15 November 2017
Author, champion and Association of British Scrabble Players co-founder Allan Simmons accused of drawing replacement letter tiles
The competitive Scrabble scene has been rocked after one of its biggest celebrities was banned for cheating.
Allan Simmons is a former British champion and 30-year veteran of the professional circuit who has written multiple books on the spelling word game, served as the Times’ Scrabble correspondent and even co-founded the Association of British Scrabble Players in 1987.
Now, the same organisation that Simmons helped establish has barred him from competing in tournament matches for three years after it was decided he had cheated in multiple competitions over the last couple of years.
Professional Scrabble tournaments require competitors to draw letter tiles from the bag in a very specific way in order to eliminate the chance of a player peeking at the letters or replacing them with a more favourable selection. The bag must be held no lower than the shoulder level and the drawer’s hand must been shown splayed to their opponent to stop them dropping letters back into the pool.
It was this rule that Simmons was accused of breaking, with his opponent in a match in June claiming he had returned just-drawn letters to the bag and replaced them with fresh tiles. Simmons was initially handed a one-year ban after an investigation into the incident by the ABSP, which was later extended to three years after it was alleged similar actions had occurred four times during 2016.
Simmons understandably denied the claims of cheating, but later admitted that he may have “unintentionally” failed to follow the tournament-standard guidelines to the letter.
In response to his sentence, Simmons told the Times – which has also dropped him as a contributor – that he would “rise above” the accusations and would not contest the decision, adding that he had already been planning to retire from professional Scrabble and focus on the “more important things in life”.