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Celebrate National Scrabble Day On Saturday 13 April!

National Scrabble Day recognises the popular game of Scrabble which is played around the world. It coincides with the birthday of Alfred Mosher Butts in 1899; the man who invented the iconic board game.

The idea of Scrabble began in the USA during the Great Depression of 1929. Out of work architect Alfred Butts decided to create a game that people could enjoy during their free time. An avid puzzler, Butts combined the elements of anagrams and the classic crossword puzzle, and originally called it Lexiko, then Criss-Crosswords.

Since then, over 150 million sets have been sold in 121 countries, with 29 different language versions. There is a global network of Scrabble clubs with their own local and national championships. There’s also an international competition calendar, including an annual world championship that usually takes place in Las Vegas.

Not many people know that the most successful player in world championship history is a New Zealander - Nigel Richards has won a record five world titles between 2007 and 2019, and many other accolades along the way. Our most recent world champion is Dr. Alastair Richards (no relation), who won it in 2021.

New Zealand has had a club and competitive Scrabble scene since the late 1970s, run by the New Zealand Association of Scrabble Players (NZASP). There are currently 14 Scrabble Clubs and around 340 registered players, of whom about half play tournaments regularly.

To celebrate Scrabble Day, there are several events being held across the country. 

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WHAT: Dunedin Scrabble Tournament

WHERE: NZ Labour Party Dunedin South Branch, Bill Fraser Room, 68 Macandrew Road, South Dunedin

WHEN: Sat 13 April 9AM – 3PM & Sun 14 April 8.30AM - 3PM


WHAT: Scrabble Open Day @ Lamplight Books. Local player Alexander Gandar will host other players throughout the day, and encourage locals to get involved.

WHERE: Lamplight Books, 100 Parnell Rd, Parnell, Auckland

WHEN: Sat 13 April, 11AM – 4PM


WHAT: Top North American Scrabble player Chris Tallman hosts a session with local Hamilton players in a public setting, and encourages interested passers-by to play.

WHERE: A public venue TBC

WHEN: Sat 13 April, 11AM – 4PM


WHAT: Informal Scrabble session for youth ages 7+, for beginner and experienced players.

WHERE: Takaka Library, 3 Junction Street, Takaka

WHEN: Sat 13 April, 10AM - midday


The word "scrabble" means to "grope frantically”. The word has one anagram playable in Scrabble - “clabbers” meaning “to curdle or turn sour”.

As in chess, competitive Scrabble is played with a clock, generally with 25 minutes per player. Also as in chess, some players play a “blitz” version of the game – attempting to place all 100 tiles in just a single minute each.

In a strange twist, Hasbro owns the rights to Scrabble in the US and Canada, while Mattel owns the rights in the rest of the world (including New Zealand).

New Zealand’s current national Scrabble champion is Lyres Freeth (married to previous world champion Alastair Richards!).

New Zealand’s youngest ever tournament player was just 8 years old, while our oldest was 88. Currently our youngest registered club member is 11 years old, and our oldest is 96!

In the Polish version of Scrabble, the letter 'Z' is only worth one point.

The highest scoring four-letter word without premium squares isn’t QUIZ (22 points), but JAZY (23 points). It means a type of wig.

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