Jem Burch and Eli Shear-Baggish.Jem Burch and Eli Shear-Baggish, right, ponder their tiles.

Eli Shear-Baggish, a 12-year-old Arlington resident, competed in the 2015 North American School Scrabble Championship May 16-17 at the Hasbro Worldwide Headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I.

He and his teammate won trophies for fifth place overall -- among a total of 58 teams -- and for sixth-grade win.

In one outstanding performance, they beat their opponents, from Texas, by a score of 506-232.

Shear-Baggish is a student at the Lesley Ellis School in Arlington, while his teammate, Jem Burch, is home-schooled and lives in Los Angeles, Calif.

The two boys, who called their team "Thunder and Lightning," were paired by Scrabble coach Cornelia Guest and had been playing Scrabble online together for the last several months in preparation for the tournament.

On Friday night, May 15, just before the weekend tournament was the first time that they met face to face.

The tournament is an annual event for young people -- two players per team from grades four through eight -- representing schools and other youth organizations from across the United States and Canada.

Highest turn 

His mother, Melanie Shear, wrote that Eli finds that Scrabble "is a creative, fun and interesting experience, and it gives you a chance to learn."

The highest turn he ever played, during a computer Scrabble game, was BREADING, for 149 points.

Shear-Baggish is not only a Scrabble aficionado; he engages in all kinds of wordplay. He is the youngest person ever to have had an original puzzle used by puzzle master Will Shortz on NPR's "Weekend Edition," writes his father, Steve.

When not pursuing this particular passion, Shear-Baggish enjoys hiking, real estate and playing with his dog, Juno.

His father commented: "He did magnificently at this year’s event, not only playing against top-notch competitors at a game he loves, but learning about grace under pressure, teamwork, and good sportsmanship - all while having fun and making new friends.

Shear-Baggish looks forward to competition in 2016.


This story was published Tuesday, May 19, 2015.