* Age: 10.

* School: McBrien Elementary.

* Family: Brother, Jonah, 6; parents, T.J. and Jennifer Sawyer.


Like most 10-year-olds, Noah likes to play video games, particularly "Pokémon" on his Nintendo DS and "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."




Charizard ex

T.J. Sawyer said it all started with some second-hand cards at a yard sale.

Less than three years later, his older son, Noah, 10, earned a second-place finish in the recent Junior Division of the Pokémon Trading Card Game Georgia State Championships.

That finish earned him a spot in the card game's 189-person regional tournament next week in Roswell, Ga.

The McBrien Elementary School student is the defending region champion in the Junior Division, his success and his rating in 2009 earning him not only a paid trip to the national championship in St. Louis but also a ranking of 24th in his age group in North America.

This year, Noah said a lack of practice has kept him from achieving as many city-level championships as last year. He is ranked 43rd in his division.

Part of the fun of the game, he said, is playing with his family -- particularly his dad, who owns a second-place regional finish in the Master Division. He said tournaments are "exciting," introduce him to new friends and allow him to indulge in the fun of the game.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game, according to a how-to-play guide, is a collectible card game in which players use Pokémon cards, with individual strengths and weaknesses, in an attempt to defeat their opponent by "knocking out" his or her Pokémon cards.

Q. What is the object for a player in a Pokémon game?

A. You need to know how to play. You need to think about what you do. ... The three ways to win (are to earn) all your prize cards, (have your opponent) run out of cards and if you knock out every Pokémon on their field.

Q. What skills do you need to be a successful tournament player?

A. You have to know the attacks (of individual cards) and what they do, and you have to know (your opponent's) strategy, so you usually practice before you play. You practice against them so you can know their strategy.

Q. What's the most important thing players have to think about during a game?

A. It depends what kind of cards you get on your first turn. If you get a bad hand, (your opponent is) going to knock you out on the first turn, but if you get a high Pokémon and they can't knock you out on the first turn, it depends what you keep drawing and what's their strategy.

Q. Is there a strategy playing in more than one state tournament?

A. I try playing as many as I can. If I go to a state or a city or Battle Road (tournament) and they figure out what I'm playing, I usually practice another deck to get good at it because (my opponent) is going to try to play the weakness to my deck so they can knock me out fast. ... If I don't get good at it, I just play the deck I usually play.