The home stretch of the 2015 Capcom Pro Tour is upon us. While seven events remain on this year’s schedule, only four award CPT points, and three of those go down this weekend. All three tournaments figure to have a huge impact on which players earn the final spots at Capcom Cup, the 32-player tournament in December with $250,000 at stake.
This week’s madness comes off the heels of last week’s only CPT event, Ultra Hyakkishu Cup. The Tokyo tournament was a Premier event, which meant that a direct qualification to Capcom Cup was on the line, and the quality of the field more than matched the importance of the prize. The 128-player bracket included three EVO champions: 2011 champion Keita “Fuudo” Ai (RZR), 2013 champion Kun Xian “Xian” Ho (RZR), and 2015 champion Yusuke Momochi (EG). The field also included internationally-known players such as Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi (RB), Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto, and Lee Chung “Poongko” Gon (/r/kappa), as well as several of the top dogs of the Japanese arcade scene.
One of those arcade monsters was Yuusuke “Rokkun” Shimai. Rokkun’s Seth was ranked among the best in Japan’s arcades, and he showed the world what he could do. He picked up impressive victories over Dakai “Dunhill” Tanaka (FGC) and Yuuji “Shinba” Ookita (TTL) on his march to the Winners’ Finals.
Bonchan, fresh off his win at SoCal Regionals the week before, seemed nearly untouchable. He scored a dominant 3-1 win over reigning EVO and Capcom Cup champion Momochi on his way to Winners’ Finals, where he survived a tough challenge from Rokkun to earn a spot in the Grand Finals. Since he had already won a Premier event (the SoCal Regionals) whoever joined him in the Grand Finals would earn the event’s Capcom Cup berth.
Nemo lost to Gaku “KitasenjuDJ” Kondo in his winners’ side Top 16 match. Instead of rattling him, the defeat served to awaken a sleeping giant. Nemo rattled off consecutive 3-0 victories over Fuudo, Shinba, and KitasenjuDJ to set up a Losers’ Finals showdown with Rokkun with a Capcom Cup berth in the balance. The two played a heart-pounding set that went down to the last scramble of the final round of the final game, but it was Nemo who survived by the skin of his teeth to guarantee his spot at Capcom Cup. While Nemo earned his ticket to San Francisco, Bonchan won in the Grand Finals and claimed the ¥1 million (about $8,300) first-place prize.
Bonchan was already assured a Capcom Cup berth, and Nemo was safely in the field on points—he was 14th overall entering the weekend—so winning the Premier berth merely confirmed what already appeared to be a sure thing. Winning the automatic berth appeared to be Rokkun’s only path to Capcom Cup and he’s unlikely to travel to other events. None of the players close to the points-berth cutoff earned any points, and none of the other players in the Top 16 earned enough points to impact their chances. In the end, the impact that Ultra Hyakkishu Cup had on the Capcom Pro Tour standings was minimal. Nemo’s qualification moved nearly everyone up a spot, meaning that Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada improved his position from the first man out of the field to the last man in. His hold on that spot is very tenuous, as most of the players who can catch him are in action this week.
Milan Games Week is the site of the final European CPT event which awards points. Nearly all of the top European players will be in action, including Oliver “Luffy” Hay (MD), who has been the top European performer this season by a large margin. Plenty of other European players pose threats, and some of the biggest names—including Valentin “Valmaster” Petit (Team YP), Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart (FA), Arman Rabiee “Phenom” Hanjani (BX3.TPLink), and DC “Infexious” Coleman (Rize)—are in desperate need of points to make the Capcom Cup field. The biggest challenge may come from outside of Europe. Players from Asia have won both European Premier events this year, and many top Asian players will be in Milan this weekend, including former EVO champions Fuudo and Xian.
Most of the top players in the United States will be in New York City this weekend for Defend the North, the final CPT event on U.S. soil. Three of the nation’s top players, Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis (RB), Du “NuckleDu” Dang (Liquid), and Kevin “Dieminion” Landon (YOMI), will look to improve their Capcom Cup seeding. Justin Wong (EG) will look to stay on the good side of the points cutoff, while teammate Ricki Ortiz (EG) will need a strong weekend to join him. One of the most popular players in the country, Bryant “Smug” Huggins (Team PIE), will need to make a deep run to have a chance at qualifying, while East Coast legend Sanford Kelly (TSC) will try to prove that he’s still the King of New York.
Costa Rica will play host to the Central America CPT Qualifier. Players from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and more will be in attendance to show their skills to an audience who might not know their names… yet. Their performances could have a major impact on who qualifies for Capcom Cup, as the attendee list includes three players close to the bubble: Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero (WFX), Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez (EG), and Itabashi Zangief.
For the fans who want to know who to watch for at each event, this weekend might feel a little overwhelming. With that in mind, here’s a primer for each event and the players who could have the biggest impact on the race to Capcom Cup.
Milan Games Week
Oct. 24-25, Milan, Italy
Winner (or highest-placing person who hasn’t won a Premier berth) qualifies for Capcom Cup
Pools: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 3am PT/6am ET/10:00 UTC
Top 16: Sunday, Oct. 25 at 6am PT/9am ET/13:00 UTC
Players to watch
YP|Valmaster – While many European players are threats to make deep runs in Milan, Valmaster may be the one with the most momentum. Since he was picked up by Team YP a few weeks back, Valmaster has put together a string of strong performances. He earned second-place finishes at EGX and Red Fight District, and claimed victory at the round-robin Kakutop League III last weekend, but suffered defeats to Luffy at all three of those events. He enters the weekend six points behind Itabashi Zangief for the final points-based berth, meaning that he’ll likely need another great performance—and possibly a victory over his demon—to make the Capcom Cup field.
