If there’s anything that we can learn from this weekend’s Capcom Pro Tour action, it’s that we can always expect the unexpected.
Four events filled this past weekend with incredible moments and massive headlines. An 18-year-old’s triumph in his first international tournament would easily be the biggest story of most any other week, as would Umehara Daigo’s shocking early exit at East Coast Throwdown, Olivier “Luffy” Hay’s first win of the season, or Ho Kun Xian’s near-victory with Ibuki. Yet all of that happened in the span of just 24 hours.
Here’s a recap of an incredibly busy Capcom Pro Tour weekend.
East Coast Throwdown (North America)
Julio Fuentes tightened his grip on a Capcom Cup berth with a victory at East Coast Throwdown in Morristown, New Jersey on Sunday. The win, which was Julio’s second Pro Tour victory of the season, propelled him into fifth place in the Pro Tour’s global standings and third on the North American leaderboard.
Julio held off a strong challenge from Ludovic Mbock to secure the title. Julio scored a hard-fought 3-2 win in their first encounter of the day in the winners’ final. Ludovic responded by defeating Raynel “RayRay” Hidalgo 3-0 in the losers’ final, then beat Julio by the same margin in their first grand final set. Julio would not be denied however, as he scored a 3-0 victory of his own over Ludovic to take the title.
Despite falling short of victory, Ludovic earned a place in the Pro Tour’s North American final as Julio had already earned his spot earlier in the year.
Even though Julio scored the tournament win, Ludovic and RayRay were the event’s MVPs thanks to their surprise performances against the legendary Umehara Daigo.
On paper, Daigo was the clear favorite to win the tournament. He had won Pro Tour events in each of the previous two weeks and cruised through pool play on Saturday. Also, the East Coast Throwdown field included just two of the top 15 players in the North American standings, and those two players—Julio and Antwan “Alucard” Ortiz—were part of a five-player team that lost an exhibition match to Daigo on Saturday night by a 10-4 margin.
Sunday was a different story. After defeating Jefford “Lil’ Evil” Castillo to advance to the round of 16, Daigo battled Ludovic’s Chun-Li in a thrilling set. Daigo had four match points in the set, but Ludovic fought off all of them to score a 2-1 victory. Daigo then faced RayRay, another Chun-Li player, and lost by the same margin to bow out in ninth place.
Joe “LI Joe” Ciaramelli, who tied for fifth place at Evo, was ineligible to compete as he was one of the event’s lead organizers.
What It Means
Whatever doubts there were about Julio’s place in Capcom Cup 2016 are now out the window. He is over 200 points clear of the current global leaderboard qualification cut line, which should be a big enough buffer to last to the end of the season.
Ludovic showed immense poise under pressure in his match against Daigo. He’ll need to maintain that poise in the North American regional final, as winning that is his most likely path to this year’s Capcom Cup.
Daigo’s performance this weekend might be disappointing, but it’s unlikely to damage his Capcom Cup qualification hopes. He is currently in first place on the Asian leaderboard and in 11th place in the global standings.
First Attack 2016 (North America)
Eighteen-year-old “John Takeuchi” Ryouta of Japan made the most of his first international tournament by taking top honors at First Attack in Puerto Rico on Sunday. He became the first player from outside the United States to win a North American Ranking event and the first Rashid player in the world to win a Pro Tour event.
Takeuchi made his first major splash in the Topanga Charity Cup last month, when he helped lead his team to a third-place finish out of nearly 200 teams. His performance with lightly-regarded Rashid led to a successful crowdfunding campaign on fighting game subreddit r/kappa. He won’t need any funding for his next trip, as he qualified for the North American regional final with his victory.
Takeuchi defeated fellow countryman Kishida “Go1” Goichi in the grand final to earn the title. Go1, who entered the grand final from the losers’ bracket, won their first set 3-1, but Takeuchi responded with a 3-0 victory of his own to secure the victory.
Third-place finisher Chris Tatarian was the highest-placing American at the event. He held a 1-0 lead in the winners’ final against Takeuchi, but the young Rashid player rattled off three straight wins to send Tatarian to the losers’ final. Tatarian then dropped three straight games to Go1 to see his run come to an end.
“DR Ray” Rosario of the Dominican Republic finished fourth. Another Dominican player, Cristhoper "Caba" Rodriguez, tied for fifth place with Ricki Ortiz, while Peter “Flash” Susini and Alex Valle tied for seventh place.
