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Pokémon go! Capital teens set to compete in trading card world championships

Ottawa’s Owen Hills and Gatineau’s Jack Moore will head to London to face off against the world’s best and a chance to win $25,000

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Like many elite competitors, it’s a mix of nerves and excitement that greets Owen Hills as he thinks about his upcoming competition.

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In a matter of days, he’ll be overseas, drawing on years of practice and tournament experience as he goes head-to-head with the best in the world in their chosen pursuit, Pokémon.

The premiere players of the trading card game, not to be confused with the collections that most people are familiar with, or the video games that many others know and love, will compete for bragging rights — and $25,000 case — in the 2022 Pokémon World Championships, taking place in London.

Sixteen-year-old Hills developed his passion for the card game about five years ago, alongside friends at Sunday afternoon tournaments at local card shop Carta Magica. Unlike other hobbies he’s picked up and then tired of after a few months, Hills said playing Pokémon has never stopped being fun. And if he was going to keep playing, he’s figured, “might as well try and become as best as I can at it.”

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Fellow players from the area that he’s come to know have kept Hills committed to the pastime, he said. They’ve got group chats where they work on decks, frequent visits to each others’ homes, and tournaments where they compete, both side-by-side and against one another, with the goal of making the world championships.

Owen Hills, left, and Jack Moore will be competing in Pokémon the card game at the 2022 Pokémon World Championships in London on August 18.
Owen Hills, left, and Jack Moore will be competing in Pokémon the card game at the 2022 Pokémon World Championships in London on August 18. Photo by Cathy Jo Noble /Supplied photo

On Thursday, the Brookfield high school student will compete in London alongside his close friend, Gatineau’s Jack Moore, and about 500 others who’ve climbed to the heights of Pokémon card gameplay through qualifying points accumulated at lower-level competitions.

“Something that I always kind of say is that there’s a difference between … what your goal is and what you’ll be happy with achieving,” said Hills, when asked about his mindset going into the championship. “I don’t think someone should be going into a tournament with the goal to not be winning the whole thing. I don’t think someone’s goal should be anything other than that. But I would be happy with making the second day of the tournament.”

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It’ll take four days for the winner to be crowned, with the competition field narrowing as players are eliminated. Hills is one of a group of local Pokémon card game players travelling to England. Three have qualified for the championships, while others registered for a tournament called “the Open,” where Hills plans to play if he’s knocked out on Day One.

“I think like, no matter how I do, I won’t be that disappointed just because just making it to the world championships has been like a huge goal of mine for a long time,” said Hills. He’ll be travelling to England with his dad, with a proud mom at home.

“Most kids when they … are competing at this kind of level, it’s in a sport. And this is really unique. But Owen and Jack are unique young men,” said Cathy Jo Noble.

“The time they commit and the thought they give to building their deck. It’s … I don’t know if I want to say inspiring, but I would say it’s really nice to see somebody find their passion so young in life and just stick with it.”

The Pokémon World Championships trading card game matches will be streamed on Twitch starting at 4 a.m. Eastern Time Thursday.

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