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2014 Rule Changes

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The following proposed Rule Changes are now targeted for a starting date of Wednesday, October 1, 2014. Changes have been underlined or a description of where numbers have changed, etc. are noted. There my be some very small changes to the wording here as we go through the editing process.

Rule II.A. Clock Neutralization

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You must state your reason for stopping the clock at any time during the game other than the final play.

Rule II.C. Observing Infractions

Add to the end of sentence

5. … progress, or if you notice that a clock is running during an adjudication.

Rule III.A.3. Clocks

Change the third paragraph to read

Clock preferences are categorized below:


• digital clocks that count down and show exact minutes and seconds of time remaining both in regulation and in overtime

Less Preferred:

• analog clocks that count down and show exact minutes and seconds of time remaining both in regulation and in overtime

• Zarf app on an iPad

• Zarf app on an iPhone

Least Preferred:

• Analog or Digital clocks that do not show exact minutes and seconds in overtime

• Clocks which the Director deems to be excessively loud

• Clocks known to not activate when pressed, or clocks known for being difficult to stop or neutralize

Rule III.A.6. Papers

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Two-sided scoresheets and scoresheets bound in a book are acceptable for use as long as those and any other papers in the playing area are kept out of sight and are not referred to at any time.

Rule III.A.8. Choice of Equipment

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If tables are assigned, equipment should not be moved from table to table. Equipment which conforms more to the standards above shall take precedence.

Rule III.B. Confirming the Number of Tiles

Before each game, verify that there are 100 tiles. Either player may also confirm exact distribution. Do not start a game with the wrong number of tiles or if distribution is proven to be incorrect. If it is determined after the game has started, however, that the tile count or the distribution is incorrect, check to see if any of the following apply:

IV.B.3 Loose Tiles, page 11

IV.B.4. Played Tiles Gone Missing, page 12

IV.C.3. Tiles from an Adjacent Game, page 15

V.C. Finding Missing Tiles Near the End of the Game, page 25

If none of those apply, the game proceeds with the incorrect set.

After each game, leave all tiles on the board to facilitate verifying the count for the next game.

Rule III.C. Arriving Late

If a player is late for a round with an announced starting time, the Director shall start his/her clock no earlier than 5 minutes after the actual starting time of the round. After 25 minutes (or when a digital clock reads −0:01), the game is over and is forfeited. If the missing player arrives before then, the Director or the opponent may stop the clock. Otherwise, the arriving player stops it. If the late player does not opt to forfeit, s/he is allowed to become situated, count/bag the tiles, and draw for first (if necessary) before the game is begun with whatever time remains.

Rule III.E. Who Draws Tiles First?

The player who is supposed to go first should draw tiles first. However, if the player who was supposed to go second mistakenly draws tiles first, and the player who was supposed to go first does not catch this until s/he has also drawn tiles, then the player who was supposed to go first still plays first. If, however, the player who was supposed to go first then starts his/her opponent’s clock, s/he is considered to have passed his/her turn and will be charged with going first.


III.G.5. Illegal Plays

The following are considered illegal plays; upon discovery, both players are REQUIRED to announce such plays.

a. Except for the first play, if a tile or string of tiles does not join with at least one tile already on the board.

b. If, on any play, more than one string of tiles is played in a single turn.

c. If a player moves a tile from a previously played turn to a different position on the board, or to his/her rack, and finishes the turn without restoring the position of such tiles.

In such cases:

1. If the opponent has not yet played and started the offender’s clock, the illegally placed tiles will be removed, the offender’s score for the play will be nullified, and any tiles drawn by the offender to replace the illegally placed tiles will be handled via the overdraw procedure. (See “IV.B.5.b. Overdraw Procedure” on page 12.) The illegally placed tiles should be counted as tiles in possession but not mixed with newly drawn tiles for the purpose of the overdraw procedure. After the overdraw procedure is complete, the illegally placed tiles will be returned to the offender’s rack.

2. If the opponent has played and started the offender’s clock, the score for the illegal play will be nullified, and any illegally played tiles which still do not join with tiles played before the illegal play will be returned to the bag.

3. At any point after the offender makes another accepted play, the score for the play will still be nullified, but the only tiles removed from the board and returned to the bag will be tiles which are now disconnected from any legally played tiles.*

4. If an illegal play is discovered, but it cannot be determined who caused the infraction, the game will continue as is; and any tiles which are still disconnected from any legally played tiles will be removed from the board and returned to the bag.*

5. If disconnected tile(s) or a final play involving disconnected tiles is discovered within 20 seconds of the end of the game (and the tally slip has not been signed or initialed by both players), then the above procedures will apply and the game will continue.

