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Pokémon enthusiast from Ashford to go to Hawaii for World Championships

A 12-year-old boy is preparing to travel more than 7,000 miles for the trip of a lifetime to compete in the Pokémon World Championships in Hawaii.

Having honed his skills over the last five years, Harrison Holden-Smith now ranks 12th in the UK for the complicated trading card game, as well as 37th in Europe.

He spends his free time at competitions across both this country and further afield in an attempt to improve his game and rack up championship points.

Now, with $50,000 on offer to first place, the Ashford schoolboy will face his biggest competition yet with players from all over the world when he travels to Honolulu in August.

Speaking to KentOnline, Harrison said: “It was really exciting when I found out I was going to Hawaii because I’d worked really hard.

“We had to go to loads of league cups and regional competitions so that I could try to earn as many points as I could.

“I remember when I qualified at Liverpool, I earned the last 60 points I needed to come in the top 32. I was buzzing.”

Harrison says he has about 10,000 Pokémon cards in his collection
Harrison says he has about 10,000 Pokémon cards in his collection

Harrison is the proud owner of about 10,000 Pokémon cards.

The game itself requires speed, quick maths and strategic thinking - and is won by knocking out opponents’ Pokémons.

Harrison first started playing when he was seven and asked his mum for a deck of cards after seeing his school friends trade them.

But his mum, Kelly Holden-Smith, was keen for him to also learn how to play the game.

“It’s a sport not a lot of people have heard of,” she said.

“I grew up playing Pokémon and played it casually but it was nowhere near the same as it is now.

“Harrison was in Year 2 or 3 in primary school when he asked for some but I told him they were quite expensive so if we did get them, I wanted to make sure he used them and learnt to play.”

Harrison competes all over the UK
Harrison competes all over the UK

Harrison went to his local board game shop in Ashford, Consulting Gamer, for a learn-to-play session and has stuck with the game ever since.

When lockdown hit, he had more time to practise and when asked what board game he wanted to play, the then-eight-year-old would often reach for Pokémon.

After restrictions were lifted, Harrison would return to Consulting Gamer to play casually every Friday, but often, there were not a lot of children.

It was about round a year ago that Harrison asked if his parents would take him to his first regional competition.

There were about 40 children in Europe taking part, and Harrison came 19th.

One of his best achievements was this Champion poster
One of his best achievements was this Champion poster

This year is Harrison's last year competing as a junior, so his parents wanted to give him as many opportunities to play while he is still in this age category.

This has seen the family travel all over Europe for competitions, which has helped Harrison earn enough points to be invited to Hawaii.

“In every event, he gets a little bit higher and we think he really does know what he’s doing,” Mrs Holden-Smith said.

“In Liverpool, he placed in the top 32 out of 140 children from all over Europe.

“He also got top 8 out of 109 in Utrecht which we never saw coming.”

Harrison with just a few of his Pokémon cards
Harrison with just a few of his Pokémon cards

Mrs Holden-Smith – also mum to Carter, seven – explained that her son has learnt a host of skills from the game, which has made her so proud.

“When he loses he has a few minutes to shake it off and get back into it so he’s learnt resilience. He’s also learnt that having his head in the right space is so important,” she said.

“It’s about being able to dust himself off and go again.

“He even talks about Pokémon in terms of friendship because he says you have to think about your actions because everything has a knock-on effect.

“He uses Pokémon to reference a lot of things in life.

“The UK kids are some of the best Pokémon players at the minute.

The 12-year-old is heading to Hawaii in August for the World Championships
The 12-year-old is heading to Hawaii in August for the World Championships

“I’m super proud. Seeing him commit to something to get good at it has been great.

“We know that on Fridays and the weekend, he’s probably going to be out playing which is great – he’s learnt great skills and is being social.”

When explaining the game, Harrison said there are a lot of complications to it, but it is great fun.

“Sometimes you have to make really fast decisions,” the Towers School pupil said.

“Sometimes an opponent might have a card you don’t know about and it might be in another language too which makes it harder.

“It’s a really good thing to do, especially when you play locally because it’s not that expensive and it’s really enjoyable.

“You also improve your maths and reading – it’s really good for you.”

To raise money towards his trip, he has been making 3D Pokémon prints
To raise money towards his trip, he has been making 3D Pokémon prints

Harrison currently has about 492 points - earning him the invitation to the Worlds - and if he gets 200 more, his trip will be paid for by Pokémon.

But, he has been fundraising in the meantime to help get some cash towards his trip.

This has included him making Pokémon 3D prints which he will sell at Godinton Primary School’s summer fair.

Harrison says he has no plans to stop playing the Pokémon card game, adding he wants to eventually place in the master category.

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