(Photo: Reuters/Kacper Pempel)
A participant in the national Scrabble championship tournament was dismissed from the competition Tuesday for the first time in the history of Scrabble competitions when organizers caught him hiding blank tiles.
"It does happen no matter what. People will try to do this," John D. Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association, told The Associated Press.
"It's the first time it's happened in a venue this big though. It's unfortunate. The Scrabble world is abuzz. The Internet is abuzz," he added, saying that when the cheating participant was approached by the tournament director, he admitted to hiding the blank tiles.
The male competitor, who remains anonymous due to his minor age, was dismissed from round 24 of 28 rounds of the 350 player event, after a competitor at a nearby table spotted the cheater concealing blank tiles by intentionally dropping them on the floor.
The guilty participant, who was reportedly a division 3 player, then scooped the blank tiles up from the floor and used them in the following match against his opponent.
In the game of Scrabble, blank tiles act as "wildcard" letters, allowing the player to use them at his or her discretion for maximum letter points.
"It's worth pointing out that this kid's plan to cheat was, perhaps, the most poorly planned criminal enterprise in recorded history," wrote Barry Petchesky in an opinion blog for DeadSpin.
Wednesday wraps up the National Scrabble Championship at the Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Fla., with David Gibson, a 61-year-old math teacher from Spartanburg, S.C., in lead pursuit of the $10,000 cash prize for first place.