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I've played scrabble with different groups of people and their rules on first turns vary a lot. The rules I've seen used are:

  • Double score for first turn (Scrabble rules confirms this and is the first thing a scrabble player learns)
  • The word's middle letters have to be dead-center. ("JUG"'s "U" must be in the middle of the board)
  • You can only play a word horizontally. (Never seen this in writing but noticed that I haven't seen anyone play vertically either.)

Which of these are official?

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3 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Like you said, the center tile counts as a Double Word Score tile, so whoever plays first gets double the points. That is an official rule.

The second and third rules mentioned are house rules, and are not supported in the Scrabble rules. The second rule would possibly prevent you from hitting one of the adjacent Double Letter Score tiles unless your word was sufficiently long.

Even the most recent Scrabble Tournament rules clearly indicate that the first word played must simply cover the center tile, and be spelled top-to-bottom or left-to-right.

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Agree - a letter from the first word must be on the center square. Other than that, position or direction should be up to the player. –  GalacticCowboy Oct 23 '10 at 14:54
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As mentioned, only the first rule is an official rule.

The third rule makes no difference whatsoever, because the board is symmetric.

I find the second (center your word) rule problematic in casual play. It seems like casual players often find it easier to play "to the right, and down", so I try to play my first word so that it ends on the star square. That way, the other players can work in the apparently "more natural" direction.

I think it's much easier for the average person to come up with a list of words starting with K, as opposed to a list of words ending in K, for example.

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If one has the first turn, but not able to play (all consonants or exchanges tiles), is it not who ever plays on the center pink square nets the double word score, not necessarily the first turn? –  chux Nov 23 '13 at 3:13
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Yes, I believe that's the case. The first word played has to use the star square, and therefore, gets the double word score. –  Mark Bessey Dec 3 '13 at 4:25
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LittleBobbyTales is correct about the tournament rules.

Beyond what he has said, (in tournament rules) if the first player for one reason or another accidentally does not make their first play across the center tile and then hits their clock (signaling the end of their turn), the second player has the option to point this out and make the first player remove the play and play again or accept the play. If the play stands, the first play is not doubled, but it is scored according to whatever premium squares that it covers. The second player may then play across the center star, earning a double word score. In this sense, the center star is exactly like a Double Word Score square. This does actually happen occasionally in tournaments, sometimes leading to a rare "triple-double," where the second player plays an 8 letter word from the Triple Word Score on the edge of the board to the center star, through the first word, garnering a six times word score.

It should also be pointed out that it is often good Scrabble strategy to play the first word off-centered from the center star (i.e. contrary to the second bullet point). Tournament Scrabble players specifically study 5-letter words with high point tiles at the beginning or the end in order to play them with the high point tile on the Double Letter Score five squares away from the center star. Also, it is good technique to avoid putting vowels next to the Double Letter Score squares in the rows above and below the center star row (or to the left and right, if the word is played vertically). This avoids the danger of having the second player make a parallel play with a high point letter on the Double Letter Score, garnering four times the value of that letter.

Finally, a number of tournament players play their first word vertically, but the majority don't. It makes no difference, particularly in a casual game, since the board is symmetric, but some tournament players do it to throw their opponent off of their rhythm.

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