Procedure for returning overdrawn tiles to the bag after a successful challenge

by Donato
(San Juan, Puerto Rico)

A player plays a five letter word and inadvertently gets 5 tiles from the bag and places them on his (her) rack just as the opponent is challenging the word. The challenge is successful. What is the procedure for returning the extra tiles to the bag?

Hi Donato - sorry it took me a while to get to this one. It's a good question, and I hope you're still interested in the answer which (according to both the North American and International Scrabble rules) is...

If the challenger declared their intent to challenge after the other player had drawn at least one tile from the bag, then their right to challenge has been forfeited. In other words, you cannot challenge a word after your opponent has drawn a tile, and so the play stays on the board with no tiles being returned to the bag (but see my P.S. on this).

If this isn't the case, so that a player has drawn tiles after a challenge has been declared, then the procedure depends on whether they have mixed the newly drawn tiles with the others on their rack. If they have not, then they simply return the newly drawn tiles to the bag, and retrieve their letters from the invalid word played on the board.

The worst case scenario is if the player has inter-mixed the incorrectly drawn tiles with the others on their rack. If this happens, a tournament director is likely to enforce an 'overdraw' rule, which can vary from tournament to tournament, but which invariably punishes the overdrawer as a disincentive to this pactice.

If you want me to elaborate on this tricky case I am happy to do so. Just let me know via the Comments link below this post.

I hope this is clear enough for you.

P.S. You might think the rule about a challenge being forfeited if the opponent has already drawn tiles provides an incentive to draw your tiles really quickly to prevent the possibility of a challenge. This practice, sometimes called 'flash-drawing' is also against the rules, which specify that you must allow your opponent a reasonable amount of time to indicate that they are considering a challenge. What is 'reasonable' - again it can vary from tournament to tournament.

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