With the Middle School Brain Bowl National Championship Tournament coming up, David Dennis, Washington Middle School’s Brain Bowl coach, is preparing the team for the big competition.

The tournament, hosted by the NAQT (National Association of Quiz Tournaments), is being held in Chicago, April 20-22.

The Washington Middle School Brain Bowl team was invited to attend the national tournament after it won a tournament hosted in Tuscumbia in January.

The team has participated in tournaments in Ladue, St. James and Richland. They also hosted a tournament in March.

“This is my sixth year as a coach, and easily the busiest year I’ve ever had,” said Dennis. “Before this year, we had gone to — at most — three tournaments a year, but nationals will be our seventh (tournament) this year.”

This year’s team consists of about 13 players in grades seven and eight. When tournament time comes, the team is usually divided into several groups including a Washington A and B team.

Having more than one team play allows more students to compete, Dennis said.

This school year, Washington’s A team has had a record of 35-3 and the entire team has had a record of 64-15 with a few of the losses coming from the times one Washington team beat another Washington team.

So far, besides losing to the Washington B team, the Washington A team has only lost its first match against Clever Middle School, and has beaten that team twice since then.

“All Brain Bowl is — is common knowledge. It allows you to learn a wide variety of things,” said Grant Broeder, an eighth-grade Brain Bowl player.

Along with teams, members of Brain Bowl have participated in individual tests taken in Washington’s own tournaments.

This format is unique to Washington and no other schools in Missouri use the format. Students are able to compete in math, communication arts, science, social studies, or arts and humanities.

Dennis said that he likes this method because it gives everyone a chance to show off the depth of their knowledge and any knowledge in a particular area. Through tests, students can be rewarded.

“I enjoy the challenge, and Mr. Dennis is awesome,” said Logan Gillig, a WMS Brain Bowl member.

As for studying, the team meets two to four times a week to practice.

“Studying for competitions is tricky,” said Dennis. “You don’t know what they’re going to ask, but there are some things in each subject that tend to come up often.”

Outside of school, team members have taken it on themselves to study certain books and artists that come up a lot. Team A has been working on strengthening its knowledge in literature and art.

“The most important thing I can do at practice is make sure I read good questions,” Dennis said.

Dennis likes to read questions in a “pyramid” style, starting with very hard clues and slowly getting to easier clues. By the time the last sentence rolls around, most players know the answer.

Brain Bowl is an open group with no tryouts. All students need to do is come and practice.

“It’s a good way to meet new people, and it’s just fun,” said Broeder. “You don’t have to be a ‘brainiac’ to do it.”

Dennis, who also is the select choir and mixed chorus teacher at WMS, enjoys coaching because it gives him something to do that isn’t related to music, and it is something he did growing up.

The team and countless others, including about 24 teams from just the Midwest, are staying in Chicago starting Friday, ready for the tradition of pizza and buzzers.

“Hopefully we win,” said Broeder.