Scrabble champion banned

Coldingham scrabble competitor Allan Simmons
Coldingham scrabble competitor Allan Simmons

Scrabble champion Allan Simmons, from Coldingham hit the headlines across the world this week after being given a three year ban from the game.

Simmons, 60, was given the ban by the organisation he helped set up, The Association of British Scrabble Players, who concluded that his “actions led to a suspicion of cheating” following an investigation into complaints made by fellow players.

Simmons, who describes himself as a professional scrabble consultant, was accused of flouting the rules of the game by drawing out a tile, look at it and replace it on numerous occasions. The rules of the game say that the letter tiles should be kept in a bag so players pull new ones blindly; players must raise the bag to shoulder length while pulling new tiles; and they also must splay open their hands to show they aren’t swapping out a common tile for a better one.

Mr Simmons is reported to have denied charges of cheating but admitted he “may have accidentally held the bag lower than he should have, and he may have forgotten to open his hand with each draw”.

“While I believe I always showed an open hand before drawing fresh letters, if drawing one or two at a time I may not have always had an open hand for each dip in the bag,” Simmons told the Times.

“Likewise, holding the bag may not have always been strictly at shoulder height. You have to remember that at the top level, games can be quite intense and there’s a lot going through one’s mind let alone remembering to religiously ensure tile drawing rules are followed meticulously.”

“From the outset I have said that no one is beyond suspicion and complied fully with the investigative process.”

Three World English Language Scrabble Players Association representatives initially gave him a one year ban but that was increased to three years when more information came to light from other players.

Three independent witnesses are reported to have seen Simmons put a hand with freshly drawn letter tiles back into the bag to draw more tiles.

Association committee member Elie Dangoor said: “The natural conclusion had been that he had been cheating,”

Mr Simmons has been playing competitively since the mid 1970s and became a professional consultant ten years ago. He has published Scrabble magazines and books, compiles puzzles for national newspapers and is on the Dictionary Committee of the World English Scrabble Players Association, helping to review the official word list.

He has won the British Matchplay Scrabble Championship five times, the Scottish Championships four times, the UK Masters three times, the UK National Scrabble Championship once, and played at the World Scrabble Championship eight times.

Speaking to the Berwickshire News in 2013 ahead of the British Championships Mr Simmons said: “Setting out your first words of the game is like the first moves in chess. It’s also like bridge in that you can use the probability of letters appearing to your advantage.”