Three tournaments took place over the weekend. Milan Games Week, the lone Premier event, offered players a chance to win direct qualification into the Capcom Cup. Defend the North brought most of America’s best players together for one last battle on American soil, while a few contenders tried their luck at the Central America CPT Qualifier in Costa Rica. With contenders at all three tournaments while many of the top players were committed to playing in Topanga A League over the weekend, the conditions were set for multiple players to move into qualifying positions.
Most of the players who improved their position were the ones who were projected to make the Capcom Cup field. Justin Wong, Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada, and Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero all started the weekend barely in the field and ended the weekend safely through to San Francisco. Meanwhile, players who needed to score big over the weekend to qualify for Capcom Cup—including Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez, Valentin “Valmaster” Petit, Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart, and Bryant “Smug” Huggins—failed to take advantage of the situation. The end result: The 15 players projected to make the field via points are the same this week as they were last week, and only Arubi “RB” Kao went from out of the field to into it.
Only one chance remains for players to earn points, and that comes this weekend at Canada Cup. With so many strong players already confirmed, players on the outside looking in may be wondering if their best chance to qualify has already passed them by.
Week in review
Milan Games Week – Razer’s Edge
Team Razer’s two highest-profile fighting game players grabbed the top two spots at Milan Games Week, but it was their lesser-heralded teammate who took home the biggest prize of the weekend: an automatic berth into the Capcom Cup.
Keita “Fuudo” Ai defeated teammate Kun Xian Ho to win the Italian Premier event. Fuudo scored a bit of revenge with the win, as Xian was the victor when the two faced each other in the Grand Finals of last month’s KO Fighting Game Festival. Both players had already won automatic berths into Capcom Cup earlier in the year—Xian at Final Round XVIII, and Fuudo at KO Fighting Game Festival—so the honor fell to third-place finisher Arubi “RB” Kao. The trio were so dominant this weekend that their only losses came at the hands of each other.
Before the tournament, RB had just seven Capcom Pro Tour points to his name and had not made Top 8 at a CPT event since a second-place finish at the 2014 Hong Kong eSports Tournament. He broke his slump in a big way, as his run included victories over many of Europe’s top players. He defeated Norway’s Arman Rabiee “Phenom” Hanjan and France’s Valentin “Valmaster” Petit in the winners’ bracket. Even after falling to Xian in the Winners’ Semifinals, he eliminated France’s Oliver “Luffy” Hay and the UK’s Ryan Hart to reach the Losers’ Finals and guarantee his place in the Capcom Cup.
Falcon Arena’s Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart, who needed a top-three finish to earn enough points to have a chance at earning a spot in Capcom Cup via points, began his tournament with a loss to Michael “Easyman” Tshiyoyo. Hart then went on an incredible tear in the losers’ bracket with wins over contenders Rize’s DC “Infexious” Coleman, Yosuke “Kindevu” Ito, Takenori “Tonpy” Shimomura, and Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley. His luck changed once he reached RB, however. Hart’s Yun was no match for RB’s Rolento, and neither his Evil Ryu or Sagat fared any better.
Hart was not the only player to fall short of what he needed to do to gain entry into Capcom Cup. Team BrawL’s Tatsuya Haitani needed to make the last four of the tournament to get above the cut line, but he was also knocked out at 13th. ESports-Runner’s Yoshihisa “Gonzales” Hirata finished tied for fifth, but the 16 points he earned were not enough to move into qualifying position. Perhaps most disappointing of all was Valmaster, who needed to finish in fifth or better to move into qualifying position but was eliminated in 13th by Hiroyuki “Eita” Nagata. His form has dramatically improved from the beginning of the season, but with a trip to next weekend’s Canada Cup unlikely, it appears that Valmaster has run out of time to dig himself out of his early-season hole.
1st – Keita “Fuudo” Ai
2nd – Kun Xian Ho
3rd – Arubi “RB” Kao
4th – Ryan “Prodigal Son” Hart
5th – Oliver “Luffy” Hay
5th – Yoshihisa “Gonzales” Hirata
7th – Hiroyuki “Eita” Nagata
7th – Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley
Defend the North – He’s Still Got It
Evil Geniuses’ Justin Wong returned to his old stomping grounds of New York in hopes of earning enough CPT points to cement his suddenly-tenuous place in Capcom Cup. He did quite a bit more than that: he claimed victory at Defend the North, the season’s final CPT event on U.S. soil.
