May 25, 2012 > Fremont student crowned Regional Pokemon Champion
Fremont student crowned Regional Pokemon Champion
By Catherine Kirch
Gerardo Gonzalez, age 11, was crowned West Regional Champion in this year's Pokemon Video Game Championship series at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton April 15. "The Pokemon Regional Championships brought out a passionate community of Pokemon players and fans from around the region," said J.C. Smith, director of Consumer Marketing for the Pokemon Company International. "Thank you to everyone who came out to support all of the Pokemon players, and we congratulate the winners who will now advance to the Pokemon U.S. National Championships."
Pokemon players are divided into three divisions: Masters Division (born in 1996 or earlier), Senior Division (born between 1997 and 2000), and Junior Division (born 2001 or after), in which Gerardo competed. Gerardo, who had competed and lost in the final round of Regional competition in 2011, worked hard to devise a new strategy, training himself as well as his Pokemon. Trusting his strategy and skill, he walked through the doors of the 2012 West Regional Championships with confidence.
For Gerardo, Pokemon is a family affair. His family watches and cheers him on, staying involved from start to finish as both a cheering section and support network. His brother, Luis, in particular has been influential, not only in helping him prepare for the competition, but in finding his Pokemon passion in the first place. "I remember watching my brother play," says Gerardo. "That's what made me want to play as well."
Now 15 years old, Luis was the West Regional Champion when he was Gerardo's age. He went on to Nationals and won, earning a ticket to World Championships in Florida that year. "He lost in Florida," recalls Gerardo, "but he had a really good time there. My brother helped me in a lot of ways to win this year's competition."
Luis, sister Lupe and his parents all watched as Gerardo competed in April. Lupe remembers how nerve-wracking the competition can be, even for onlookers. "He gives us a 'thumbs-up' or a 'thumbs-down' sign after a battle, and we're really nervous until he gives us the thumbs-up."
The Video Game Championship series works as a round-robin, in which each player, as they win or lose, plays against someone with the same record. 150 competitors in the Junior Division sat around three tables, facing their opponents, pitting Pokemon against Pokemon, strategy against strategy.
"They see your Pokemon and you can see theirs," explains Gerardo, "and you have to find the best strategy to beat them."
Gerardo describes his gaming style as relaxed, but focused, in the face of his opponents. "I try to talk them, smooth them a little, catch them off-guard, but I always try to stay focused as much as I can so I don't make any silly moves."
"It's really nerve-wracking to see him talking," says Lupe, "We want to say, 'Why are you talking to your opponent? Don't try to soften the blow.' He's making us nervous."
Five rounds passed, and Gerardo remained undefeated. Though proud of how much he has improved since last year, he remains humble, and says of his fellow players, "They were really strong, and I liked how they played. I congratulated them every time we finished a battle."
The most exciting moment of the competition occurred in the final round. Gerardo was to compete against the defending Regional Champion, Bernie Mora, to whom Gerardo lost just one year before.
"I was really nervous at the end, at the last battle," Gerardo recalls. "I was facing a person who had won five battles with no loss, and that's how I was playing."
"His opponent was getting really cocky throughout the other rounds," says Lupe. After all, Mora had placed 14th at Nationals last year, and had beaten Gerardo before.
"I was really nervous because he beat me last year," says Gerardo. "I wondered if he had gotten any better and if he knew my new strategy, but I managed to beat him by one move."
Gerardo's final move of the battle, called "Ice Beam," earned him the title of West Regional Champion. He will move on to compete in Pokemon Video Game National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, from June 29 to July 1, 2012.
Advancing in the competition is exciting for Gerardo who comments, "I will face other people who have won other Regional Championships. That means they're really tough, but I think I can do it."
Gerardo won't reveal his strategy - "It's a trade secret" - but remains confident that it will help him succeed in the next stage of competition.
"If I do win, I can go to Hawaii for the World Championships. And, of course, if I win at the World Championships, then I'll be the best Junior Pokemon Champion in the world!"
For more information about Pokemon tournaments, visit www.pokemon.com.