While many people may not have heard of the Japanese-created game Yu-Gi-Oh, it is David Keener's cup of tea.
The 20-year-old from Finleyville discovered the game on television at the age of 9 and was so impressed, he has been a player ever since.
In August, his enthusiasm for the game paid off when he finished second at the Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship Games held at Bally's on the Strip in Las Vegas.
To qualify for the games, Mr. Keener vied against 2,012 other players in the national championship series in mid-July in Chicago. His second-place finish there made him eligible for the World Championship competition held Aug. 11-12 in Las Vegas.
Yu-Gi-Oh is a trading card game that was launched in Japan in 1999 in which players do battle using monsters and spells.
Mr. Keener, who came in second to Shin En Huang from Taiwan, won six of his eight matches, each of which generally ran between 40 minutes and an hour.
"Huang got lucky but he also probably played better than I did," Mr. Keener said. "Unlike chess, which is solely a game of skill, Yu-Gi-Oh is a good mix of 70 percent skill, 30 percent luck. And while chess is more difficult to play, Yu-Gi-Oh is more difficult to learn because chess has only 32 pieces while Yu-Gi-Oh involves thousands of cards."
For his second-place finish, Mr. Keener received a trophy, Yu-Gi-Oh card products and a one-of-a-kind prize card that he sold for $3,000 a few days after the championships at the Gen Con convention in Indianapolis.
Mr. Keener said he attended Gen Con, a four-day convention in which participants can play board and card games 24/7, as a "kind of a vacation" before returning to the University of Pittsburgh, where he's studying economics and philosophy with an eye on law school.
Attending Gen Con was also a way to decompress after playing six matches of Yu-Gi-Oh against some of the best players in the world.
To prepare for the championship tournaments, he said, he played a lot of games with friends.
"Quite a few people in the Pittsburgh area play the game," he said.
A Yu-Gi-Oh tournament is held each week at Top Deck Cards and Games, a store in Bethel Park that is owned by Mr. Keener's parents, and tournaments also are held at other stores in the region, he said.
For this year's world championship, the game's maker, Konami, provided Mr. Keener and the other 28 players at the tournament with complimentary air fare, hotel accommodations and some meals.
Next year, Mr. Keener said, he'd like to try to win the world championship, which is scheduled to be held at an as-yet-undisclosed location in Europe.
He said he won't let his Pitt studies deter him from playing the game online.
"You can get a bit rusty if you don't play often," he said.neigh_south - neigh_washington
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com.