Lots of people around the world love Pokémon, but one Chilliwack teenager is hoping his passion for the trading card game takes him all the way to Europe.
13-year-old Liam Merrick has qualified to compete in the Pokémon World Cup, an event scheduled for August 18–21, 2022 in London, England. The trip would be a dream come true for the youth, who recently showed his devotion to all things Pokémon with a 24-hour live stream on his Twitch channel.
He ended up going into overtime,pushing through 25 hours with activities that included lessons on how to play the game and how he makes art out of bananas. Not necessarily Pokémon related, but a lot of fun.
At one point Merrick had over 160 people watching the stream, including the reigning world champion, Henry Brand. Towards the end of the marathon, he participated in an online tournament, where he was competing against adults, and ended up placing third.
Merrick did it as a fundraiser, bringing in $3,981 from the GoFundMe, plus a $40 donation and $75 from a bottle drive.
The money is needed because the journey to London carries a price tag of $5,000.
“I want to compete in London as a passage of rights. I feel like I will be able to prove myself worthy by competing in a place where only the best of the best get to play,” he said. “Part of my passage of rights is doing all the work needed to get there, and that means raising the money to actually have the ability to go to London. This experience has taught me about goal setting and persistence and is helping me feel like I can complete difficult tasks.”
The youth describes himself as having high functioning autism and says it gives him hyper focus for certain things.
While most kids play at a casual level, Merrick treats Pokémon like a professional poker player treats a game of Texas Hold-Em. He’s constantly calculating odds and thinking several steps ahead.
“I see patterns well and I’m very good at math, and that makes me love the game,” said Merrick, who likens the game of Pikachu to the gold standard of strategy, chess. “For me, I see the strategy as ‘If this, then that,’ and every battle has a unique strategy. You also must be thinking, ‘OK, so I have 20 cards left in my deck. Two of those cards will win me the game, and if I play a supporter that draws three cards that means I have a 30 per cent chance of wining the game this turn.’
“One must constantly be crunching the numbers to maximize the greatest outcome.”
Merrick had hoped to go to the Pokémon World Cup when he originally qualified, two years ago. But COVID put that on hold.
Thankfully, the 350 points he earned in 2020 travelling to tournaments in Canada and the United States are still valid. He will be facing older competition if he makes it to London, but he said he’s stayed sharp with a training regimen that includes tons of online play.
“With in person competitions being cancelled all play went online,” he noted. “I prefer playing in person, but online was a great way to keep practising. Basically, you go to www.play.limitlesstcg.com, pick a tournament and play in it. My friends and I join voice calls and stream our matches. While it’s not the same as playing in person it is the next best thing.”
The farthest Merrick has travelled so far to play Pokémon is Portland, Oregon.
England is just a little bit further away, but he is determined to get there, and believes he’ll do well when he does.
“I think that the experience will be exhilarating, and I think it will be very cool to see my friends and compete amongst really, really, really high calibre Pokémon players, such as Azul Griego, Tord Reklev, Henry Brand and Steven Ivanoff,” he said. “As for the actual event, I think it will be very overwhelming in many ways, but it will be equally extraordinary. I think I will place in the mid tier because I have struggles with crowds and loud environments. I also get nervous around large bodies of people because of my autism, and I am actively working on it.
“I will still aim for first place, but placing high is not my main goal. Having fun is. I would like to place high, but it is better to have fun.”