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11-year-old Elkhart boy competes in National Pokemon Championships in Indianapolis

An 11-year-old Elkhart boy got to hang out with a gigantic Pikachu and compete with other Pokemon players from all over the world during the competition in early July.

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 4:02 p.m.

While most people were enjoying fireworks or backyard barbecue on the Fourth of July, an 11-year-old Elkhart boy battled his Pokémon against other Pokémon trainers from all over the world.

Diego Merino and his father, immigration attorney Felipe Merino, spent July 4 to July 6 at the Indiana Convention Center for the U.S. National Championships for the Pokémon Video Game Championship Series.

What is a Pokémon battle?
A Pokémon battle involves usually two people (called “trainers”) who use up to six Pokémon to battle each other. Each Pokémon has four individual attacks. The Pokémon take turns using the attacks on each other until one runs out of a limited number of “hit points.”

While Merino played in a tournament in Fort Wayne a few months ago, this was his first big competition.

“For me, it was indescribable,” he said during a phone interview. “I was surprised to see all of those people.”

An estimated 5,000 people attended the event, which, in addition to the video game competition, also included a competition for the Pokémon Trading Card Game.

Attendees dressed up in costume, including someone who dressed as Pikachu, the most recognizable character from the anime TV show and video game.

Merino found out about the event in June and signed up after he had his father’s permission. Then he spent the next two or three weeks playing his Pokémon Y video game on his Nintendo 3DS to prepare.

“My dad likes that I play Pokémon because you have to read and strategize to win,” he said. Each Pokémon has its own skills, strengths and weaknesses, and therefore, trainers have to think about which to include in the lineup. It can’t change once the competition begins.

He used Venasaur, Garchomp, Skarmory, Ampharos, Charizard and Greninja for the battles in Indianapolis.

“Some of them are just personal favorites,” Merino said. “The others, I didn’t have enough time to train, so I just picked my best ones.”

Merino battled in the senior division because he was born between 1999 and 2002. Junior division entrants were born in 2003 or later, while master division competitors were born in 1998 or earlier.

Merino battled other trainers from all over the United States, Canada and France in his division.

“It was fun but also nerve-wracking,” he said. “If you lose too many times, you won’t make the top cut.” 

In the end, Merino placed 155th out of more than 250 people in his division. He won three battles and lost five.And he’s already looking forward to competing again. He already registered to compete at another tournament in Indianapolis this winter.

“If I win enough mini-tournaments, I’ll be able to go to the world championships in D.C.,” he said. That’s his goal, even if he doesn’t get there this year.

And when he goes to the tournaments, his dad will be there to cheer him on. 


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