Wong got stronger as the weekend went on. He survived a serious scare from Richard “Native Impact” Melendez to get into Top 8 on the winners’ side. Once there, he knocked off three of America’s top players in a row: Team PIE’s Bryant “Smug” Huggins, third-place finisher Du “NuckleDu” Dang of Team Liquid, and runner-up Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis of Red Bull.
In terms of Capcom Cup qualifying, the biggest story of Finals Sunday was Smug, who needed nothing less than a win to move into qualifying position. His chances looked good, as he began Sunday in the winners’ side of top eight. Things went south quickly for him, as his Dudley could not handle Wong’s Elena play. His luck in the losers’ bracket was no better, as he fell to a familiar opponent: fellow Next Level Battle Circuit regular Sean “Shine” Simpson of Optimal Gaming, who finished fourth. Smug will need to attend next week’s Canada Cup and finish in one of the top two positions to earn a spot in Capcom Cup.
Evil Geniuses’ Ricki Ortiz failed to qualify out of her pool after losses to Shine and Empire Arcadia’s Jeron “Hiro” Grayson. She can still get into the field via points, but she’ll need to earn at least third place—and possibly second—at Canada Cup.
Keepin’ It Grimey’s Benjamin “Problem X” Simon also fell short of his goals. The UK player, who skipped the Premier event on his home continent to try his luck in New York, entered the weekend 30 points ahead of the first man out of the Capcom Cup field, Valmaster. Problem X bowed out of the tournament in nineth place after a loss to Shine, but he remains 30 points clear of the first man out thanks to the struggles of other bubble players elsewhere in the world.
1st – Justin Wong
2nd – Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis
3rd – Du “NuckleDu” Dang
4th – Sean “Shine” Simpson
5th – Bryant “Smug” Huggins
5th – “Riceata”
7th – Kevin “Dieminion” Landon
7th – Zaferino Barros
Central America CPT Qualifier – Strider and ItaZan Punch Their Tickets
There was plenty of chaos surrounding this weekend’s Costa Rican event. The tournament was initially set to take place under the Ciber Olimpicos banner, but those plans changed less than two weeks from the event. On Wednesday, organizers announced a venue change from the Vortex Game Center to Universidad Creativa, two miles away. The chaos continued to the day of the tournament, when more players than expected registered at the door. Instead of either adding the players to the four existing pools or splitting those 16-player pools into eight smaller ones, the organizers decided to create a fifth bracket with nine players. This led to an… interesting Top 16 bracket that included ten players.
For all of that chaos and craziness, the tournament itself was relatively surprise-free. The three attendees from outside of Central America—Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada, Winterfox’s Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero, and Evil Geniuses’ Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez—took first, second, and third in that order. The trio fended off challenges from several strong Central American players, including John “Kakaroto” Salinas and Bruno “Doomsday” La Gratta of Panama, before squaring off with each other.
While 801 Strider and Itabashi Zangief were looking to strengthen their holds on Capcom Cup berths, PR Balrog entered the tournament on the outside of the Capcom Cup field. PR Rog needed to claim either first or second at this tournament to move into a qualifying position. He was able to hold off Gabriel “Gabo” Miranda and Kakaroto to qualify for Winners’ Finals, but he couldn’t get past ItaZan is Winners’ Finals and lost a heartbreaking set to 801 Strider which went down to the wire. While Strider and ItaZan are assured of a place in Capcom Cup, PR Balrog will need a strong performance at next weekend’s Canada Cup to secure his place in San Francisco.
1st – Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada
2nd – Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero
3rd – Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez
4th – Bruno “Doomsday” La Grotta
5th – Pablo Alvarado “Bebedero” Siles
5th – John “Kakaroto” Salinas
7th – Oscar Daniel “Doomed” Barrios Diaz
7th – Gabriel “Gabo” Miranda