The Knoxville Regional Championships was supposed to be just another chance for Kyle Livinghouse to win his first major Pokémon tournament. The plan was to drive from Pennsylvania to the venue, and along the way, he’d pick up a friend in Virginia, who was also competing in the tournament. But the weekend took a turn when the two got into an accident that wrecked their car.
It was a nine hour drive to Knoxville, and during that ride, Livinghouse got a flat tire. Easy enough fix. But later on, Livinghouse noticed that a flatbed truck ahead of his car was parked on the highway — and he couldn’t stop in time. The car got wrecked. Fortunately, however, both players were okay. They were also close enough to swap into the friend’s car.
“I was like, at that point I should win some money [in the tournament] to cover for some of this stuff,” Livinghouse said over a Discord call with Polygon. “And we didn’t go through all of this to get knocked out of the tournament. We were playing to win at that point—there was no other question.”
The pair didn’t reach Knoxville until around 4:30 a.m. Livinghouse said they then attempted to get some sleep in their hotel room, which they were sharing with friends who had already arrived, but they ended up at the wrong Red Roof Inn without realizing. By the time anyone woke up to correct their mistake, there was only enough time before the tournament to shower.
Fortunately for Livinghouse, he said he had experience competing with little sleep. Both Livinghouse and his friend finished the first day of competition with 6-1 records, which was good enough to make it into day two of the competition. What Livinghouse said was even better, though, was that they were on opposite sides of the bracket. The next day, after finally getting some rest, both players had a strong showing at the tournament. The rival overcame two-time regional champion Alex Underhill and Chongjun Peng, while Livinghouse defeated Keith Boone and Joseph Ugarte.
But the finals match between Livinghouse and his friend was a different story. In game one of most competitive matches, players only have limited knowledge of what monsters their opponents will use, nevermind what moves those creatures will have. But since the pair are such close friends, they knew every last detail of each others’ teams.
That essentially made their set a mind game, since whoever predicted the other’s first two Pokémon and lead accordingly started off with a huge advantage. Livinghouse said he spent so long thinking about which four teammates to bring to game one that he almost didn’t have time to select them all before the 90 second timer ran out.
Livinghouse lost the first game, as he failed to stop his friend’s Xerneas after it boosted its stats with a move called Geomancy. With the momentum in his opponent’s favor from the start of the game, Livinghouse fell too far behind to catch up, even after setting up his own Xerneas with a Geomancy boost. However, in game two, Livinghouse used his Amoonguss to neutralize the Xerneas by putting it to sleep and removing its boosts with Clear Smog. Then, Groudon took enough KOs to force a quick forfeit from Livinghouse’s friend.
As a result, their whole journey came down to game three. Livinghouse decided to switch back to Kangaskhan and Tornadus, the lead he previously lost with, but a quick pivot to Amoonguss set a different pace. His pal was forced to switch his Pokémon to protect his Xerneas, but Livinghouse eventually backed his friend into a corner. Once he used Amoonguss to eliminate his opponent’s Xerneas’ boosts, Livinghouse could bring in his own Xerneas and sweep up the remaining Pokémon.
Just like that, Livinghouse won $1,000 and his first regional, after coming close a few other times before. Livinghouse said he was relieved to win, since he didn’t want to join a long line of VGC players who always get close to the win but never quite close the distance. But more than that, he was reassured that the terrible start to the trip was off set by the end.
“It was definitely a great feeling to know I’m getting a decent chunk of money to cover all the mess of costs that are coming out from this whole accident,” Livinghouse. “The big chunk of points going forward is obviously really helpful, too.”
Livinghouse will use those championship points to cement his place in the Top 8 of North American players. If he’s able to hold onto that spot through the Latin American International Championships in November, he’ll qualify for a travel award to the Oceania International Championships in February.