The most notable player missing from Sunday’s finals was Du “NuckleDu” Dang, who tied for 13th place. NuckleDu had won two straight Pro Tour events and was hoping to stretch his run to three, but losses on Saturday to Caba and Jose Rafael “JochyFocus” Falquer ended his quest for a three-peat.
What It Means
Takeuchi was impressive in his first international tournament. With just a few weeks remaining, it’s unlikely that he’ll earn enough points to qualify for Capcom Cup, so a win at the North American final is by far his most likely path to the season finale.
Go1 and Chris Tatarian each could have unofficially locked up Capcom Cup berths with a win, but their respective second- and third-place finishes are still good results. Both men still have a bit of work to do, but a place in the finale is well within reach for both players.
Ricki Ortiz’s place in the championship event is a bit more tenuous, and a fifth-place finish at First Attack did little to change that. However, she remains in fourth place in the North American standings, and the three players in front of her are likely to qualify via the global leaderboard, so it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet.
Like Daigo, NuckleDu’s early exit did little to change the fact that he’s safely in the Capcom Cup field. It’s incredibly unlikely that Du will miss the season championship at this point.
Celtic Throwdown (Europe)
Olivier “Luffy” Hay scored his first victory of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour campaign on Sunday with his victory at Celtic Throwdown in Dublin, Ireland. Luffy won a record-tying six Pro Tour events in 2015, but he had been unable to score a Pro Tour victory this year until Sunday.
Luffy’s win was a long time coming. He had finished 16th or better at eight European Pro Tour events—more than any other European player—but he had fallen short of victory every time until Sunday. He had also scored several non-Pro Tour victories throughout Europe over the past few months.
Luffy’s victory wasn’t easy. He held off a strong challenge from Marcus “Packz” Parker, who won seven matches in the losers’ bracket to reach the grand final. Packz took the first set 3-2, but Luffy responded with a 3-1 victory in the second set to take home the title.
Norman “Gen1us” Chatrier finished in third place, one spot ahead of Ryan Hart. Christ “Akainu” Onema and Younes “CCL” Lazaar tied for fifth place, while Roy “MBR” Sommeling and Chris “Cobelcog” McEntee tied for seventh.
Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley of the United States tied for ninth place to earn two points at the event. Those points made him the first player to earn points in each of the Pro Tour’s four regions.
What It Means
Luffy’s victory was vital to his Capcom Cup hopes. The Pro Tour format places a massive premium on winning, and Luffy was languishing well outside of qualifying position despite multiple great performances. With this win, he is now just 30 points outside of qualifying position through the European leaderboard.
Neither fifth-place finisher CCL nor ninth-place finisher Nathan “Mister Crimson” Massol can be happy with how the weekend went. While the two remain in first and second place respectively on the European leaderboard, both men failed to significantly improve their position.
What’s more, Luffy’s win adds another threat to the mix. Since none of the players are currently in position to qualify for Capcom Cup through the global leaderboard, these three men—along with Problem X, who is currently fourth in the European standings—might be fighting for just two spots.
Ze Fighting Game Championship (Asia)
For Zeng “XiaoHai” Zhuojun of China, there’s no place like home.
XiaoHai took top honors at Ze Fighting Game Championship in Chengdu, China on Sunday. The victory was his second Pro Tour win of the season, both of which took place in mainland China. His previous victory was a G-League triumph in Shanghai in June.
The win earned XiaoHai a place in the Asian regional final in November. The Capcom Cup berth on the line at that event is of no use to XiaoHai, as he already secured a place with his victory at G-League. He is still eligible to compete in the regional final, and will likely do so to try to win a share of the event’s $15,000 prize pool.
XiaoHai defeated Ho Kun Xian in a surprising grand final. Xian, who had used F.A.N.G. throughout the tournament, switched to lightly-regarded Ibuki for the grand final to face XiaoHai’s Cammy. Xian won the first grand final set 3-1, but XiaoHai recovered and pulled off a 3-2 win in the second set to take home the trophy.
Bruce “Gamerbee” Hsiang finished third to score his third top-three finish in as many weeks, while Jonny “Humanbomb” Cheng rounded out the top four.
What It Means
With XiaoHai already qualified for Capcom Cup thanks to his G-League victory and Xian safely in the field as well, the biggest point hauls went to players who didn’t need them. Gamerbee’s third-place finish made him the only player in the field to significantly improve his qualifying chances, but he still has much work to do to reach the season championship.