If a player forms any word on the board that an opponent believes is not in the agreed-upon dictionary, the opponent can challenge the word. If the word is found in the dictionary, the person challenging it will lose a turn. If the word is not in the dictionary, it must be removed from the board, and the person who played it receives no points for that turn. A play can be challenged until someone else plays, but after that, the word will remain on the board (even if it is found to not be in the dictionary later).
This rule suggests strategies.
Is it possible to draw a person into challenging a word that you know is legitimate? Is it possible to play a doubtful (or even a made up) word, and avoid being challenged? Yes, and yes. Both of these acts are known as bluffing.
For the first scenario, you can lay down the tiles somewhat tentatively, and express your doubt that the word is in the dictionary, "but it might be worth a shot" and you may draw a challenge. For this bluff to be believable, the word clearly needs to be worth the risk of losing a challenge.
For the second scenario, it is important to establish your mastery of the game first. Play some obscure words. When people question the word (whether they have challenged it or not), supply a definition. It helps a lot if your definition matches the one found in the dictionary when your word is challenged.
If you survive a challenge once, you may scare your opponent away from the dictionary. The more often you survive a challenge, the less likely your opponents are to mount another. However, it is important to assess the skill of your opponent before doing this. If it becomes obvious that your opponent knows all the two-letter words, don't try to bluff a two-letter word.
A particularly nasty strategy is to bluff a dubious word onto the board, supply a convincing definition that suggests the word can be pluralized (or turned into a past tense word, etc), and then wait for your opponent to pounce on extending that word (say, to reach a triple-word score). When they strike, you can challenge them. Your play will stand, but their modification of your bogus word will have to be removed. You will be loathed, so if you care about the relationship you have with your opponent outside the game, this may be a bad idea.
When should you challenge? That depends on how sure you are of the word being in the dictionary, how skillful you believe your opponent to be, and how many points a successful challenege will set them back. It also depends on what their play does to the board. If it opens a closed board, will you receive a greater benefit from letting a dubious play stand, or forcing your opponent into a zero-point play? Has the dubious play opened an opportunity for you?
Also remember that if there is any doubt whatsoever on the final play of the game, you have nothing to lose from mounting a challenge.Last modified on 4 February 2011, at 18:12