Make your own free website on

MSA's Scrabble Tourney Tutorial

This here is the official rulebook for playing Scrabble in tournaments. Useful as a guide to beginners, too.  Displaces doubts, questions and some awkward moments, too.

Malaysia Scrabble Association Tournament Rules and Regulations (MSA)

Individual tournament organizers are permitted to introduce amendments, modifications and additional rules within reason, and with the prior consent of the Malaysia Scrabble Association.


The following rules are those which apply for the National Championships, as resolved by the Committee of the Malaysian Scrabble Association and in addition to and take precedence over the standard Scrabble Rules issued with the British version of the game produced by J.W. Spear and Sons PLC. Any variations must be announced in advance so that they  may be known by players before registering for the tournament. All decisions of the Tournament Director (TD) on disputes or clarification of rules are FINAL.


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 or announcement should specify how the first player in each game will be decided. This may be by drawing tiles, use of a computer programme 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 and seen the first tile, the time clock may be started.




2.     TIME

2.1   Each player is permitted a total of 25 minutes each on the clock in which to complete all his moves. 

2.2   If one player is not there on time, the opponent may start that person’s clock after the announcement by the TD to do so. 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.


2.3   Each player who exceeds his time will at the end of his game deduct from his total score ten points for each minute or part thereof by which he has exceeded his allotted 25 minutes. The 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.


3.     SCORING

3.1   It is the responsibility of each player to check his opponent's plays and scores. A player should keep score and running total for both himself and his opponent. If your opponent is not doing this, ask them to do so. If they continue to not record scores and totals, you may call for the Tournament Director. Players may use their own score sheets and/or tile tracking sheets.


3.2   An error in the score for a move or cumulative score may be corrected at any time until the result slip have been signed by both players. .  If both players' records match at the end of a game, a recount may be allowed only at the discretion of the Tournament Director.


3.3   Players may, by mutual agreement, suspend the timing of both time clocks while resolving a discrepancy.



4.1     Players may use their own clocks, boards, tiles and racks. Racks must be such that the opponent can count the number of tiles on the rack.  Preference should be given to functionally superior equipment namely digital clocks, smooth "Pro" tiles and turntable boards.

4.2     In case of disagreement and where the equipment available is functionally equivalent, the player going second has the option to select the equipment to be used.


5.1   You are permitted to do so at any time during the game. Players may use their own tile tracking sheet.




6.1   You must hold the tile bag and the rim of the bag should be held at eye level while drawing tiles , and so that no tiles in the bag can be seen. Remove tiles in full view of your opponent. .  .


6.2   You may not put your hand back into the bag while you still have tiles in that hand. All drawn tiles must be placed on the rack or table before drawing any more.





7.1   If, before any newly drawn tile has been placed on the rack, you discover that you have too many tiles, you must place all the newly drawn tiles face down on the table and invite your opponent to remove the excess tile(s).


7.2   If any newly drawn tile has touched the rack, you must place all your tiles on the rack or the table face down and invite your opponent to remove the excess tile(s). Player B may pick at random N + 1 tiles from Player A's rack or the table, inspect these tiles, return 1 tile of Player B's choice to player A and the rest to the bag.   Both players may view the tiles which are being returned.


7.2   If it is your opponent who discovers that you have too many tiles, when it has not touched the rack, you must place those tiles face up and invite your opponent to remove the excess tile(s).


7.3   If it is your opponent who discovers that you have too many tiles  when it is already on the rack, you must display your rack while they choose the excess tile(s) to be removed.


7.4   If the over drawing of tiles is discovered after you have already made a move and drawn your tiles, the above rule will apply and play continues with no re-drawing.


7.5   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.


There is no rule against a player showing his opponent any or all his tiles.


8.1   End of turn: Your turn is deemed to have ended when you

i)                activate your opponent's clock.

ii)             Or when after placing your word on the board and announcing the score for the move and  when   you put your hand into the bag., regardless of whether the clock has been pressed or not.

iii)                Or when you announce “CHANGE” and proceed to Clause 10.2.

No allowance can be made for mistakes due to poorly aligned tiles discovered after his turn has ended .


8.2   In your turn only, you may:

i)                Turn a revolving board

ii)                   Straighten letters on the board

iii)                 Check for tiles remaining in the bag

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.



9.1   Blank tiles may be nominated as any letter. The player must state what letter each blank represents after which that blank will represent the specified letter for the duration of the game (unless successfully challenged off). Both players must note on their score sheets the letter the blanks represent and ensure that these records are in agreement before play proceeds further.


9.2   When you play a blank tile using tiles that are similar in surface on both sides, you must show both sides of the blank tile and state what letter the blank represents. When both players have written the scores 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.



10.1 You may use your turn to change one or more tiles provided there are at least 7 tiles in the bag. The player will score zero for that turn. You may change tiles as many times as you wish during the game.

10.2  Procedure for changing tiles: On deciding to change tiles,

i)                announce that you are changing,

ii)       state how many you are changing

iii)     place face down on the table as many tiles from your rack

iv)     Activate your opponent's clock.

v)      Draw a like number of tiles from the bag and place them face down on the table or onto your rack. 

vi)     Place the unwanted tiles in the bag


11.   Passing: You may opt to pass your turn and score zero for that turn.  In this case you should state "PASS" and activate his opponent's clock without playing any tiles onto the board.