MD|Luffy – Simply put, Luffy has dominated Europe this year. The 2014 EVO champion has racked up five CPT tournament wins this year, a feat matched only by Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee, who is idle this week. He hasn’t finished behind a European player at a European CPT event since the first event of the season, Cannes Winter Clash, in February. In short, his place in Capcom Cup is already assured. The only thing missing from his title shelf this year is a Premier event. If he can add that accolade to his list this weekend, he’ll enter Capcom Cup among the favorites to take it all.
Foreign contenders – Players from outside of Europe have won the first two European Premier events this year, and there will be nearly 20 international players looking to continue that streak. Approximately a dozen of those players are Japanese, including Sanshiro “Shiro” Nagai (YBK), Tatsuya Haitani, and Yoshihisa “Gonzales” Hirata (eSR), all of whom are within striking distance of a points-based Capcom Cup berth. From the opposite hemisphere, Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley (EG) is returning to Europe for the first time since his third-place finish at last month’s Red Fight District. If he betters that performance, he would nearly assure a place for himself in the Capcom Cup field.
Asia’s gatekeepers – Razer teammates Fuudo and Xian have already claimed Capcom Cup berths through Premier events, but they’re still fighting for a share of the $15,000 up for grabs in Milan. Xijie “Dark Jiewa” Zeng (CHN) and Takenori “Tonpy” Shimomura (MF) are both currently in the Capcom Cup field via points, and they should remain in regardless of what happens over the next two weeks, but both are seeking a victory in Milan that would remove all doubt.
Defend the North 2015
Oct. 24-25; New York, NY
Pools: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 11am PT/2pm ET/18:00 UTC
Semis: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 3pm PT/6pm ET/22:00 UTC
Top 8: Sunday, Oct. 25 at 5pm PT/8pm ET/0:00 UTC
Players to watch
Benjamin “Problem X” Simon (KIG) – While most European contenders are trying their luck in Milan, Problem X is in a New York state of mind. His last trip to the States was a fruitful one, as he finished fourth at Summer Jam 9 in August. He is currently twelfth among players who haven’t claimed a Premier berth, but with so many players in position to pass him with good performances this weekend, his hold on a Capcom Cup berth is tenuous. A strong weekend would go a long way to securing his place in San Francisco.
EG|Justin Wong – Justin Wong’s place among the greatest fighting game players of all time is unquestioned. His place in Capcom Cup… not so much. Justin hasn’t earned a single CPT point since his third-place finish at Combo Breaker in May. While at least six people would need to pass him in the standings to knock him out of the Capcom Cup field, six players are within 32 points of him, including three players within four points. He needs a deep tournament run to cement his spot. But that’s easier said than done.
PIE|Smug – Smug has had great performances at tournaments this year, but not at Capcom Pro Tour events. He’s made Top Eight at three CPT events (NorCal Regionals, CEO, and The Fall Classic) but has not finished better than fourth at any of them. He’ll need to break that trend in a big way in order to qualify for Capcom Cup. A win this weekend puts him in contention for a points-based berth, but anything less means he’ll need to make a deep run at next weekend’s Canada Cup to qualify.
American Gatekeepers – There are a few players who could be considered the top player in the U.S., and three of the Defend the North favorites are on that short list: Snake Eyez, Dieminion, and NuckleDu. Dieminion and Snake Eyez have met in Grand Finals of each of the last two Ranking events on U.S. soil, with Dieminion taking top honors at Summer Jam 9 and Snake Eyez winning The Fall Classic. While both of these players are safely into the Capcom Cup field, they’ll both be looking to pick up points to improve their seeding at the year-end event.
Central America CPT Qualifier
Oct. 25; San José, CRC
Tournament: Sunday, Oct. 25 at 10am PT/1pm ET/17:00 UTC
Players to watch
WFX|801 Strider – 801 Strider is one of the few players from outside of Central America scheduled to enter the field in Costa Rica. He stands thirteenth among those who have yet to claim a Premier berth and 28 points ahead of Valmaster, the first man out of the field. A fourth- or fifth-place finish should strengthen Strider’s position, but a finish of third or better would almost certainly be enough to secure a place at Capcom Cup.
Itabashi Zangief – “ItaZan” enters the weekend as the last man to make the Capcom Cup field on points. He also enters the weekend as one of the favorites in Costa Rica. A third-place performance or better would all but secure a Capcom Cup berth, but an early exit here and strong performances from players on the bubble could spell disaster for ItaZan.
EG|PR Balrog – It’s hard to imagine a Capcom Cup without PR Balrog, who finished tied for fifth at last year’s event and made Top 8 at EVO this year, but it’s a very real possibility. He currently sits 52 points behind Itabashi Zangief for the final points-based berth. A win this weekend would punch his ticket to San Francisco, while anything less would leave him with work to do at next weekend’s Canada Cup.
Local heroes – Costa Rica hosted four CPT events last year under the Ciber Olimpicos banner, and all four were won by Costa Ricans. Gabriel “Gabo” Miranda (Segaddict) won two, while the others were won by Pablo Alvarado “Bebedero” Siles (CM TG) and Danny Castillo “Nano” Álvarez (TCCR). All three are in the Central America CPT Qualifier field this weekend. While a Capcom Cup berth is out of reach, they’ll all be ready to defend their home turf against some of the world’s best players.