A pee spells trouble for Scrabble champion

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The Independent Online
A former national Scrabble champion is claiming that spending a penny in the Burstin Hotel cost him victory in a scrabble tournament - and pounds 200 in prize money.

Mike Goldman, a solicitor, is suing competition organisers for pounds 5,000 following his loss in the second match of an 11-game Scrabble tournament in December 1990. Yesterday he told Central London County Court how he decided to go to the lavatory during his opponent's turn. To get there he had to fight his way through five crowded rooms and negotiate a convention of cowboys and cowgirls. When he finally reached the lavatories, he had to queue.

Any relief gained by Mr Goldman, 62, was short-lived.

He returned to his seat 10 minutes later to find his opponent, Cambridge Scrabble Club member John Rusted, had scored 76 points with the word "fanners" (which used up all his letters) and then started the timing clock for Mr Goldman's move. Mr Goldman, who said he told the tournament director where he was going, claimed he was not warned the game might start without him. "If I had had the extra four minutes I think in the circumstances my superior skill would have enabled me to overcome the disability of 76 points and very probably win the game," he said. "I believe I was being cheated and deprived of the opportunity of winning the tournament and a little bit of recognition."

Mr Goldman is seeking aggravated damages from three Association of Premier Scrabble Players' officials. Graeme Thomas, Clive Spate and Allan Simmons all deny liability.

Mr Goldman's barrister, Michael Duggan, told Judge Anthony Hallgarten QC, that the central issue was whether the organisers were under a contractual duty to apply the rules "fairly, reasonably and prop- erly", and whether sufficient time had been allotted between games for visits to the loo.

The case continues today.