Interviews at IQ Gaming's Regional Event.

Ben Lovell has been out and about again! This time heading to IQ Gaming's Regional event on the 18th of May, 2019, to talk to players, judges, and Stephen Keenan, Store owner of IQ Gaming.

You can find more about IQ Gaming on their website: and on their Facebook page:

Tom after topping another event!! Today he made Top 4 at IQ Games

Thomas Rose

- How long have you been playing Yu-Gi-Oh!

I have played at a competitive level since 2010, played for fun since the start of the game being in Europe with Starter Deck Yugi and Kaiba.

- For those that may not have heard of you, please mention some of your biggest achievements:

I am the current UK champion after winning in 2018, I won YCS Liverpool in 2016 and I won YCS Dusseldorf this year.

- Those are definitely some great accomplishments, what made you decide to change from playing for fun to going competitive in 2010?

I would attend my locals, I found that I really enjoyed it and I wanted to visit more places and people. It wasn’t a quick change, took a long time to do well at the events and a long time to get to that level. I topped my first decent size event in 2012.

For me it was playing with friends who are as good or even better at the game than myself who equally want to improve. This for me was key and it took a lot time and effort to get there. Experience is a big part of it. I am not a player that can just turn up without practicing and do well, it is so weird to me when I see some who can do that, I have to practice and play a lot.

- Some may have seen your name consistently in the World Championship Points Race?

Yeah, as of the current list I am 3rd,I try to attend as many of them as possible. Year on year I have definitely found myself attending far more events.

- How many have you played this year?

Err…. Approximately? About 30 regionals this worlds arc.

- As someone who attends so many would you say you have noticed many changes to regionals year on year?

Each season seems more developed, more competitive players that are far more experienced. More people as a whole attending which is good to see. I would definitely say the quantity and quality of UK players has grown massively. Most events have a lot more structure and you can tell that the smaller stores are clearly looking at the bigger regionals and learning from them, things like preregistration and buying tickets online have been a big help to ensure players can make it and not avoid them for fear of being turned away. This is a huge help to those with a high quantity of dedicated players which is a definite positive.

- Are there any particular events that stood out to you as good examples of a regional?

Both IQ Games were fantastic, YGO TCG Bournemouth and Patriot Games in Sheffield too, then there was also The Brotherhood in London is a consistently great regional to attend, probably one of my favourite UK regionals of the year. To be honest there are too many to name, I would say at least 10. It’s definitely a slow growth in terms of ‘the best’ but more and more are improving and catching up. A good example is ‘The Hobby Vault’ who definitely had teething issues of their first one but are stepping up their game and learning from the players and this year was far better.

It’s incredibly rare for a store to get it perfect first time but they are all dedicated to learn and grow and I think that is great.

- If you could give advice to an OTS who wanted to run a successful Regional that players will enjoy, what would you suggest?

They must have an effective social media presence, they need to make an event page that’s easy to find with all the information that players might need. I have found that closed groups are a bad idea as the only people to see those posts are the ones who were just going to go anyway.

It must have experienced staff, at least 1 T.O or judge available that has managed a successful event before, if it is your first event you need to get someone in to support you.

The venue should have sufficient space, you don’t have to be the biggest but if you can hold a certain number and advertise it right you can always fill it, advertising it right will encourage people to travel. Choices on events are always made on their capacity and how much effort the tournament organiser puts in in advance.

Head Judge Connor Walker

Connor Walker (Head Judge of the event and employee of IQ Games):

- How long have you been a Judge in Yu-Gi-Oh! For?

I started judging my locals in the middle of 2013, I then started judging bigger events in 2017. I have played competitively as well, when I started judging but not I don’t get to as much. When I can I still like to play like next weekend I will be playing at a Regional in Newcastle.

- What brought you into judging?

A friend of mine had judged for a long time, I wanted to be involved in it as it looked good and fun to be part of. I read the policy and took the tests, I started by supporting my old locals before it closed. After that I have been helping here at IQ and some bigger events like nationals. I now work at IQ as an employee as well, I love getting to be hands on and help newer players learn the game I am passionate about.

We held a demo event and got new players who are here almost every week and its really rewarding, I love it. I came from a job that clashed with what I was passionate about but here I get support and get to work closely on what I enjoy.

Working for Steve has been great, getting to see his knowledge in running events and the standard of work he expects is inspiring.

- Have you judged other regionals?

Yeah, I have supported some others in the local area and supporting their local communities, this also gives me the choice to play or judge, now I work at IQ I can’t do as much in own store as I am staff. I genuinely love hanging out with the friends and people like I did years ago, that gives me a really nice balance. I still have a lot to learn, but I enjoy sharing my knowledge and helping those wanting to grow as well.

At Geek Retreat Leeds regional, we had two new eager judges and I was able to help give them experience for big events. I know I was very lucky in who taught me and I want to give them the same lessons and knowledge. It gets them to the standard the most experienced judges and bigger events expect.

In a card game, the community aspect as a player is so important and the same is for judges, there will be people you have to work with you might not get on with but you learn and interact and listen which is really important. Can always share ideas and give each other feedback and pointers.

- What do you think is needed to be a good Judge?

You absolutely must do your tests, they are simple to understand but are the foundation of what you need. Even before the event today, I re-read through all the documents to keep my knowledge up.

Regularly judge and support your locals, it provides lots of experience and you can help your community which is so important. The difference between a good and a bad judge is dedication and eagerness to learn and help. When you start at the regional events they are essential experience and very important.

Continue to play the game when you can is important and keeps you up to date on the game, it is also a great help in reminding you of the importance of seeing things from the players point of view. We are there to educate and help the players and ensure they enjoy the event and the game we all care about.

