Masters clash at the Pokémon International Championships

Feature article

Each year, Pokémon players across the world gather to find out which among them are the very best like no-one ever was. I’m talking about the Pokémon Championship Series, which features tournaments for both the video games and the Trading Card Game. Throughout the year, these tournaments are held  world-wide,  and players who win enough Champion Points (CP)  earn an invitation to the World Championships for a chance to prove themselves a true Pokémon Master. Across Febuary 15th-16th, the Melbourne Convention Centre played host to the Oceania Pokémon International Championships, and we got to see the experience first-hand.

Melbourne has hosted the Pokémon International Championships before, in 2017. But this is the first time the event has been held at the Melbourne Convention Centre, which is home to PAX AUS, SupaNova, and other huge events.

The championship events – video game, trading card game, and Pokken – are open to all ages, and offer the chance for rewards: Championship Points, as well as on-the-spot prizes. There were rows upon rows of tables filled with people of all ages playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and even the lounge outside the hall was filled with people winding down with a cup of coffee,  3DS in hand.

I got to see the masters themselves battle,  with helpful close-ups from the stream that was running simultaniously on Twitch. It honestly was strikingly similar to a real sporting event, complete with commentary. Those of you who watch Esports won’t be suprised to hear that, as championships for games like Overwatch, Dota 2, and Super Smash Bros. have been drawing huge crowds for years. But it was still strange to see a game I’d been playing since my tweens treated like a professional sport.

The tournament was played using Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. If you’re familiar with competetive Pokémon, you’ll know that it’s pretty common to see near-identical teams and strategies. That hasn’t changed – I didn’t see a team that didn’t contain an Incineroar or a Xerneas.  Though that’s a shame, there isn’t much to be done about that. In these high-stakes battles, there isn’t a lot of room for personal flare.

The final match took place on the Saturday, and was between Australian Luke Curtale and Portugese Eduardo Cunha. It was an extremely close battle, with Eduardo eventually winning out with 2 wins to Luke’s 1. He will be Oceania’s champion this time, which means he’ll very likely be receiving an invitation to the Pokemon World Championships later this year. This isn’t the last chance for the runners-up though, they’ll have more chances to earn Championship Points at other official events.

If you missed any of the action this weekend, you can catch up to date with the Pokemon YouTube’s Championships playlist. Though nowhere near as large an event as SupaNova or PAX AUS, it still carried the same excited energy but without such a bustling crowd. It’s tough to know whether Melbourne will be hosting next year’s Pokémon International Championships too, but I hope so!