Cheating scandal at national SCRABBLE tournament
(CNN) — It’s a 12-point word if you played it in SCRABBLE–C3H4E1A1T1E1R1.
But now it’s a word that’s bringing a bit of shame and heckling after one of the top youth players in the country was kicked out of the National SCRABBLE Championship Tournament on Wednesday for cheating, according to John D. Williams Jr., the executive director of the National SCRABBLE Association.
It’s something organizers say has never happened in the tournament’s 30 years of competition – and it all boils down to those precious blank titles that are so valuable because they can be used as any letter you like.
During the 24th round of the annual tournament Tuesday, the director was called over to a Division 3 game. A young teen was under suspicion by other players, according to Williams, who noted the tournament has a self-policing policy.
It seems the player, who officials have not named, was hoping to get a little extra help but was foiled. The player had won a game and took two blanks as the tiles were gathered and put in the grab bag. When his next competitor stepped in to play, the opponent asked that the tiles be counted. Two were missing.
“It was discovered that two blanks were not put into the tile bag as they should have been when the board was cleared off to start the game,” according to the SCRABBLE tournament’s website. “The player was questioned and admitted to taking them.”
Another player observed the young teen drop or place tiles near his foot, according to Williams. The player was called over and confronted, and a witness verified the story. The teen confessed to cheating, and he was immediately removed from the tournament. His opponents will be retroactively given forfeit wins. There will be a disciplinary hearing to determine what the sanctions will be, Williams said.
Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer with Merriam-Webster, tweeted about what happened and how referees come into play if there is a dispute.
The tournament, which has more than 350 competitors, has been going on for four days. The champion will be crowned Wednesday. The prize is $10,000.
David Gibson, an all-star champion and math teacher from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is in first place after 25 rounds, according to the tournament’s latest press release. He is being chased up the leaderboard by the current national and world SCRABBLE champ Nigel Richards, a 45-year-old from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
According to the tournament website, some of the most creative words played in the tournament on Tuesday were: ZADDICK (a virtuous person by Jewish religious standards), ERYTHEMA (a redness of the skin), ORPHIC (mystical) and WAWL (to cry like a cat).
CNN’s Melanie Whitley contributed to this report.