Tucson Desert


An Introduction to Organized Scrabble at North American Scrabble Players Association Clubs in Tucson

welcome | structure | rules | what to bring


Welcome to the world of competitive Scrabble!

Scrabble is one of the most challenging and engaging of competitive games and attracts players from all walks of life. If you are a casual player who is considering attending an organized Scrabble club, this introduction should help you with some of the basics.

Tucson is home to two clubs that have been sanctioned by the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA).

NASPA Club #565 meets once a week on Thursdays from 5PM to 10PM. NASPA Club #800 also meets once a week, on Sundays from 1PM to 7PM. Both clubs are directed by Ed Saunders. Both clubs are two-tiered clubs with both a Recreational and a separate Tournament Rules division.
The Tournament Rules division features tournament-style play and maintains club ratings, rankings, and statistics. We collect $3 dues from each player per session. 75% of these dues are returned to players in the form of cash prizes, the other 25% goes to expenses associated with running the club and any tournaments we may have as well as the cost of maintaining this Web site.
The Recreational Division is just that, recreational. Come in, bring or meet a friend, and have a good time playing Scrabble. No ratings, rankings, or statistics are kept for this division. Rules of play are set by the players involved in the game. The Recreational division has no set fees but, since our clubs do have expenses, we ask that you consider whether or not you had a dollar's worth of fun. If you did, then we ask that you consider donating a dollar to the club kitty.
These clubs are host to all levels of competitive Scrabble players, many of whom compete in national tournaments.

Directions and contact information for these clubs are located in the "Where to Play" section of this web site.

This page will cover what you should know before attending an organized Scrabble club but is tailored to Tucson's NASPA clubs. We also encourage you to check out our New Player Information page for other helpful tips about entering the world of competitive Scrabble.

Of course, all members of the Tucson Scrabble community are happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have as well. Feel free to contact us with your questions or comments.

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Club Structure and Format

All organized Scrabble clubs have one or more club directors. A director has been sanctioned by the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) and is responsible for pairing opponents, adjudicating disputes over rules, and ensuring the club is run with some semblance of sanity and decorum.

Club #565 meets every Thursday from 5PM-10PM and Club #800 meets every Sunday from 1PM-7PM.
Tournament Division dues are $3 per session, and 75% of your dues are returned each session in the form of cash prizes. We encourage you to show up on time and to play as long as you can; however, we understand if you arrive late or have to leave early.

When you attend, you will be given a club scorecard on which you will record the results of the session's games (opponent, opponent's rating, who went first, who won, bingos, scores, point spread, and any notes, comments, or contest entries that you may have). Upon leaving for the evening, please give this scorecard back to the director. It will be used to keep results and a running set of statistics throughout the club's season.

Recreational Division players pay no set fees; and no ratings, rankings or statistics are kept for recreational play, but, if you have a good time playing at the club, we ask that you consider donating a dollar now and then to help the club cover expenses.

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When playing tournament-style Scrabble, you will note that some rules differ slightly from the ones you will find printed on the bottom of the lid of the set you grew up with. For instance, games are timed to 25 minutes per player, both players are required to keep score, and there are rules covering everything from who goes first to what to do if you accidentally draw too many tiles.

While the fundamental basics of the game are more or less universal, tournament-style Scrabble play follows the Official Tournament Rules established by the North American Scrabble Players Association. If there is a dispute over a rule's interpretation or a situation arises that is not covered by the rules, a club director will resolve it.

Rules for Recreational Division games will be determined by the players involved. If a dispute does arise, a club director will attempt to resolve it.

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What to Bring

You are required to bring yourself; we won't be able to do much with you unless you show up. Also, please bring a pen or pencil to club. We will provide Tournament Division players with a club scorecard. Typically there are enough Scrabble sets and score sheets to cover all players, but if you have any of the following equipment, please bring it:

A Scrabble Board: The preferred board is a rotating Deluxe Scrabble set. The fold up commercial boards are generally not used as they do not have a grid and cannot be easily turned. You will notice that several players have custom Scrabble boards as well, and those are welcome. If you are interested in more information about custom boards, ask around or see the Links section of this site.

Tiles: The tiles that come with commercial Scrabble boards are not used in competitive Scrabble as the letters are recessed into their surfaces, making it possible to feel the outline of a letter or blank while your  hand is in the bag. Flat-surfaced tiles are preferred, and most competitive players prefer Protiles.

Timer: Tournament-style Scrabble games are timed to 25 minutes per player. The preferred timer is electronic, but analog timers are acceptable as well. For a list of the common Scrabble timers, see the Links section of this site.

Dictionary: Although commercially available at most book stores, The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary, 4rd Edition (OSPD4) is not used to adjudicate words in competitive Scrabble. The dictionary used for organized Scrabble in North America is The Official Tournament and Club Word List, 2nd Edition (OWL2), which contains all the same listings as does the OSPD4 plus words considered offensive or vulgar. In addition to the OWL2, NASPA provides The Long List, a word list used to judge the acceptability of words of 9-15 letters in length that are not in the OWL2. Several varieties of software are available for word judge purposes. The Tucson clubs use the Zyzzyva program written by Utah scrabbler Michael Thelen and available online as a free download.

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