A Hispanic group in Texas is promoting the Spanish-language version of the popular word game Scrabble.

Created in the late 1930s by U.S. architect Alfred Mosher Butts, Scrabble has been sold in more than 120 countries and translated into more than 20 languages including Spanish.

Mexican journalist Norma Garza says Scrabble is an educational tool that encourages learning and trains the mental faculties of people at all ages.

"Thanks to Scrabble I've learned a series of words that are perfectly useless for my everyday life but are really interesting all the same. Its use also strengthens your mathematical ability because you have to count all the time, and it boosts your vocabulary enormously," Garza, who now lives in Austin, Texas, told Efe.

It was specifically in that city where the Texas Scrabble-in-Spanish Club was formed several years ago.

Hector Klie, a computer engineer with a PhD in mathematics, was the one who got the Scrabble craze going in Austin and later widened it to Houston.

"In almost the whole game, you have to play the probabilities of the letters on the Scrabble board, the ones you have on the tile rack and the possible letters left in the bag, and with each letter played you kind of figure out what your opponent might have," Klie said.

Scrabble is played on a game board of 15 squares by 15, and the object is to spell words that cross each other using tiles stamped each one with a letter and a certain numerical value.

The object of the game is to get the highest possible score, thanks also to the value that certain spaces have on the game board, and to know the greatest possible number of words in Spanish.

"According to Scrabble rules, not knowing the meaning of a word is not penalized, but it's good to know it because that makes you smarter," Klie said.

When there's a doubt about a word in the middle of the game, a judge is consulted who in turn looks it up in the latest edition of the dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, or RAE.

If the word is in the RAE dictionary, it counts.

Javier Guerrero, a Mexican businessman who has been taking part in international Scrabble competitions for 15 years, said that the game has your brain working non-stop.

"It's an exercise that requires both reasoning and mathematical strategy," he said.

"Though it's said that the mind is unable to perform several different functions simultaneously, in this game you're jumping back and forth from the lingistic to the strategic to the numeric several times in a single play," he said.

Guerrero, Garza and Klie arrived in Houston along with another 18 players from Latin America and the United States to take part in last weekend's regional tournament to classify for the world championship, being organized by the International Scrabble-in-Spanish Federation in Barcelona this coming October.

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