When 11-year-old Andrew DuLuard of Hilliard sits down to face an opponent in a Pokemon trading card game (TCG) match, he doesn't feel a lot of pressure -- only 24 players on the continent have a higher ranking than him.

When 11-year-old Andrew DuLuard of Hilliard sits down to face an opponent in a Pokemon trading card game (TCG) match, he doesn't feel a lot of pressure -- only 24 players on the continent have a higher ranking than him.

About two weeks ago, DuLuard received an e-mail message that because of his top 25 status in the game's official ranking system, he had earned an invitation to the 2009 Pokemon Video Game and TCG World Championships, to be held Aug. 13-15 in San Diego.

"It was really cool, they sent me luggage tags in the mail that said 'Pokemon World Championships,' and I'm going to get a lot more stuff for being invited," DuLuard said.

Based on the popular video game series, in the Pokemon TCG, a player builds a deck out of a pool of collectible cards, and then tries to defeat another player, who has a uniquely-built deck of his or her own. Each player can decide on the exact makeup of his or her deck.

"It's very strategic; it really helps with your math and reading skills so it's kind of an educational game as well," DuLuard said. "It's kind of helped me get into some advanced classes (at school)."

Andrew's mother, Heather DuLuard, said that although her son has only been competing for a few years, he's already had success on the national tournament scene.

"The last three years now he's placed in the top three at the state tournament, and in April he finished third at the regional tournament in Indiana, and this year he finished in the top 10 of the national tournament in St. Louis," she said. "Throughout the tournament season you earn points for your wins, and this year was the first year he had enough points to earn an invitation to the world tournament."

Andrew said only 128 players worldwide received the invitation to the tournament. More than $100,000 in scholarships will be awarded during the competition. In the coming weeks, his family will be spending a lot of time gathered around the dining room table, fine-tuning his final deck list for the tournament.

"I basically just practice a lot, and I'm probably going to use the same deck that I have been using," he said. "It's good because (my parents) can help me build the decks."

Heather DuLuard said that she and her husband, Dan, picked up the card game alongside their sons, Andrew and Matthew. The DuLuards now judge the weekly tournament at the Guard Tower gaming store in Columbus.

"He was like a lot of other kids and wanted to collect the cards, and I wanted to know what they were," she said. "My husband and I have played many games like this over the years, so we were able to help them learn and start playing.

It's really refreshing - you hear a lot now of people trying to have a family game night and we have that, but we can also go to these big tournaments together as a family thing, which is really nice."

Heather DuLuard said she and her husband are usually instant hits with the children at the tournaments, who are used to their parents puzzling at their shiny pieces of cardboard.

"It's interesting as a mom, the other moms will listen to the kids talk about Pokemon, and they're like, 'You can play a game with that?'"

Andrew said he'll be getting in plenty of play-testing in the coming weeks to prepare for the national competition. Readers can follow his progress live on the Web at www.go-pokemon.com/worlds/2009.