NSA Tournament Rules

Tournament Anagrams Rules

[This set of rules was prepared for the Anagrams Championship to be held in conjunction with the 2005 National SCRABBLE® Championship.]

Please read the following rules carefully. The game of anagrams as played in this Anagrams Championship differs in significant ways from the game as played casually after hours. (See especially Section B. Order of Play). If you are going to compete, it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with these rules beforehand.

Note: For the sake of convenience and simplicity, the words ‘he’ and ‘his’ have been used to indicate individual players.


1. Seating at each table will be based on NSA Rating: In a circle, if the players are rated 1-6 (high to low), then the seating arrangements are 1,4,2,5,3,6.

2. Each table is provided with two 100-tile sets of different-colored Protiles. The tiles are placed facedown on the table and divided approximately in half: two groups of 100 tiles, 50 randomly chosen from each set in each. One group will be used in the first stage of the game, while the second is set aside until the second stage of the game.  (Note:  Players bring their own tiles).

3. Each individual player will have blank paper and a pen. The use of the paper and pen is described below in Rule 7, below. The paper and pen are NOT to be used for taking notes of any other kind.

4. The total time for a game will be 75 minutes. The game clock will not be stopped for any reason.


5. Players draw tiles to see who begins. The person who draws the letter closest to A goes first. A blank supersedes all other letters. If there is a tie among those who drew the closest to A, only the tied players draw again. Once the player going first is determined, play then proceeds clockwise around the table.

6. Each player, on his turn, will look at a tile, announce what the tile is, then place it face up in the center, in the pool of tiles which have already been exposed. He will then have up to 10 seconds to look for a playable word or words. (See C. Forming Words, below.) If there is an official at the table, the official announces each end of turn and keeps the players turning tiles so that the game moves along. If there is no official, the players keep track of the time and take their turns at approximately ten second intervals.

7. While the player on turn is looking for a word, the other players will look for words as well. Any player who sees a word records the first letter of that word on his sheet of paper and quickly places the sheet in the center, facedown.  Should a player not on turn see a second word and wishes not to reveal or get credit for his first word, he may say so later on as his first center sheet(s) is reviewed.

8. At the end of 10 seconds, if the player on turn has been able to form one or more acceptable words, he announces the word(s). He takes the needed letters and arranges them in front of his place, facing outward toward the other players. At this time, other players may challenge any word announced. (See E. Challenges, below.) A successful challenge ends the turn of the player who made the challenged word.

9. After the player on turn has formed his words, if any, the sheets of paper in the center are reviewed by the group in the order in which they were placed. When the letter on a sheet is read, the player who wrote it announces the word if it is still available to be played. (Note: A player is advised NOT to announce his word if it no longer is available.) That player may then form the word, arranging the tiles in front of him.

10. After all the sheets in the center have been reviewed in turn, each player takes back his own sheet and crosses off the written letter. This marks the end of that turn.

11. If the player on turn has made one or more acceptable plays, that player gets another turn. If not, the turn moves to the next player in rotation and play continues as per Rules 6-10, above.

12. After the first 100 tiles have been played, the order of play changes. Each player again draws a tile per Rule 5, above. During the second half of the game, play moves counterclockwise.


13. Words formed must be a minimum of 6 letters long. There are no restrictions as to what kind of word may be formed. For example, a five-letter noun pluralized with an S is acceptable. (The acceptable use of blanks is covered in D. Blanks, below).

14. Words may be formed solely from the tiles in the pool at the center of the table.

15. Words may also be formed by "stealing" another player's word. To steal a word, a player must add one or more tiles from the pool to the stolen word, and must rearrange the order of the letters in the stolen word.  Players may also steal two words on the table, with or without using tiles from the center, and form one word from them.  Example:  A player may steal both COPIER and TALONS to form PERCOLATIONS.

16. A word is considered "rearranged" only if the letters of the original word do NOT appear in the same order within the new word. For example:

(a) You MAY NOT steal RATING with a BE to form BERATING because the letters of RATING appear in their original order within beRATING.

(b) You MAY NOT steal RATING with an OS to form ROASTING because the letters of RATING appear in their original order within RoAsTING.

(c) You MAY steal READING with an A to form GARDENIA.

(d) You MAY steal CONSERVATION with an S to form CONVERSATIONS.


17. Blanks may be used only to steal words, not to form words out of the pool.

18. A blank may NOT be used to steal UNLESS the player also uses at least two other letters from the pool. Thus, any word that uses a blank must be at least 9 letters long and must include at least two non-blank letters from the pool. For example:

            (a) You MAY NOT steal DARING with an A? to form GARDeNIA because the steal only involves one additional tile from the pool.

            (b) You MAY steal DISHONOR with a CE? To form ICOSaHEDRON.

19. In order to use TWO blanks from the pool, a player must add FOUR additional non-blank tiles. Therefore, any word stolen with two blanks must be a minimum of 12 letters long. (Any word stolen with three blanks must be a minimum of 15 letters long, etc.)

20. A word containing a blank may be stolen by adding only one non-blank tile from the center. In the process, the stealer may change the letter represented by the blank. For example:

            (a) You MAY steal RECAnTING with a D to form DETRACtING, changing the blank designation from an N to a T.


21. Challenges may be made when a player announces a formed or stolen word, or else at the time the word has been formed with the tiles on the table.. Challenges may be made either because a word is unacceptable or because a word is unplayable.

22. An unplayable word is a word that cannot be formed from the letters available or cannot be played according to the rules above. (An unplayable word MAY be played later by any player if the needed letters turn up in the pool.)

23. Acceptability of a word is based on the same sources used in the National SCRABBLE® Championship: the Official Tournament and Club Word List (OWL) or the Long List). If a word is deemed unacceptable, all tiles are returned to the pool or to the player who held the original word.

24. If an unacceptable word is not challenged at the time it is played, it remains the property of the player who formed it, and, if still on the table, will be counted toward his score at the end of the game.

25. There is no penalty for an incorrect challenge.

26. If a player announces an acceptable and playable word, but misspells that word while forming it, he has one opportunity to correct the error without penalty. If he still fails to form the word correctly, then the player replaces the tiles and that player’s turn ends.


27. At the end of 75 minutes, time is called and the regular order of play ends. At that point, an official turns up all the remaining tiles out of view of the players, then adds them all to the pool simultaneously. Each player then gets a turn, in the current counterclockwise order, to find or steal a word using any of these new center tiles. However, at this point of the game, each person may only form ONE WORD per turn.

28. Play continues in this fashion until all players have passed once consecutively.

29. Once everyone has passed, all players have 10 seconds to find more words and record the first letter of the word on his sheet and put it into the center facedown. After the 10 seconds, the sheets are turned over, in order, beginning with the first sheet that was placed in the center, while the player who wrote it announces the word and takes it for himself. Once all sheets are reviewed and all newfound words laid out on the table, the game is officially over.

30. Each word left standing at game's end scores a value equal to the square of the number of letters in the word. The player with the highest total score is the winner.

A note on the tournament format:  There will be three rounds of play, each lasting 75 minutes.  More than one winner at each table will move up and be placed with other winners for round two, while the remaining players shall also be placed together and will continue to vie for position.  At the end of two rounds, the 6-8 players (the number as yet undetermined) with the top total scores after both rounds will be placed into the finals and vie for the championship.  The remaining players will also continue to play and vie for position in the tournament.

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