6. When determining whether or not six consecutive scores of zero have ended a Game (“V.B. Six-Zero Rule” on page 25), illegal plays involving disconnected tiles will only be considered part of such a tally if no legal plays have been made after the illegal play(s) but before such plays are discovered.

  • NOTE: Tiles played through or connected to a disconnected tile in an otherwise legal manner will now be considered legally played tiles, and should not be returned to the bag per sections 3 and 4 above.


III.G.6. Irregularity Following a Successful Challenge

If after having his/her unacceptable play successfully challenged, a player removes either too many or too few tiles from the board, followed by starting the opponent's clock, the opponent is entitled to one extra minute of playing time. If the opponent makes a play before this irregularity is corrected, then the clock shall be neutralized, the irregularity corrected, and the opponent's turn retaken on a corrected board. If the game proceeds with each player having taken a turn, the incorrect board will no longer be corrected.

Rule IV.B.1. How to Draw Tiles

Add as a second paragraph

At no time should tiles be positioned below the plane of the table surface.

Rule IV.B.2. Erroneously Returning Tiles to the Bag

A tile is defined as drawn when your hand has completely left the bag. If you erroneously return any drawn tiles to the bag, the following penalty applies, where X = the number of tiles returned: The clock is stopped, and your opponent draws X +2 tiles from the bag plus 2 tiles from your rack (if possible.) Face up to common view, your opponent has fifteen seconds to replenish your rack, and to return any remaining tiles to the bag. If more time is requested, your opponent’s clock will be started.

Note: Improperly returning tiles to the bag may be viewed as a suspicious act; the Director should apply a harsher penalty if cheating is suspected.

Rule IV.B.3. Loose Tiles

If tiles accidentally spill out while drawing from or setting down the bag, they should be returned to the bag without penalty. If one player has seen the face of a loose tile, then it should also be shown to the other player before being returned to the bag.

However, if any tiles are exposed when there are fewer than 7 tiles in the bag by the player WHOSE TURN IT IS TO MAKE A PLAY, see "IV.B.8, Exposing Tiles when Fewer than 7 Tiles in the Bag" on page 15.

If a loose tile (or tiles) is discovered on or near the table, both players are responsible for thoroughly checking the board to make sure that it (and/or any other tiles) was not dislodged from or moved on the board. If so, these tiles should be put back into place. If both players agree that it did not come from the board, the tile will be returned to the bag. (If the bag is empty when a loose tile is discovered, see “V.C. Finding Missing Tiles Near the End of the Game” on page 25.) If it is determined later in the game that the tile had in fact come from the board, refer to “IV.B.4. Played Tiles Gone Missing” on page 12.

Rule IV.B.4. Played Tiles Gone Missing

If it is discovered that a previously played tile is missing from the board, and cannot be located in the playing area—excluding racks—call the Director. The Director will put a placeholder (a tile from another set or a facsimile) in that spot.

If the missing tile is subsequently found, it will not be replaced.

In a recount, however, the original score is counted as if the tile were still in place, but only for those plays that were made when the tile was in place.

Rule IV.B.5.c.3. Late Game Overdrawing

Rule deleted, content mostly moved to IV.B.8.

Rule IV.B.7 End of Game Underdrawing

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There is no obligation to inform, nor is it an ethical violation to not inform, your opponent if s/he fails to draw the last tiles in the bag. It is each player’s personal responsibility to be aware.

Rule IV.B.8. Exposing Tiles or Overdrawing when Fewer than 7 Tiles in the Bag

Changes marked with respect to former rule IV.B.5.c.3.

1. If the mistake either happens or is discovered when it is your opponent’s turn to make a play, the standard X+2 penalty is applied for an overdraw and there is no correction for exposed tiles.

2. If the mistake either happens or is discovered when it is your turn to make a play, the following penalty is applied, where X = the number of tiles overdrawn or exposed.

a. If the offender has not combined tiles with the old tiles: the NON-OFFENDER combines X tiles with the NON-OFFENDER'S tiles, and then the non-offender returns X tiles, of his/her choosing from his/her rack, to the bag without revealing them to the offender.

b. If the offender has combined tiles with the old tiles: the NON-OFFENDER looks at all of the offender’s tiles; the non-offender then chooses seven tiles to go onto the offender’s rack; the non-offender then combines the remaining X tiles with the non-offender’s own tiles; the non-offender then returns X tiles, of his/her choosing from his/her rack, to the bag without revealing them to the offender.

