Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by forming words from individual lettered tiles on a game board marked with a 15-by-15 grid. The words are formed across and down in crossword fashion and must appear in a standard dictionary. Official reference works (i.e. Collins Scrabble Words in the UK) provide a list of permissible words, many of which are rarely found in standard English writing. Scrabble operates to a different dictionary to Countdown, so many contestants make this mistake.
The name Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the US and Canada and of J. W. Spear & Sons PLC (a subsidiary of Mattel) elsewhere. Scrabble was a trademark of Murfett Regency in Australia, until 1993 when it was acquired by Spear. The game is also known as Alfapet, Funworder, Skip-A-Cross, Spelofun and Palabras Cruzadas ("crossed words").
In 1991, the inaugural World Scrabble Championship was held and was sponsored by Spears. It was held biannually and from 1993 onwards, sponsorship alternated between Hasbro and Mattel until 2005, when Hasbro stopped sponsoring the event. Since then Mattel have sponsored every WSC. In 2013 Mind Sports International (otherwise known as Mind Sports Academy) began organising the event alongside Mattel and renamed it "Scrabble Champions Tournament" to be held annually. However the 2015 event was cancelled, so the World English-language Scrabble Players' Association (WESPA) organised their own unofficial World Championships (known as WESPAC), in which Lewis Mackay finished runner-up. In 2016 MSI renamed the event again: the MSI World Championships, which were won by Brett Smitheram. The 2017 event was the MSA World Scrabble Championship, and was held in the Old Museum in the Nottingham Conference Centre between the 22nd and 27th of August where a record 35 preliminary games were scheduled. Harshan Lamabadusuriya finished runner-up in that event.
The game is sold in 121 countries in 29 different language versions. One hundred million sets have been sold worldwide, and sets are found in one out of every three American homes and out out of every two British homes.
As of December 2017, 23 of the 77 Countdown series champions have been regular tournament Scrabble players at the time of their appearance. Of these 21 players, Joyce Cansfield, David Acton, Stewart Holden and Clive Spate have represented England at the World Scrabble Championships, Alan Sinclair has represented Scotland and Gareth Williams has represented Wales. The show's former producer and Champion of Champions I winner Mark Nyman has also represented England at the World Championships, and won the event in 1993. Series 57 champion Craig Beevers became England's second World Scrabble Champion after winning the 2014 Scrabble Champions Tournament in London, and Smitheram became England's third after beating Nyman in the final of the MSI World Championships in Lille, France. Nyman, Smitheram, McKay and Championship of Champions XII winner Paul Gallen have all been ranked number 1 in the world by the World English-Language Scrabble Players' Association.