Cooper Komatsu and Jem Burch win the National School Scrabble Championship!

Cooper Komatsu and Jem Burch, two 13-year olds from the Los Angeles area, have won the National School Scrabble Championship! You can play along with the final game here: http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=23279#0 – thank you to Craig Beevers for the annotation.

This year, the championship was held at the New England Patriots stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Featuring over 100 2-person teams, this is the largest NSSC so far. The tournament consists of 7 2-on-2 games across 2 days, and each team is given 30 minutes to make their move. The rules are largely the same as those of “adult” tournament Scrabble, but the dictionary is an expurgated one with no curse words. Wouldn’t want to teach the kids any bad words!

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Cooper Komatsu and Jem Burch win the 2016 NSSC as part of team Lucky 13 (apparently a reference to their ages)

I (Cesar) remember the first time Cooper came to Los Angeles Club #44 with his mom Deborah. He was just 6 years old! And he already showed a lot of promise. Early in his club career he was already taking down expert players, making bingos and scoring left and right. I never got to play him, but I’m sure it would have been a good game. He became good friends with Jem Burch, another young player, in the coming years.

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The youngest and oldest members of Club 44 at the time – 82 years separate Cooper Komatsu and Ralph Crosby (who is sadly no longer with us, RIP)

Jem and Cooper came to a lot of our LA tournaments in the last few years, always placing well and often beating experts along the way. I remember at one tournament in Long Beach there was a little basketball hoop and rim where we were playing for prizes and Cooper and Jem were owning it.

Jem and Cooper both play quite fast and still make good plays despite this. I thought this would serve them well at the NSSC and I’m not surprised at all that they won it. They played the final game at a very high level – you can see some great plays in the board picture above. You can also see the stream of the final game here. Some plays of note: a natural 7-letter bingo AGNOSIA, making GESTATES. Also, the word QUARrELS, for what appears to be 101 points, AWAITED, JARINA, GOFER, and some other cool parallel plays.

Craig Beevers, 2014 World Scrabble Champion, had the following to say about their game in a Facebook forum:

I watched all the games today and caught bits of yesterday. They played a really great game in the final, pretty much flawless and kept their nerve in the endgame. Congrats and well played.

Very impressive, and looking forward to what Cooper and Jem achieve in the Scrabble world over the next few years.

Congratulations to Cooper and Jem!

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