Four middle schoolers are about to head to Florida for the National School Scrabble Championship. But for now, they're having their last practice game in a Belmont dining room.
"This entire year, well, half a year really, we've been practicing just for this one sort of moment; so I'm very excited for it," Chris Fellowes said.
Fellowes, a sixth grader at Tierra Linda Middle School, and his classmate Ally Stein compete as a team.
"We know each other very well and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses," Stein said.
Across the table Rajiv Nelakanti and Vineet Mudupalli, from Sunnyvale, make up the other half of the Bay Scrabble Club, which has won the state championship four times.
Tournament Scrabble has its own dictionary that's missing some common words like "Zen," but has lots of other little words you've never heard of.
All that learning takes motivation from a good coach.
"I try to enable them to be empowered in their learning in this game. So they can study word lists as much as they want, or as little as they want," Jeff Martinov said.
It makes their parents awfully proud; not just about scoring high, but about playing the game.
"I watch her gracefully win and lose, and deal with the boys," Missy Stein said.
"Being polite and being a good sport; they start to embrace, those values become important to them because they know it's part of being a good player but also being a good person," Martinov said.
The team has four spots open for next year for 4th through 8th graders.