I enjoy playing the board game Scrabble, starting with my family when I was a child and playing with my own daughters when they were young. And now that they are grown and have moved away, I am still able to play with them thanks to the app Words With Friends.
It seems like a game that should be impossible to cheat at and so I was shocked to read of a national tournament where a leading player in Division 3 was thrown out for cheating.
How did he cheat? Apparently at the end of one game, he did not put the two blank tiles (which can be used to represent any letter of the player’s choosing and hence are highly prized) in the bag along with the other tiles, but dropped them to the ground to recover and use for the next game. He was observed by a player at another table and confessed when confronted by the tournament director.
I am not sure exactly why I was so surprised by this news since cheating at competitive events is not uncommon. I think it is because although I have never played competitive Scrabble, I had this vague sense that Scrabble players had a strong honor code culture, like golfers.
What next? Doping? The tournament director says that players have been known to take minerals that are thought of as ‘brain boosters’ but no reports of steroid use as yet. John D. Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association joked that “It gets pretty deep. We’re one step away from drug testing.”