries sending players. There is also a Spanish World Scrabble Championship (since 1997), a French World Scrabble Championship (since 1972) and a Catalan World Scrabble Championship (since 2005.) Apparently the game is available in at least 27 languages.

Back to the scandal. Apparently Allan Simmons, a top player, author and commentator on the game was caught cheating. Three witnesses claim that they saw him put freshly drawn letters back into a bag to draw better ones.  He has been banned from the game, per the article in the Guardian.

You always hear about cheating in pro sports from illegally filming opponents in football to stealing signs in baseball. I think most people don’t really relate to cheating in games that are played in social situations,. Yet Bridge has a long history of cheating, and let’s not even go into poker.


So next time one of your friends coughs check to see if he is sending signals, you can never be too sure!  One interesting note on the article, it uses the word “furore” in the headline. I had never seen it in that spelling and plan to break it out in my next game if I can.

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