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Bremerton youngster vies for Pokémon title
A national Pokémon championship might just be in the cards for Bremerton fourth-grader Andy Younger.
Younger, a Pokémon Organized Play competitor, is on a hot streak of late, having earned back-to-back-to-back state titles in Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. He then placed second in the Western Regional Championship and is currently ranked fourth in the world in his age group.
As a result of all of his success, Younger and his parents, Kristina and Eric, will have a paid trip in July to Indianapolis where Andy will compete in the 2014 Pokémon U.S. National Championships. He’s also gearing up to attend the 2014 Pokémon World Championships in Washington D.C. in August, which is an invitational.
Pokémon was launched in Japan in 1996 and today is one of the most popular children’s entertainment properties in the world. In the trading card game, a winner is declared when one player’s Pokémon are defeated, a player collects all of their prize cards or one player’s cards run out. Each card has certain strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Players build their own decks of 60 cards based on strategy and fine-tuning as they go.
Pokémon competitors are divided equally into three divisions: Junior Division (born in 2002 or later), Senior Division (born in 1998–2001), and Masters Division (born in 1997 or earlier).
Younger, who has been playing Pokémon for about two-and-half years, competes in the Junior Division. He says he will “probably” do very well at the national championships.
“There’s a bunch I like about the game,” said Andy. “Making your opponent mad is one of them.”
While Andy likes to win, he also likes to have fun.
“When I watch him play tournaments, I can’t tell if he’s winning or losing,” said his dad, Eric. “Parents are supposed to stay away, you know, not be right there, and he always has a smile on his face. Even if he’s losing. I can’t tell.”
The game also includes an element of chance.
“Yeah, there’s a bunch of luck in it, like flipping heads or tails on a dice,” said Andy, who has both won and lost due to the fickle nature of fate.
Younger is an only child and his dad, who unlike Andy will have to register to play at nationals, says he enjoys playing the game with his son.
“I enjoy playing, but he’s smarter than I am when it comes to Pokémon,” said Eric. “He’s a much better player than I am.”
After Andy competed at the world championships last year, Eric and Kristina decided to reign in the amount of time that Pokémon was taking up in the family’s lives.
“As parents, we said to Andy, we’re not going to do that much Pokémon stuff because we had spent lots of weekends doing this,” said Eric. “We’re a close family, but it was taking too much time.”
Besides, Andy has plenty of other hobbies, including playing drums, swimming and spending time in the Cub Scouts. But then Andy went on a state-title winning streak and nearly won the regional championship.
“We weren’t going to go to nationals, but they’re paying for us to go,” said Eric. “Despite our efforts to say we’re not going to concentrate on Pokémon this year, here we are.”
Andy’s advice to those that might be interested in learning how to play Pokémon is simple.
“Go get a starter deck and then you’ll learn,” he said. “That’s what I did.”