With our LCT coming up this weekend, I've put together a short list of what I see are key differences between rated games and casual games at club, in hopes that this might be useful for those with no (or limited) experience with playing official rated games.
I would also encourage all players to review the complete NASPA official rules document at http://www.scrabbleplayers.org/wiki/images/a/a6/Naspa_rules_feb2010_printFinal.pdf
That said, here's the list; comments/feedback welcome:
1) If ANYTHING unusual happens during a game that either you or your opponent is unsure of how to handle (i.e., overdraws, improper exchange, etc.), neutralize your clock and call for the director. Please do not be bashful about this, it is what John and Steve are here for.
2) Players are expected to be QUIET and refrain from distracting others during tournament games. Conversation should be limited to what is necessary for gameplay (announcing scores, challenges, etc.). This is perhaps the biggest difference from casual games at club. Comments like, “Geez, this is my third straight rack with all vowels!”, while common in informal games, are not allowed in tournament games.
3) It is illegal to have any visible papers in your playing area beside your current game score sheet, your contestant tally card, challenge and blank-designation slips and blank sheets that can be used as scratch paper during the game.
4) You are expected to play the complete game, from start to finish. Resigning is almost never allowed, regardless of the score or apparent hopelessness of the game. It is also illegal to “tank” a game or deliberately play poorly.
5) Drawing tiles. Note that the bag must be held at or above eye level, and that the drawing hand should be opened before reaching into the bag.
6) Overdraws. Familiarize yourself with the procedure for overdraws, detailed in section IV.B.4 of the rules (link above). If you or your opponent have ANY doubt on how to handle this situation in a game, please call a director for assistance.
7) Exchanges. Note that tiles to be exchanged MUST be placed face down on the table prior to hitting your clock. The tiles on the table are the ones that are exchanged, REGARDLESS of the number of tiles that you announce you're exchanging.