"It's fun and challenging, without being rocket science," says Lisa
Odom. She was once the top-ranked female Scrabble player in the U.S.
Scrabble is basically a board game where players try to form words from
a group of letter tiles picked at random. Players form words with their letter
tiles, then place the words on the playing board. If you enjoy language and
vocabulary, not to mention the occasional scrambling of your mind, you can
Scrabble is a relative newcomer when it comes to board games. Out-of-work
architect Alfred Mosher Butts invented the game during the Great Depression
of the 1930s. He was just looking for something to do. The Scrabble name was
trademarked in 1948. The rest, you could say, is history.
Scrabble can be played just about anywhere. Most people play the game at
Serious players often belong to local Scrabble clubs to participate in
tournaments. Tournaments are held throughout the year in cities all over the
world, culminating in a world championship tournament.
Scrabble is a very popular game. According to the National Scrabble Association
(NSA), more than 30 million games have been sold in North America. About 100
million have been sold worldwide. The number of people playing this game continues
"Basically, we say there are 50 million leisure players in the U.S. and
Canada," says John D. Williams Jr. He is the executive director of the National
"The NSA, the official organization for North America, represents 10,000
club and tournament players. About 2,500 people compete in tournaments."
Joel Wapnick, a music professor, won the 1999 World Scrabble Championship
in Melbourne, Australia.
He says he really enjoys the game because it's just plain fun, and
because of the creativity and excitement involved. He adds that his involvement
in tournaments has also made him a lot of new friends. "I've made lots
of friends through Scrabble over the last 25 years."
The 1999 World Scrabble Championship was the largest to date, with a total
prize package worth $35,000.
Like a lot of things these days, Scrabble has gone high tech. It is now
available on CD-ROM and e-mail Scrabble is growing in popularity.
"People used to walk off the street into Scrabble clubs thinking they were
tough players because they could beat all their friends," says John Chew.
He is the director of a scrabble club.
"They still do, but because their friends are now drawn from a larger,
stronger online population, longtime club players can't trounce them
Hasbro now offers an e-mail Scrabble game for people who would prefer to
play online. The software allows your e-mail messages to show a full-featured
Scrabble game board. You make a move, then your friends or family make theirs.
Another area where Scrabble is expanding is within schools. "Over the next
few years, I think the biggest change to the established tournament scene
will be an influx of players from a still-nascent school Scrabble tournament
system," says Chew.
"Hasbro and the NSA are doing a good job of promoting the use of Scrabble
as a literacy tool in schools. Just looking at the numbers, I think we'll
start seeing a lot of sharp young players at tournaments very soon."
The National School Scrabble Program, established by Hasbro and the NSA,
is a huge success. Since its inception in 1992, half a million kids in some
15,000 classrooms have joined.
Teachers say the game really helps children develop their vocabularies,
and the kids of course, love playing the game! If you're interested in
this program, and you'd like your school to become involved, have your
teacher contact the National Scrabble Association.
Like any game, Scrabble has its rules and regulations. The most important
thing to know is what words are acceptable and what words are not. This is
a point that must be agreed upon by players before the game starts.
For instance, before starting a game, the players might decide on a particular
dictionary where only the words that exist in that dictionary are acceptable.
The NSA supplies an official tournament and club word list for its members.
It doesn't cost much to get into Scrabble. The standard game with
the wooden tiles cost between $12 and $15. Deluxe plastic sets cost a little
more, between $25 and $35. E-mail Scrabble goes for about $15 and the CD-ROM
version goes for about $30.
The most important thing you need to develop to become good at Scrabble
is your vocabulary skills. Being a good speller is also important. You have
to be able to think quickly, as many games are played with a timer.
The most common injuries suffered by people playing Scrabble are bruised
egos! After all, no one likes to lose. In tournament play, people sit for
hours at a time. Stiff necks and sore backs are common. It never hurts to
take a break and stretch your legs.
Scrabble is also a game easily played by people with physical challenges.
"I have seen many physically challenged players at tournaments, even in the
expert division. There are braille sets for the visually impaired," says Siri
Tillekeratne. He is the senior director of a Scrabble club.
"I recently attended a celebrity braille Scrabble exhibition match with
[renowned Canadian blues musician] Jeff Healy, and was very pleased to see
people enjoying my favorite game in a way that wasn't too different from
the way people play it at the club," says Chew.
Scrabble is a recreational game. No one gets paid to play. The only way
to make money with the game is to win big at tournaments.
All it takes to get started playing Scrabble is to buy a version of the
game and find someone who wants to play with you. Then if you really get into
it, you may consider joining a local club. You never know where this activity
will lead -- maybe into the world championships!
Avid Scrabble players tend to be helpful people, ready to give advice.
Odom has a few suggestions for those just starting out. "For beginners, a
list of two and three letter words is very helpful, and buying an Official
Scrabble Players Dictionary will make it easier to segue into tournament play
by using a standard reference," she says.
"I would suggest looking to see if there is a local Scrabble club in your
area, and joining the National Scrabble Association for $18 a year. It includes
some word lists, the official rules used in tournament play and a periodic
newsletter that has information about tournaments, strategy tips, and puzzles
that new players will find interesting."
National Scrabble Association
The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary,
Joe Edley and John D. Williams
The Official Scrabble Brand Word-Finder,
Robert W. Schachner
The Official Scrabble Puzzle Book,
The Official Scrabble Quiz Game Book
The Official Scrabble Site
Hasbro's official site contains loads of information on
all versions of Scrabble
San Jose Scrabble Club
It contains a ton of Scrabble info, plus word lists and links
Musa's Scrabble Page
Word lists, puzzles, advice and more!
John Chew's Scrabble Page
Packed full of Scrabble information