This past weekend was one of the busiest for the FGC in recent memory, with four high profile events taking place all around the world. Two Capcom Pro Tour Ranking events, and two well-produced and far-reaching invitationals.
Red Bull gives Big Bird his wings
The Red Bull Kumite was the biggest event of the weekend and it went off spectacularly. Obviously, it’s hard to ask the same standards of most other tournaments, as they don’t have Red Bull’s seemingly-limitless budget to throw at what was an impressive production. The French FGC who helped run the event did, however, do a tonne of things to ensure that the event went off without a hitch and absolutely should be commended for this. In fact, whoever it was who unlocked all the colours by beating Survival mode on all the machines used in the tournament deserves a bloody medal.
The Kumite itself was worthy of such a production, too, as some of the world’s best players squared off against one another. Matches were drawn at random, rather than having a seeded bracket, so you had ridiculous confrontations like Tokido vs Daigo in the very first round (and one hell of a scrap it turned out to be, too) rather than stacking the deck in favour of a big grand final. Everyone had to earn their position in the tournament.
It was a bloodbath. Former EVO winners Xian, Luffy and the legendary Daigo Umehara, who was making his first tournament appearance of the 2016 Pro Tour season, all finished outside of the top 8. At the end of the day, it came down to yet another Infiltration v Tokido grand final, with Infil still proving too much for his rival and Tokido having to settle for a runner-up position for the third consecutive time.
The story of the Kumite, however, was FA|Big Bird, who had flown in from Abu Dhabi to take part in the qualifying tournament the day before—the top two in which would win entry into the Red Bull Kumite proper on the Sunday. A top Ken player who had already shown himself to be a threat with a top 8 finish at Cannes Winter Clash earlier this year, Big Bird really lived up to his potential by not only winning the qualification tournament outright, but going on to log another top 8 finish, this time against some truly elite competition. It was great to see a new talent establish themselves on the global scene and it’s going to be interesting to see where FA|Big Bird finishes this year’s Pro Tour.
In Italy, the Pro Tour marched on at Frogbyte 2016. Everyone was expecting a battle of the Bisons, as Problem X and Phenom—two of the best Bison players in the World, nevermind just Europe—both attended. Sadly, that match wasn’t to be, as Problem X was knocked into Losers bracket and eventually eliminated by overall Runner-Up, Melty|Cuongster. Phenom established his dictator dominance by marching straight through winner’s bracket to win the 128 CPT points—an impressive performance by the current leader of the European Pro Tour League.
Cannes Winter Clash winner Mister Crimson, now freshly sponsored by Meltdown eSports bars, proved that he wasn’t a flash in the pan by making it into the top 8. This placed him alongside Phenom’s BX3TPL teammate, Duppsko, and the remaining UK threesome of Perilous’ Packz, Affi and FA|Ryan Hart. Encouraging signs as the UK make up half of the top 8, but right now, Phenom sits at the top.
Calling it in
Over at the Texas Showdown in… err.. Texas, Julio (formerly Julio The Yun, presumably dropped because there is no Yun in Street Fighter V) recorded his first win of the Pro Tour with some exceptional Ken play. Much like his friend, fellow Ken player and recent Major winner Chris Tatarian, Julio has been threatening to take first place for a while now and only just coming up short at a few events, like Winterbrawl X. Now, he’s got his first win, a healthy 128 CPT points on the board and a place in the US Capcom Cup qualifier at the end of the year. A strong performance, all being said.
One of the more interesting moments of the tournament, however, came in the final. Up against Evil Genius’ PR Balrog, one of the best players in the US, Julio phoned Chris Tatarian. Called him up, sat right there on stream, after losing a few frames to ‘Rog. I’m not sure what the advice was, but the whole situation seemed to irk PR Balrog, who was never able to regain the momentum he had before the phone call! A cheap tactic to put his opponent off, or a totally valid conversation with a coach? Either way, Julio gets the win.
PAX-ing a punch
Finally, at the PAX East convention, there was an invite-only tournament that showcased some of the best players in the world—the one’s that didn’t go to the Kumite. Team Liquid’s NuckleDu came out on top, beating out Evil Genius’ Ricki Ortiz and K-Brad, currently SFV online leaderboard leader Arturo ‘TS-Sabin’ Sanchez and others to take first place. What made this tournament so interesting is that the first day was a ‘league’ structure—everyone had to play each other once and the total matches dictated placement, with the bottom two players being eliminated. It meant that you got to see everyone square off against one another at least once, the winner knowing full well they had to best everyone to take first place. With PAX providing the production and with Mike Ross and Yipes providing commentary, it was another extremely slick few days of high-level Street Fighter.
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