  1. Challenges: Any time during your turn, you may challenge any word(s) played by his opponent in the previous turn.

i)        Hold procedure: A player considering a challenge may call "HOLD" within 10 seconds from  your opponent’s end of turn  Even if his opponent has drawn tiles for their move. If HOLD is called before the held player's rack is fully replenished, that player may continue to replenish his rack after the play is accepted or in any case one minute (or as nearly as can be determined from the clock) from the end of his turn. During this time, the challenger’s clock is left activated until a decision is made by him to accept the move or challenge the move.. A player replenishing his rack while a hold is still in effect should keep fresh tiles separate from leftover tiles so that they may be returned to the bag in the event of a successful challenge. Acceptance of a play after a hold is called should be signified clearly by announcing "ACCEPTED" and is irrevocable.

ii)       Challenge procedure: On taking the decision to challenge, the challenger should call "CHALLENGE" and neutralize the clock at which point the challenge becomes irrevocable.  The challenger must write clearly on a Challenge Slip one or several or all of the words formed by the challenged player during the turn just concluded. The challenged player may verify the accuracy of the completed Challenge Slip.  The Challenge Slip should then be handed to tournament word judges for a ruling. The challenger may continue to shuffle his tiles. 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 at the discretion of the judges.. A brief note indicating where the word be found is permitted.


iii)     The word judges will return a ruling as to whether the challenge is successful or unsuccessful.  If all the words challenged are deemed acceptable (i.e. included in the specified word authorities) the challenge is UNSUCCESSFUL.  Otherwise the challenge is SUCCESSFUL and the challenged player must withdraw his play from the board and return any replenishment tiles to the bag.   If any of the replenishment tiles have been mixed with leftover tiles, the successful challenger may draw at random the required number of tiles from the challenged player's entire rack and return them to the bag before his opponent withdraws his play from the board. Both players may view the returned tiles before they are replaced in the bag.

iv)     Where the challenge is UNSUCCESSFUL 5 points for each word challenged is added to the turn score of the challenged player.

v)      Both players are to ensure that the word challenged is well and clearly written on the slip before sending it for adjudication.

vi)     In the event of own challenges, both players may cover their tiles and proceed to the adjudication  table together.


13.   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.

i)                     The pre-tournament information should specify if a penalty challenge system (e.g. double challenge, “no penalty" challenge, x-point penalty challenge or etc) is to be used at a particular tournament.

ii)                   The word judges must rule only as to whether the challenge as a whole is successful or unsuccessful, and in cases where more than one word is challenged they must not indicate whether any particular word is acceptable.

iii)                  If the challenge is “SUCCESSFUL” the challenged player must remove the played tiles off the board BEFORE activating his opponent’s clock.

iv)                 After the challenge is concluded and scores have been recorded, the challenger's clock is started.



        A game ends and the clocks should be neutralized when

i)                    One of the players has played all his tiles AND the bag is empty; OR

ii)                   There have been 6 successive passed turns, i.e. 3 passes from each player; OR

iii)                 The tournament director has declared an end to the round.

iv)                 After the game has ended, the player who has finished all his tiles adds to his score TWICE the total tile value of his opponent's remaining tiles.  If both players have tiles left on their racks, each player should deduct from his score the total tile value of his residual tiles. 

Each player who exceeds his time will at the end of his game deduct from his total score ten points for each minute or part thereof by which he has exceeded his allotted 25 minutes. The 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.


15.   Players must not consult any word list, dictionary or any other forms of reference during the game except where specifically permitted by the rules of the tournament.

The references for acceptability of a word are Chambers' Official Scrabble Words ("OSW") 4th ed, Merriam Webster's Official Scrabble Players Dictionary ("OSPD") corrected 2nd edition and the OSPD Supplementary Word List, The Chambers Dictionary 1998 edition, and Merriam Webster's 10th New Collegiate Dictionary.  The Committee of the Malaysian Scrabble Association may issue revisions and amendments to the allowable references from time to time. Adjudication aids such as computer programs may be used by tournament organisers, who shall be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of such additional aids


16.     Hand phone disturbances: Players are to ensure that their phone is switched into SILENT mode so that their rings do not disturb other players within the vicinity. You may not answer your call during play.


17.     Players may not discuss with or distract (e.g. hum, grunt, sing, mutter) their opponents during play.


18.     Emergency Breaks: A player may leave and later return to a game in progress if emergency circumstances warrant and under the supervision of the Tournament Director.  The player may leave only after he has ended his turn and activated his opponent's clock without replenishing his rack.   He may replenish his rack upon returning.


19.     The TD may declare a game forfeited in cases where a player has abandoned a game or committed a flagrant breach of the rules. The committee of MSA may impose a suitable penalty for the player.


20.     These Rules cannot be expected to cover every eventuality and players are expected to exercise common sense and courtesy in observance of these Rules.  All matters in doubt or dispute shall be referred to the Tournament Director whose decision is FINAL.