Teen takes game global

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 Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
 Austin Reed, 15, gathers his thoughts and waits to make his move in the card game Pokemon. He will take this strategy with him to Kona, Hawaii, for the World Pokemon Championship on Aug. 10-12.

As most childhood passions begin, it starts with waking up early Saturday or Sunday morning, flipping on the television set and settling down to watch your favorite cartoon.  

In 1998, it was no different for Austin Reed, then at the age of 6. In that year, he was introduced to the vibrant world of Pokemon, an adaptation of Japan’s Pocket Monsters. After watching the anime series, he found out about the trading cards and the game that went along with it, and was hooked.

"My sister used to play with the cards, but she outgrew it – I didn’t," said Reed who will be entering his sophomore year at Franklin Heights High School.

His interest in playing and learning the game eventually led to his being invited to compete in the upcoming World Pokemon Championship held in Kona, Hawaii on Aug. 10-12.

He started playing competitively five years ago, and in 2006, he placed fourth in the World Championship (held in Anaheim, Calif.), which led to his being invited to this year’s tournament.

"When we first started competing in these Pokemon Tournaments, we lost a lot," said Liz Reed, Austin’s mother who also plays. "Well, we pretty much lost every game, but it got us hooked. Despite losing, it was such a great experience."

During the tournament last year, Reed was pitted against others in the senior age bracket, which featured 11 to 14-year-olds. Since turning 15, he will now compete in the masters division. There is no age limit for the Pokemon TCG (Trading Card Game) World Championship.

"It’s so exciting to meet people from all over the world, which is what happens at these tournaments," said Liz. "They are just genuinely nice."

Nintendo, who sponsors the event, recently had to cut back on all those people for the 2007 World Championship. In fact, out of the 64 world citizens competing in the event, Reed is one of less than 15 players in the masters division who have qualified to represent the United States.

"Not only is he a great player, he’s a good kid," said Reed’s father Todd. "It’s hard to watch him play because you have to be quiet. I spend most of the time pacing."

The Pokemon TCG World Championship is set up like a chess tournament. The spectators stay outside of the action, while judges prowl around the contestants to make sure illegal happenings are not occurring. However, with all the onlookers and judges that abound, Reed remains unflappable.

"It’s like taking a test," he said. "I don’t prepare too much for it, I just wing it. Last year it worked (in the World Pokemon Championship). I didn’t play for a month before, and I won fourth place."

If Reed wins this tournament, he’ll come home with a first place trophy and a $7,500 scholarship.

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