A young Scrabble player was booted from the board game's national championship tournament in Orlando, Fla., after getting caught hiding blank letters -- essentially cheating.
The male player, whose name was not disclosed due to his age, was kicked out of the competition's 24th round, in a 28-round event, according to National Scrabble Association Executive Director John D. Williams Jr.
The cheater was spotted by a neighboring player, who saw blank tiles which serve as wildcards but carry no points accumulating on the floor at the player's feet. The fraud was intentionally dropping them on the floor, organizers said, and copped to the trickery when confronted by the allegations.
This is the first incidence of cheating at the national tournament level, Williams told the AP. But it is not the first prominent case of cheating in the board game's heady competitive world.
A 25-year-old Thai player, Chollopat-Itthi-Aree, claimed British rival Ed Martin was hiding a G tile, and demanded the player be strip searched in the bathroom. Judges declined, and the Englishman went on to win the game by a single point.
"It does happen no matter what. People will try to do this," Williams said. "It's the first time it's happened in a venue this big though. It's unfortunate. The Scrabble world is abuzz. The Internet is abuzz."
The world of competitive Scrabble may sound unusual, but the tournament has 350 registered players and a $10,000 top prize. The rules are strict, but monitoring is limited as the prototypical honor code applies, with "good self-policing in the Scrabble world," Williams said.
"It gets pretty deep. We're one step away from drug testing," Williams said jokingly.