7-year-old Pokemon player Simone Lim is Singapore's youngest e-sports champion

Simone Lim in winning the US$1,500 (S$2,089) prize money and qualification points for the world championships in August, became Singapore's youngest e-sports champion. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Simone Lim had the easy air of a seasoned campaigner, and not that of a seven-year-old who had just snatched victory from the defending champion.

"All children like winning," she said coolly on Saturday (Feb 29), when asked how it felt to emerge the winner at the Feb 21-23 Pokemon Oceania International Championships Junior Division in Melbourne.

In the next moment, however, Singapore's youngest e-sports champion was a little girl again, offering a handshake from her stuffed toy.

This combination of precocity and adorableness propelled Simone to overnight Internet fame, after her unlikely triumph against Canadian defending champion Justin Miranda-Radbord, 10.

Simone, in winning the US$1,500 (S$2,089) prize money and qualification points for the world championships in August, became Singapore's youngest e-sports champion.

Pokemon is a video game franchise centred on collecting and training the eponymous creatures, and has been popular since its 1996 launch.

The games are played on Nintendo consoles like the Switch and are distinct from the mobile app Pokemon Go. In competitive Pokemon, two players face off with squads of six Pokemon each. The goal is to knock out all of the other side's creatures by using a variety of attacks before yours are knocked out.

At the highest levels, the battles require concentration, composure and strategic planning.

Simone has been playing competitive Pokemon for only less than a year, her parents told The Straits Times on Saturday.

Simone's parents are not Pokemon players, and approached competitive Pokemon player Melvin Keh to coach her about eight months ago. Mr Keh, 26, has been teaching Simone basic strategies and tactics which she dutifully jots down in a notebook.

She was invited to the international championships in Melbourne by the organisers after strong performances at local events.

Singapore's youngest esports champion, seven-year-old Simone Lim (right) and her brother Alvin pose for a photo on Feb 29, 2020.

Her two older brothers Theodore, 13, and Alvin, 10, play a variant of Pokemon that involves physical 60-card decks.

Alvin was also at the tournament in Melbourne, where he placed fifth.

Simone's father said he introduced Pokemon to his children as a way to teach them about financial concepts, but discovered that playing competitively could teach his children valuable lessons hard to come by at this early stage in life.

"In the beginning, they wouldn't know how to handle the aggression shown by their opponents, and would get emotional," said Mr Ernie Lim, 44, who works in IT.

"But they have learnt that they have to take it in their stride if they want to do well. In a way it's a lot like the corporate world, where people tend not to show their hand until they can make a winning play."

It is still early days for Simone, who is blissfully unaware of her status as an Internet sensation, but Pokemon has already made its mark on her in significant ways.

Simone's mother Kristine Lim recalled how the usually irrepressible Simone turned deadly serious once she reached the final.

"We went back to the hotel room the day before the finals and she took out her notes to revise on her own," said Mrs Lim, 43. "I'd never seen her so hardworking before!"

Simone's parents acknowledged that they are taking the path less travelled compared to most Singaporean parents. That does not mean studies can be cast to one side, however.

"Our stance is that if you don't do well academically, then you don't get to play," said Mr Lim.

"In fact, Simone didn't do well on a spelling test recently and I wasn't too happy about that. So she's just an ordinary girl with rather anxious parents."

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