The strip-search scandal at the Scrabble world championship

A missing letter. An undignified request. Turns out professional Scrabble can be messy

Can you spell s-c-a-n-d-a-l? When tiles go missing at the World Scrabble Championships, accusations go flying.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

In recent years, professional and college sports from football to cycling have been tainted by scandal after scandal. Now, it seems, not even the world of competitive Scrabble is immune to foul play. At the World Scrabble Championships last Friday, one player insisted that his opponent be strip-searched after a letter mysteriously went missing. Here, a brief guide to the scandal:

What happened?

Thai player Chollapat Itthi-Aree demanded that his opponent Ed Martin of England be strip-searched after a tile for the letter "G" went missing during a game at the championships in Poland. Judges ruled in Martin's favor, "sparing him the indignity of a search." After officials searched the floor under the table, and both players emptied their pockets, a referee simply added a new "G" tile to the game. Martin went on to win by a "single-buttock clenching point."

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Did Martin win the whole championship?

No. The championship, and $20,000 in prize money, was awarded Sunday to New Zealand's Nigel Richards, who secured his victory by playing the word "omnified" for 95 points.

Are scandals common in competitive Scrabble?

According to The Sun, this "is the biggest scandal to hit the event since one player accused another of eating a tile" at a previous tournament. In another tense showdown at a 1995 tournament match in Connecticut, judges demanded that both players empty their pockets after a tile went missing. One player refused to do so, and was promptly disqualified. "Scrabble is actually a cutthroat world where guts, guile, and gamesmanship are pushed to the limit," wrote S.L Price breathlessly in Sports Illustrated.

Sources: The Independent, MSNBC, Sports Illustrated, The Sun

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