The semifinals Friday morning will eliminate more spellers, with the telltale bell signaling when the word has been spelled incorrectly.
The champion wins a trophy and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Among the semifinalists are three spellers who made the finals last year. Also advancing to the semis were a boy from New Zealand and a girl who represented Washington, D.C., last year and has since moved to Japan. Thirteen-year-old Sonia Schlesinger is believed to be the first person to represent two countries at the bee.