When a player challenges another player who has formed multiple words in a single turn, is it necessary to identify the speific word, or are all words open to the challenge?

by Bob Guarino
(Rochester, NY USA)

My recollection from reading Scrabble rules that come with the board game is that any and all words played in a turn are open to a challenge, and the challenger does not have to specify which word is being challenged. For instance, if the following three words are formed in a single turn: "IR"; "DE" and "REITTER", the challenger need only declare a generic / blanket challenge, and if any of the words are found to be unacceptable, the challenger is successful.

Hi Bob - thanks for such a thorough explanation of your question. Like a lot of scenarios that occur during Scrabble games, the box rules do not specify enough detail to answer your question. So let me tell you what happens in Scrabble tournaments under 'official' rules, and you can use it to decide on a rule that suits you and your opponent...

The challenger writes down the challenged word/s on a slip of paper (so the challengee does indeed get to see which word/s is/are being challenged). HOWEVER, the result slip (after being assessed by the official adjudicator) is returned with a single tick or cross. In other words, neither player finds out which word/s is/are incorrect.

I personally like this way of handling challenges in Scrabble because it always advantages the person who knows which of the plays is/are incorrect. In other words, the person with the better word knowledge benefits most of the time.

Of course, it's difficult to play like this when there are only two players (i.e. no independent adjudicator) since the challenger will see which word/s is/are ok and which ones aren't. One way out is to use a Scrabble adjudication program that allows you to enter the word/s you want to challenge into a computer and will return a 'yes' or 'no' without indicating to either player which word/s is/are invalid.

I've described where you can get a free app called Zyzzyva that does just this in my Scrabble Helper Library. Just remember to select 'Word Judge' from the 'File' menu to run it in adjudication mode, because it does lots of other funky stuff too ;-)

The result of the challenge you used as an example is shown in the picture I've added to the top of this post. See - no hint as to which word/s is/are incorrect!

I hope that's helpful Bob, but if not, please feel free to use the comments link below my response to continue the discussion.

All the best.

P.S. Something I glossed over above. You are correct in recalling that a player can challenge 'any OR all' of the words formed by their opponent's play, but they are not all challenged by default. You have to specify which word/s you wish to challenge.

The main reason for this is that many games are played to a 'penalty challenge' rule in which you are penalized for challenging a word that turns out to be valid. In that case, it obviously makes sense to challenge only words you are doubtful about.

If you're interested, I wrote a little bit about the penalty challenge rule here.

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