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Six LI gamers - five younger than 18 - head to Las Vegas to compete for inaugural Simon Cup

Fortnite egamer Lawrence Giarrizzo, 17, of Mount Sinai,

Fortnite egamer Lawrence Giarrizzo, 17, of Mount Sinai, will be heading to Las Vegas on Nov. 23 to compete in the inaugural Simon Cup. Credit: Giarrizzo family/Larry Giarrizzo

Six Fortnite players from Long Island — five of them younger than 18 — are heading to Las Vegas this week to compete in an esports showdown to win the inaugural Simon Cup and a $50,000 shopping spree at Simon properties.

“I’m pretty confident I can get first place,” says Lawrence Giarrizzo, 17, a high school junior from Mount Sinai. "To compete in one of the biggest esports arenas in the world is exciting. Having all the cameras on you is going to be cool.”

A total of 64 gamers will compete in the finals, drawn from a six-week competition that entailed online qualifiers and in-person regional events at Simon mall locations in New York and California, including a two-day event that was held at Roosevelt Field in Garden City on Oct. 26 and 27. One player will emerge victorious at the competition before a live audience at HyperX Esports Arena; the event begins at 2 p.m. Pacific time and also will be livestreamed on the Twitch channels of FaZe Clan’s Nickmercs and Allied Esports. Players range in age from 13 to 25, with an average age of 16; all but one are male.

Talha Shad, 15, a 10th-grader from Lynbrook, and Jacob Yousha, 13, of Wantagh, also will be flying to Las Vegas.

"I guess all the hours on the computer paid off for him," says Yousha's mother, LaDonna Yousha, a medical office manager who will accompany her son on the expense-paid trip. "I didn't know he was that good actually. He didn't know he was that good."

It was Jacob's mother who found out about the tournament while she was shopping at Roosevelt Field. "I came home from school one day and my mom said she found a tournament I could compete in," Jacob says. If he wins, Jacob says he will likely start streaming himself playing on YouTube.

And if Shad wins the $50,000 shopping spree? “I’m probably going to give a lot of it to my mom. I’m probably just going to get some better gaming stuff, clothing and sneakers,” he says.

Simon partnered with Allied Esports, a global esports entertainment company, on the event. “The Simon Cup was designed to bring gaming communities together in an authentic way — from highly competitive qualifiers online to tears streaming down a winners’ face at a live event — and we are thrilled that the first stage of this program has produced incredibly memorable moments,” Jud Hannigan, chief executive of Allied Esports, says in a news release about the competition. For more information, visit simoncup.com.

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