Team MadCatz’s Daigo Umehara has earned a reputation as the best long-set Street Fighter player in the world, so his victory in the most prestigious long-set tournament of the year should come as no surprise to most fans.
What was surprising was the margin of victory—There wasn’t one.
Daigo won the 5th Topanga A League on Monday. It was his second consecutive Topanga A League title and fourth straight top-level Topanga tournament win. He finished the final stage with a 3-2 record in a four-way tie with Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue, Red Bull’s Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, and Evil Geniuses’ Yusuke Momochi. Daigo won the tiebreaker because he and Bonchan each finished 2-1 in matches involving this four-player group, and Daigo had won the head-to-head match between the two.
Daigo needed everything to go right for him on Monday after a decisive 7-1 defeat to Kazunoko on Sunday. (His one “victory” in that set was the one-game advantage he was given for finishing higher than Kazunoko in qualifying.) He entered the final day of the six-man round-robin in fifth place with a 1-2 record, ahead of only 1-3 Hiroshi “Dashio” Arai of Yubiken. Bonchan, Momochi, and Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto were all tied for first at at 2-1, while Kazunoko stood at 2-2. Daigo needed to beat both Bonchan and Momochi on Monday to have a chance at winning the tournament, and he needed Nemo to lose to Momochi to take him and Kazunoko out of any potential tiebreaker.
That’s exactly what happened. Daigo took the final five games against Bonchan to score a 7-1 victory, then watched as Nemo dropped the final five games of his set with Momochi to turn a 5-2 lead into a 7-5 loss. Kazunoko’s 7-2 win over Dashio helped him in the standings, but tiebreakers ensured that he, Bonchan, and Nemo were all out of the running for the title and made Bonchan’s 7-4 win over Nemo a moot point.
Thus the tournament came down to a winner-take-all match between Daigo and Momochi. The set was a back-and-forth affair early, much like their incredible matchup at this year’s Stunfest Grand Finals. Daigo started with a one-game advantage, but Momochi tied things up in short order. The two traded games until it was 3-3, but Daigo took control from that point on and would not lose another game on his way to a 7-3 victory and the championship.
Daigo’s status as the king of the long-set has been well-earned, especially in the last two-and-a-half years. He scored victories in notable first-to-ten exhibitions against then-reigning EVO champion Kun Xian Ho (10-0) and Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee (10-2) in 2013. He won both the inaugural Topanga World League and the 4th Topanga A League in 2014, and claimed victory at both Canada Cup Master Series and the 2nd Topanga World League this year. With this victory, he adds a fifth long-set round-robin title to his trophy case.
The tournament marked the third straight Topanga event where Momochi fell just short of victory. He finished in second place to Daigo at both last year’s Topanga A League and this year’s Topanga World League.
While Daigo emerged the victor, all six of the participants turned in strong performances over the three-day event. Even Dashio, the only player who didn’t have a chance to claim the title heading into the final day, scored a solid 7-3 win over Bonchan, gave Nemo everything he could handle in a 7-5 defeat, and pushed Momochi to the maximum number of games before falling 10-9.
5th Topanga A League, Final Stage Results
- Daigo Umehara, Team MadCatz, 3-2
- Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, Red Bull, 3-2
- Yusuke Momochi, Evil Geniuses, 3-2
- Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue, 3-2
- Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto, 2-3
- Hiroshi “Dashio” Arai, Yubiken, 1-4
With Topanga in the books, all six players now turn their attention to San Francisco, which will host Capcom Cup in less than two weeks. While brackets have not officially been released, traditional seeding suggests that Daigo, tenth in points, will likely be paired against Kevin “Dieminion” Landon in the first round. Third-seeded Bonchan will likely square off with Kentaro “Misse” Nakamura while eleventh-seeded Kazunoko will likely face Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero in a rematch of the Grand Finals at CEO. Nemo and Dashio, ranked 13th and 20th in points respectively, will face off in the opening round, while top overall seed Momochi won’t know his opponent until after this weekend’s DreamHack Winter.