The Malta Scrabble Club

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To many, Scrabble suggests an image of a family gathered around the kitchen table playing with words on a rainy Sunday afternoon. To others, however, Scrabble evokes a picture of a large unfurnished conference room where dozens of players, neatly arranged in pairs, compete for the honours.


Despite such contrasting facades, the truth is that if you are familiar with the game of Scrabble, then you also have a good idea of what Competitive Scrabble is all about.


A Scrabble set has 100 tiles. A Competitive Scrabble set has the same number of tiles.


A Scrabble set has 12 tiles of the letter E, 4 tiles of the letter S, 1 tile of the letter X, 2 Blanks etc. A Competitive Scrabble set has the same distribution of the 26 letters of the English alphabet.


In Scrabble, the Q is worth 10 points, the M 3 points, the L 1 point etc. Ditto in Competitive Scrabble.


The board of a Scrabble set has 15 squares by 15 squares with 58 premium squares (i.e. 8 triple word scores, 16 double word scores, 12 triple letter scores and 22 double letter scores). The board of a Competitive Scrabble set is sized and configured in exactly the same way.


One could go on comparing the two,but the point is that Scrabble and Competitive Scrabble are essentially one and the same thing.


What then is special about Competitive Scrabble? To begin with, players of Competitive Scrabble possess playing skills that increase their chances of winning games. These include attacking skills to maximize their scores and defensive skills to minimize their opponents’ scores. Anybody can acquire these skills with a bit of effort and guidance.  


Furthermore, the lexicon[1] (i.e. all allowable words) of Competitive Scrabble spans the whole range of vocabulary in English, including words from slang, dialect, American English etc., which are not normally found in the dictionaries most commonly used when playing Scrabble.


A game of Competitive Scrabble is played under a standard time-limit of 25 minutes per player.


Competitive Scrabble is only played between two players at a time.


Playing tools used in Competitive Scrabble include a chess-clock to limit time, non-Braille tiles to prevent selective drawing, and a board that keeps the tiles from moving and that can be rotated so that either player can face the board with the letters upright during his or her turn.


Finally, as its name implies, Competitive Scrabble is played within the format of tournaments where prizes, including prize-monies, are awarded to the winners.

Competitive Scrabble is played on an organised basis in every country where English is an official language. This includes the British Isles and all former colonies of the old British Empire. Due to the modern status of English as the international tongue, Competitive Scrabble has taken root also in countries like Romania and Thailand with little or no historical tradition in the use of English.


There are over thirty national bodies of Competitive Scrabble worldwide. The largest in terms of membership are the North American Scrabble Players’ Association (NASPA) and theAssociation of British Scrabble Players (ABSP).


Despite traditional differences in the rules of Competitive Scrabble applied by the individual national Scrabble bodies, the use of a single word source (i.e. Collins Scrabble Words) in almost all tournaments across the world has helped make Competitive Scrabble a more international sport by making it easier for players to take part in tournaments abroad.


The World English Scrabble Players’ Association (WESPA) is actively trying to harmonize the rules of Competitive Scrabble even further.


The most important international Competitive Scrabble tournaments is the World Scrabble Championship, in which all the Scrabble nations are represented. The Causeway Challenge is the most lucrative competition on the international Competivei Scrabble calendar, earning the champion a handsome $30,000.


Though nothing beats the excitement of a physical encounter, Competitive Scrabble can be enjoyed also on the Internet. While the web offers a much wider choice of opposition, the fact that your opponent can secretly look up words means that fair play cannot be guaranteed online. The best site for playing Competitive Scrabble on the web is the Internet Scrabble Club.


Why is Competitive Scrabble special? Competitive Scrabble offers a fine balance between ability (i.e. skill and word-knowledge) and luck (how favourably one draws tiles from the bag independently of strategic skill). Though ability is by far the stronger factor, the inevitable element of chance causes the ablest players to lose games, sometimes even, though rarely, to much weaker players.


Competitive Scrabble also offers longevity to those who play it regularly. As long as your brain functions normally (something which Competitive Scrabble can help you achieve), you can keep enjoying and winning at Competitive Scrabble till well into old age.

[1] The word source of choice in Competitive Scrabble is Collins Scrabble Words, which combines the words in the Collins Dictionary with those in the Chambers Dictionary and with those in the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate