‘Scrabble’ pro Allan Simmons hit with three-year ban for cheating
Who among us hasn’t cheated at Scrabble at some point?
That’s fine when you’re just trying to put one over on your kid sister. It’s less fine when you’re an actual competitive Scrabble player and you’re screwing over other top-tier competitors.
That’s the situation facing Scrabble pro Allan Simmons, who received a three-year ban from competitive play after the Association of British Scrabble Players leveled charges of cheating.
Simmons — who denied the accusation — was apparently spotted multiple times reaching into the bag of tiles for new letters, and then reaching back in again for different tiles after looking at what he’d gotten. It’s the Scrabble equivalent of double-dipping, and a big no-no in the competitive circuit.
The governing body that issued the ban conducted an investigation that traced Simmons’ rule-breaking play back to four separate incidents in 2016. Three independent witnesses confirmed what they’d seen, with committee member Elie Dangoor telling The Guardian, “The natural conclusion had been that he had been cheating.”
Lewis Mackay, a fellow competitive player and one of Simmons’ accusers, offered a detailed explanation of what he saw as cheating in a public Facebook post. His suspicions were raised when, while observing Simmons in a Sept. 2016 game, he noticed unusual behavior. So Mackay decided to pay close attention the next time the two squared off.
While I was scoring his moves, I had my eyes fixed on the tiles on the table as he drew them. He would draw tiles one at a time and lift each tile slightly to look at it once it was on the table. On three separate occasions, I saw him lift the tile out of my vision, having looked at it. I then heard the shuffling of the tile bag and saw a tile descend into my vision and placed on the table. I do not know if this was the same tile or a different one, for I did not see the bag throughout this. Each of these occasions occurred in the first half of our game. This sequence of events led me to the only sensible conclusion: that he was returning a drawn tile to the bag and drawing a new one.
Simmons, speaking to The Times of London — a paper he has written for in the past — defended himself against the accusation.
“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,” Simmons said. “From the outset I have said that no one is beyond suspicion and complied fully with the investigative process.”