After surviving countless battles, Bowie resident Jonathan Eng, 10, has emerged as the best of the best in Maryland.
Jonathan’s championship status is not in rock climbing or soccer, all of which he plays, but in another hobby, card battles based around Pokémon, the popular Japanese video game and multimedia property.
Despite playing the card game for about two years, Jonathan was ranked first in Maryland and 15th in the nation among others who participate in professional battles as of Wednesday.
“I’m a very competitive person. When I win, I’m very excited,” he said.
Jonathan’s rating as a player, a number based on his win loss record, is 1914.35, putting him close behind the national leader, Kyle Sucevich of Wisconsin who has a score of 2021.44, according to records from the corporate website for Pokémon.
“He's really close. That can be just the matter of three games won,” said Donna Stockton-Eng, Jonathan’s mother who introduced him to the game.
Jonathan received a Pokémon deck as a gift in December 2010 and Stockton-Eng said she heard of a league in Rockville, where he learned how to play.
“Their card game is just like the computer one,” she said. “It’s just more strategy.”
With 349 points earned from having fought in regional tournaments, Jonathan is climbing the rankings and gaining experience to prepare him for the Pokémon Organized Play world tournament, scheduled for Aug. 9 to Aug. 11, 2013 in Vancouver, Canada.
Jonathan regularly plays matches with a group at Dream Wizards, a Rockville shop, where he got his start. The card game requires a mixture of skill, strategy, good cards and a bit of luck in order to beat an opponent, said Laurel Chiat, the store’s owner.
“It's a fun game but it's also a very well designed game,” she said. “In the hands of someone that's really good with strategy, there is a lot that you can do.”
Jonathan, a fifth-grader at Bowie’s St. Pius X Regional School, won a city championship in Leonardtown on Saturday. Fights have also taken him across the region with his most recent held Saturday in New Holland, Penn.
The hobby isn’t cheap though. In the time Jonathan has been playing, his mother said she has spent nearly $3,000 assembling a nearly complete set of all the Pokémon cards released since 1995.
There is some incentive for him to succeed beyond bragging rights.
The national tournament held July 5 to July 7, 2013 in Indianapolis, offers scholarship money. Similarly the world competition, which is primarily an invitation-only event, offers money to pay for everything from school to books. The amount given varies and is determined each year, but all of the Pokémon events give out about $100,000 in scholarships every year, according to the organization’s website.
Ultimately, winning the money though would be a nice bonus, said Chris Eng, Jonathan’s father.
“We’re happy that he’s happy,” he said.