11-year-old Tigard boy named national champion in Pokemon cards

St. Denis shakes hands with rival Hayden Prytz, of Newberg after winning the national championship, Sunday. The duo regularly play against one another in their local Pokemon league.Before he left for Indianapolis, Carson St. Denis expected to lose.

He came home a national champion.

St. Denis is a master in the world of Pokémon trading cards, a strategy game that pits imaginary monsters against one another in battle.

After three days of battles at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., Carson claimed the first place victory in the junior division on Sunday, securing his title as one of the best players in the world.

“There was a lot of really good people there,” Carson told The Times after he won. “I figured I could do well if I was let off easy.”

Getting let off easy wasn’t what happened, and Carson had to face his hometown rival: Hayden Prytz from Newberg, in the national championships.

The two play in the same league and regularly play against one another.

“You could tell there was this moment where he knew he was going to win it,” said his dad Carson St. Denis, who watched his son’s victory online from their home in Tigard. “He had the winning card in his hand and he turned to his mom and showed the card to her. He got this big smile on his face, and played the card and he won it and the crowd erupted. There were a lot of people rooting for him.”

Gotta read 'em all!

The Times sat down with Carson after he qualified for the national championships and learned more about the game, and how he got into it.

St. Denis wears noise canceling headphones during the championship battle against Newberg's Hayden Prytz at the Pokemon National Championships in Indianapolis IndianaAbout 2,000 players made the trek to Indiana for the competition.

It’s a complicated game to master, his dad said.

“I don’t think people really understand how hard and complex it is,” Curtis St. Denis said. “There’s something in his brain that lets him be able to understand all the rules.”

Players work to have the best hand possible, wiping out the other player’s team.

Carson first heard about the game from a friend, but didn’t start playing until he was in the third grade.

He didn’t start competing professionally until last year.

“It takes a different kind of brain to do what he is able to do,” his dad said.

Curtis stayed home while Carson and his mom were in Indianapolis, and Curtis said he was texting with his wife and son constantly, asking for updates on his progress.

“I was gripped to my cellphone,” he said. “I would get texts that said he had made it to the final eight, or the quarter finals, and then one that said ‘Your son is going to the national championships tomorrow morning.’ I had trouble falling asleep that night.”

As national champion, the 11-year-old won a $5,000 college scholarship, and will have his trip to the world championships in Vancouver, British Columbia in August paid for.

So how does he think he’ll do at the World Championships? Carson’s trademark pessimism comes through again.

“I don’t expect to do nearly as well as I did in nationals,” he said.

Regardless of how he does in Vancouver, Curtis said his son is already a champion at home.

“We are extremely proud of him,” he said. “He has put lot of time energy and effort into it. (Being named national champion) was certainly something that he deserved."

The World Championships begin Aug. 9 at at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

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