Scrabble Champ Banned for the Way He Picked Letters

Allan Simmons says he never purposely cheated—but he may have been loose with game play
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2017 9:20 AM CST
Scrabble Champ Banned for Sketchy Tile Selection
The rules in Scrabble competitions are strict, even when it comes to picking tiles.   (AP Photo/Hazleton Standard-Speaker Ellen F. O'Connell)

A scandal that some are calling "Tile-Gate" is rocking the Scrabble world, with one of its best players now barred from competitions. Per the London Times, Allan Simmons is now prohibited from facing off against other wordsmiths due to two specific Scrabble rules—both involving the selection of letter tiles—that he's accused of breaking. The first requires that players show their outstretched hands to their opponents before reaching into the tile bag so that others are sure they're not palming secret tiles; the second mandates players must hold the tile bag at shoulder height while making their selection so they can't purposely, or even accidentally, see any of the tiles. Although Simmons, 60, says he's never intentionally cheated, he does concede that the distraction of the game may have led to his inadvertently flouting those rules from time to time.

"At the top level, games can be quite intense and there's a lot going through one's mind, let alone remembering to religiously ensure tile drawing rules are followed meticulously," he notes. Simmons has long history with the game, notes Scotland's Sunday Herald, reaching back to the mid-'70s and including appearances at five world championships. An initial complaint against Simmons was brought in June by player Lewis Mackay, which spurred a yearlong ban by the Association of British Scrabble Players—and then prompted further inquiry leading to an extended three-year ban. Simmons, who says he won't appeal, tells the Times he'd been thinking of packing it in anyway due to the "long drives" to competitions, the studying, and the stress. "I will rise above this issue and get on with more important things in life than playing Scrabble," he notes. (A young Scrabble cheat got busted.)

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