- IQ Games have been known for a long time, they have hosted many large regional events and is popular with the community. What advice would you give to OTS’ that want to achieve the same?

Preparation is so important. Just assuming things will go right means they won’t, you have to plan every detail and plan for all the things that may go wrong.

Plan properly on your capacity and be realistic on enough judges, you need a large enough team to assist the players and run everything you need. If the t.o doesn’t care it is noticed immediately. One good judge cannot run the event and players expect a high standard.

Listen to your player base, this is the biggest thing. Every store’s player base is different and want different things, support them and listen to what they want. At IQ we support competitive players for things like regionals and we also ran a ‘road to the regionals’ series all this week with special prizes to help people test under regional like conditions. We also support younger and more casual players to help them with the game and teach them. It’s all about understanding and meeting their expectations. That is how you ensure they benefit as much as possible.

Jake Quinsee celebrating his win after the interview!

Jake Quinsee

- How long have you been playing Yu-Gi-Oh!

I started in 2008 as a competitive player, I have been playing the game since I was in school. I even made it to the Dragon Duel 2006 finals but back then I still didn’t know everything about the game. I took a break for a couple of years in 2012 and again 2015 to play poker.

- For those that may not have heard of you, please mention some of your biggest achievements in Yu-Gi-Oh!

I was the UK National Champion in 2011 which was a huge goal of mine to achieve when I started. To date I have a lot of YCS tops – 18 across 3 continents and also topped 3 European Championships.

- What made you decide to change from playing for fun to going competitive in 2008?

I always enjoyed the game, the prizes that can be won. When I started winning the store packs was the first thing I took notice of especially champion pack 1-4. I remember when I started my biggest goal was to be national champion and to this day I am so proud to achieve it and it has kept me going afterwards too. I am determined to do it again this year.

- As someone who attends so many would you say you have noticed many changes to regionals year on year?

The worlds points race was definitely a great addition, I don’t think it is perfect but it is definitely the right step forward. By adding an end goal and incentive for playing multiple regionals is really good. I remember with regionals, it used to be players would win or top one and that was it they wouldn’t play anymore. Now there is a way to see who is the best and another realistic way into the world championships It adds more motivation, not just the event itself, but how everyone ranks against the best. I think that’s the biggest reason the competitive area has improved. Also you have to acknowledge that prize support in regionals has become so much better in some event. Tournament Organisers have improved and looked at prizes and it definitely incentivises us to come back next time you run one, if we see a great event we will always prioritise you over another next year.

- Are there any particular events that stood out to you as good examples of a regional?

3 regionals definitely stick out, Cataclysm hosted by Ray Chan, it was so good, he hired out a venue for 90+ players, great prizes for the players went way above and beyond. It was obvious how much he cared and went the extra mile for us, he even ran side/public events for players who didn’t do well so they had other things to do. I travelled across the country for that event and will every time now.

IQ Huddersfield always sticks out, their support and turnout is consistently great and we always know it is going to be a good event.

Sneak Attack in London was a great event even though it was their first regional. If every first big event a store runs was like that it would be amazing for players in all games.

- If you could give advice to an OTS who wanted to run a successful Regional that players will enjoy, what would you suggest?

Always think of the players, you have to think of their point of view as your customers. Why should they pay to come to your store not just to paying for your tournament, but also the amount of travel over the country and Europe that we do.

Preregistration is great, the best thing stores do lately is paying online as it guarantees a seat. The absolute worst thing as a player is being turned away because its full. Facilities need to be high quality and things like food to be considered or nearby.

Players are fine not having lunch breaks, big events don’t have them and its more important to travel home at a reasonable hour

IQ Store owner Stephen Keenan congratulating tournament winner Jake Quinsee

Stephen Keenan - Owner IQ Games

- How long have you been a Tournament Organiser?

I have been based in Huddersfield for 12 years, I was originally a branch of Patriot Games for 6 years, I then opened IQ Games 6 years ago. I have always wanted to be my own boss as a big step of personal progression and wanting to achieve more. I am also so glad myself and the guys at Patriot are still such close friends.

- Are you yourself interested in card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh!?

Yeah, I have always been a big big fan of card games and it has been my personal hobby. My first TCG I played was in fact Yu-Gi-Oh and it was my first entry into world of card games. I try and still be actively involved in the card games themselves.

- What are some of the challenges you face as a Tournament Organiser?

So many hours!!!!! It is hard to balance my own hobby and owning the store. You want the events to be bigger and better for the players, that is all that matters. Balancing what the players want but trying to run a business is hard but so important to get right.

- The IQ Games Regionals are well known to run well. What is important to make them a success?

The customer base, without them being invested they won’t do well. Our regulars are so important to us. People travel over and say hi and it means so much. The community side is the biggest part of what we do.

- What advice would you give to those wanted to go from local level tournaments to regionals?

Reach out to players, gather ideas and compare it to what other stores do and what works. There are rules for stores in the games policies and obviously health and safety which must be followed, but you absolutely need to consider what can you offer that will make you unique.

In the run up to this event we ran a week of events to help build player confidence and educate on how regionals work. We even did a workshop on official decklists and how judges work. All this was to help our players gain confidence and knowing all the rules and the players loved that support, we will probably con tinue to run ‘road to regionals’.

Respond to every interaction especial social media, respond and outreach. If you don’t reply they won’t come, I can not say it more simply. If they don’t know you are running an event, people won’t show up.

Interviews conducted by Ben Lovell at IQ Gamings Regional event on the 18th of May 2019


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