2013 champion Paul Allan shakes hands with then runner-up Allan Simmons
The world of Scrabble has been rocked to its foundations with news that a former UK Scrabble champion who wrote every edition of the game’s British bible, Chambers Official Scrabble Lists, has been banned from competitions for three years for “actions that led to a suspicion of cheating”.
Allan Simmons – one of the most powerful figures in the addictive word game – has been accused of failing to hold the bag of tiles at shoulder height when selecting new tiles and not always displaying an open palm before dipping into the bag.
The scandal was the talk of the World English Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) championships which ended in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday.
Britain’s best-known player accepted his “red card” with equanimity and used the furore to admit that his passion for the game had perhaps bordered on the obsessional. “I was spending far too much time keeping on top of word learning, coupled with long drives and stressful games,” said Alan, 60.
I was spending far too much time keeping on top of word learning, coupled with long drives and stressful games
Scrabble – it’s all fun and games till somebody loses an i…. Here we present 20 things you never knew about the hugely popular board game.
1. More than 150 million games have been sold in 121 countries around the world and 53 per cent of UK households have a set of Scrabble.
2. Each hour, at least 30,000 Scrabble games are started.
3. Presenter Janet Street-Porter once described Scrabble as more addictive than cocaine, champagne and group sex.
4. Somewhere in the world are more than one million missing Scrabble pieces.
Scrabble inventor Alfred Butts in 1981
5. Celebrity Scrabble players include Daniel Radcliffe, Madonna and the Queen.
6. At the first World Championships in 1991 in London there was a minor hiccup before play could get under way – there were no tiles to play with.
7. Allan Simmons is not the first player to be hit by a Scrabble scandal. In one world championship a Thai player was accused of putting a missing G in his pocket. Fortunately the missing tile was later found in the pocket of a player who had played in the previous game – shortly before a strip search was due to be carried out by officials.
8. If all the Scrabble tiles ever produced were placed end to end they would reach the equivalent of eight times around the Earth.
Scrabble was first introduced in 1948
9. There are 260,000 acceptable words under British Scrabble rules. Two to four players score points by placing tiles bearing a single letter onto a board divided into a 15 x 15 grid of squares to form words. After the initial word is placed, players take turns adding theirs to existing letters.
10. In 1985 Lt Cdr Waghorn and Lance Corporal Gill played Scrabble continuously for five days while trapped in a crevasse in Antarctica.
11. It is possible to score 1,782 points on a single word. To get the points Oxyphenbutazone (an anti-inflammatory drug) would need to be played across the top of the board, hitting three triple word score squares while making seven crosswords downward.
12. In English-speaking Scrabble if you draw seven tiles on the first move there is a one in eight chance they will make a seven-letter word.
13. Scrabble was invented in 1931 in the garage of an American architect, Alfred Mosher Butts. He wanted to create a word game that combined anagrams and crosswords and which involved chance as well as a great deal of skill.
14. Scrabble was originally called Lexico . It did not have a board and was played with tiles only. Butts changed the name to CrissCross Words but it was his friend and later business partner James Brunot who came up with the name Scrabble in the late 1930s.
15. To determine how many tiles there should be and how many points each letter should be worth Butts studied letter frequencies on the front page of the New York Times. Q and Z occur least often in English text and the se tiles are worth 10 points. The most commonly occurring letter is E with 12 in a set, worth one point each.
16. There have been suggestions that since the 1980s when the words qat (a Middle Eastern shrub) and qi (the Chinese life force) were permitted that Q should be downgraded from 10 to eight points as now its use is no longer dependent on getting a letter U.
Scrabble is available in more than 50 languages
17. Despite its history the game has not changed much although some people play variations, including Clabbers . This involves playing the letters in any order as long as the letters make an anagram of a word.
18. To be included in Scrabble a word must be found in a standard dictionary, can’t require capitalisation, can’t have hyphens or apostrophes and can’t be an abbreviation. It must also be two to eight letters long.
19. Three years ago 5,000 new words were added to the Offi cial Scrabble Players Dictionary including chillax, hashtag, mojito, selfie, vlog and texter.
20. John Chew, compiler of the dictionary, received death threats when he removed da (a Burmese heavy knife) from the list of permitted words. It was reinstated in 2014. “I’ve learned that if there’s one thing Scrabble players can really get united on – despite the fact that they disagree about everything else – it’s that they don’t want anyone messing with their words,” said Chew. “Add new ones if you want but don’t take away the old ones.”