Rule IV.D. Board Etiquette

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If your opponent inquires as to where you made your play, unless your clock is still running, you are required to show him/her. If you refuse, your opponent may stop the clock and call the Director.

Rule IV.E.2.b. Improper Tile Exchanges

Add as #4; move current #4 to #5

4. If the exchanger fails to put the face-down tiles back into the bag, and any new tiles have been drawn by either player before the discovery is made, then anything going back into the bag should be seen by both players.

Rule IV.F.1. How to Designate the Blank

Change second paragraph

If two blanks are played on the same turn, and the blank slip does not specifically designate areas for recording the first and second blank, then the topmost or leftmost designation represents the first blank that appears in the word.

Rule IV.F.1. How to Designate the Blank

e. If the blank is not designated in writing at the time of the play, or if the written designation is determined by the Director to be unclear, an unadjudicated challenge involving the blank may be withdrawn. In this case, the Director should restart the clock of the player who played the blank tile, requesting a clearly written designation. The opponent then has the option to challenge any word formed by the blank, but only after the blank has been properly designated and the opponent's clock has been started.

Rule IV.F.2. Disputes

All blank designation disputes shall be resolved by the Director.

If a game has proceeded without a proper blank designation, and that blank is involved in a challenged play later in the game, the Director should restart the clock of the blank player, requesting a clearly written designation. Should his/her opponent dispute the designation, the Director should then reasonably designate the blank. The challenger will then have the option of withdrawing the challenge, or of challenging ANY word formed on the current play.

The Director should also be called if a player refuses a request to record the blank designation. See also Rule IV.F.1. How to Designate the Blank, p. 17.

Rule IV.H.1 Verifying the Play Score

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For every three errors that you bring to your opponent's attention (including those…

Rule IV.I.3 Challenging the Play

You may challenge any word(s) formed on a play by declaring you are challenging, BUT the challenge does not become binding until you neutralize the clock. Failing to neutralize the clock, you are considered to have committed to the challenge if you perform any of the following:

a. Write the word(s) on a challenge slip

b. Stand up and walk toward the challenge self-lookup station without another explanation

c. Summon a word adjudicator for a manual look-up.

Neutralizing the clock after saying either “hold” or “challenge” is considered a binding challenge if no other valid explanation has been given for stopping the clock.

The loser of a challenge loses his/her turn, scoring zero points. (See Play Using the International Lexicon, Challenges VI.B.3 on page 30.)

Challenge Irregularities:

1. If you utter a challenge, but decide against doing so before you neutralize the clock or perform any of the above-listed steps, you may withdraw your challenge.

2. The responsibility for neutralizing the clock is with the challenger. However, a third party is permitted to point out the failure to do so. (See II.C.5 Observing Infractions page 3.)

3. If you try to challenge a play before your opponent’s turn has ended (See Rule IV.G.1 How to Complete a Turn), your challenge is void and in violation of Rule I.D. Distracting Speech or Behavior.

4. If a blank used in a challenged word was not designated in writing when you declared your challenge, and if you and your opponent disagree as to its designation, you may withdraw your challenge. (See IV.F.1…)

5. Either player may concede a challenge without a formal lookup.

Rule IV.J.1. Software Self-Lookup Procedure

[Add as a. and i. and reorder other items as b through h and j through n.]

a. If any onlooker notices that the clock is running at any time during the adjudication, they are to request that it be stopped before continuing.

i. Computer adjudication is final unless either player feels the computer or program is flawed (and requests a manual adjudication) or feels a word may not have been entered correctly (and chooses to repeat the procedure.)

Rule V.E. Neutralizing the Clock on the Out Play

After the final play, stop the clock. The game is over unless your opponent holds or challenges within 20 seconds. If the play is held, start your opponent’s clock. It will run until s/he releases the hold (ending the game) or challenges. The game is also over if your opponent reveals his/her tiles, declares their point value, agrees on a final score, or does any other action that concedes the game to be over unless one or more tiles are discovered IN the tile bag. (See Rule V.C. Finding Missing Tiles Near the end of the Game, p. 25, item 3.)