Culver City Edition Lead Story

Culver City student adds Scrabble title to trophy shelf

CULVER CITY — Lucky 13, a team composed of eighth grader Cooper Komatsu of Culver City Middle School and his seventh-grade partner Jem Burch of Van Nuys, earlier this month won the 2016 North American School Scrabble Championship in their age division.

Komatsu, a champion speller, and Burch became friends four years ago over a shared love of the game.

Competing in a field of 85 teams from all over the United States and Canada, Komatsu and Burch withstood eight rounds over a period of two days to win it all.

They played their games on April 9 and 10 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the New England Patriots play football in the fall.

After all their practice and studying, Lucky 13 won $10,000, trophies and the bragging rights of being the best fourth- through eighth-grade student players in North America.

The team scored favorite bingos — 50-point bonus plays — on words like “awaited,” “docilely,” and “agnosia,” which Merriam Webster defines as “a loss of ability to recognize familiar objects.”

Their high winning point total was 521 points, with an average score of 452 points per game.

Komatsu is passionate about Scrabble as a tool for memory, math, word knowledge and fun. He said he wants to share his interest with other students his age, perhaps by starting a high school club next year when he attends Culver City High School.

Now that the tournament is over, he is ready to switch back to studying for the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will take place in National Harbor, Maryland, on May 25 and 26, and will be televised on ESPN.

“Cooper also looks forward to finishing off his eighth-grade year at Culver City Middle School with a trip to Magic Mountain and other end-of-middle-school festivities,” said his mother, Deborah. “This year has truly been his Lucky 13.”