Kazunoko takes the Capcom Cup in dominating fashion
For most of the rest of the tournament, he appeared to play even better.
Kazunoko used his Yun to perfection as he dominated one of the most decorated tournament fields in Street Fighter history to win Capcom Cup 2015 and claim the $120,000 first-place prize, the largest prize ever awarded at a fighting game tournament. He capped his run to the title with a 3-2 victory over countryman Daigo Umehara in the grand finals, one of the few points in the tournament where Kazunoko appeared vulnerable.
Umehara won the first Street Fighter IV international tournament in 2009, and had hoped to win what in all likelihood be the game’s last major event. While Kazunoko denied him, Umehara still won $60,000 for his second-place finish.
Team Razer’s Kun Xian Ho of Singapore, who had finished second at both the 2013 and 2014 editions of Capcom Cup, finished third and took home $25,000. R/kappa’s Lee Chung “Poongko” Gon, one of two South Koreans to finish in the top eight, earned $15,000 for his fourth-place finish.
Japan’s Kentaro “Misse” Nakamura, Poogko’s r/kappa teammate, ended the day tied for fifth place with Red Bull athlete Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis, the highest-placing American player in the field. Each took home $10,000 for their efforts. Keoma Moutsatsos Pacheco of Brazil and Team Razer’s Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee of South Korea tied for seventh and won $5,000 each.
Many feared that the story of the tournament would be the dominance of Elena, a character whose playstyle has earned her a spot at the top of most tier lists and the bottom of most viewers’ popularity lists. The Capcom Cup field included arguably the two best Elena players in the world—Xian and Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang—and several other players who had used her with varying degrees of success. Yet thanks in large part to early exits by most of those players, she was not used in top eight and was only selected once in top 16.
Instead, the top story of the day was Kazunoko’s dominance.
Kazunoko faced Team Winterfox’s Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero in the opening round of the 32-man event. All three games in the set came down to scramble situations in the final round, Kazunoko lost the first game, but pulled out clutch victories in the last two to advance into the winners’ bracket.
From that point on, Kazunoko was nearly unstoppable.
After losing the first game of the day, Kazunoko won 12 straight games to reach the grand finals. He dropped just one round on his way to a 2-0 victory over Keepin’ it Grimey’s Benjamin “Problem X” Simon, following that up with consecutive six-round shutouts of Misse and Umehara, and dropped just one round against Xian. The round Xian won ended a streak of 18 consecutive rounds between the second round and Winners’ Finals that went Kazunoko’s way.
Umehara’s path to the grand finals was not as dominant, but impressive nonetheless. The two-time EVO champion, who used Evil Ryu throughout the event, opened the tournament with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over YOMI Gaming’s Kevin “Dieminion” Landon, and followed that up with a 2-1 win over Team Yubiken’s Sanshiro “Shiro” Nagai. He then produced the moment of the tournament when he scored an incredible comeback on a magic pixel against Infiltration to help secure a 3-1 win and a trip to Top 8.
Umehara then got swept by Kazunoko, just as he had during their last encounter two weeks ago at Topanga A League. While most of the rounds were close, Kazunoko seemed to come up with the right moves at the end of every single round Still, Umehara fought on in the losers’ bracket. He scored a dominant victory over Snake Eyez, then held off a strong challenge from Poongko and knocked off Xian to reach the grand finals and earn a shot at revenge.
Their Grand Finals set began the same way their earlier set did, as Kazunoko came through in the clutch to win a tense first game. It appeared that he would steamroll Umehara when Kazunoko won the first round of the second game, but “The Beast” responded with a pair of strong rounds to even the set. The two split the next two games to push the set to a decisive fifth game.
Umehara took the first round of the game and it appeared that he would force a bracket reset, but Kazunoko responded in style. He scored a second-round perfect in just 19 seconds and opened the third round with a huge Red Focus combo that drained 40 percent of Umehara’s health. While Umehara was able to land a combo to essentially tie the health battle, he would not land another hit.
THE OTHER STARS OF THE TOURNAMENT
Third-place finisher Xian, the only player in the field who won three Premier events during the 2015 Capcom Pro Tour, never quite looked as dominant as he had during the regular season. He opened his tournament with a 2-1 victory over Team YP’s Valentin “Valmaster” Petit, who wore a jersey with a mosaic-blurred Team YP logo in protest of Capcom’s decision to block any reference to the team on stream. He was pushed to the maximum number of games by Team Yubiken’s Hiroshi “Dashio” Arai, Keoma, and Poongko, but won all three sets. He then got outmatched twice, once by Kazunoko in the winners finals and again by Umehara in the losers’ finals, to end his run
Unlike Xian, Poongko appeared to be sharp in the early going. The CPT Asia Finals champion scored victories over Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada, defending champion Yusuke Momochi, and Jonny Lai “HumanBomb” Cheng to reach the top eight. He lost to Xian, but responded with a victory over Misse. While he was eliminated by Umehara, he gave the two-time EVO champion everything he could handle.
Much was made before the event of the depth of the competition, and that depth showed in the results Only two of the eight highest-seeded players in the tournament made top eight, where they were joined by two players ranked below 20th.
One of those low seeds was Misse, who entered the 32-man tournament as the No. 30 seed. He used Makoto, a character rarely seen in the last rounds of tournaments, to near-perfection. He knocked off two-time Premier event winner and Red Bull athlete Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi in the first round, then followed that up with a victory over Liquid’s Du “NuckleDu” Dang. After losing to eventual-champion Kazunoko, he scored back-to-back wins over Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi of Team Mad Catz and Infiltration before falling to Poongko.
Keoma, the No. 21 seed, turned heads during the opening round when he knocked Snake Eyez, one of the world’s best Zangiefs, into the losers’ bracket in four straight rounds. The result was a shock to many, as Snake Eyez had scored several good results against 801 Strider, another Abel player. Keoma followed that win with an even bigger upset over AVerMedia’s Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang, While he lost to Xian in an incredible set, he scored one more victory over Itabashi Zangief before Snake Eyez scored revenge in the top eight and ended his run.
Snake Eyez’s path back to the top eight was arduous. After the shock loss to Keoma, the man who is the focus of a Red Bull documentary series had to deal with Ghim Kee “Gackt” Eng’s Fei Long, a matchup that has historically given him problems. After splitting the first two games, Gackt counterpicked with Sagat, but it wasn’t enough to stop Snake Eyez. He then scored victories over Takenori “Tonpy” Shimomura, Shiro, HumanBomb, and Keoma before falling to Daigo.
Bonchan was perhaps the most surprising player to go 0-2 at Capcom Cup. He'd entered the event on a bit of a roll, having won three CPT events—two of which were Premier events—during the final few months of the season. He hardly looked the part, as he couldn't find an answer for Misse’s relentless Makoto in the opening round of the tournament, and he could only take one round against Zhuojun “XiaoHai” Zeng’s Evil Ryu.
Fellow Japanese player Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto, the top-ranked player in Japanese arcades, also made the earliest exit possible. Nemo was upset by a man he had defeated twice during the recent fifth Topanga A League. Nemo’s day was then ended by Valmaster, who used his Chun-Li to thoroughly outplay and eliminate Nemo.
Evil Geniuses’ Momochi, the defending Capcom Cup champion and reigning EVO champion, only did slightly better. He won his first match, a tense affair against Razer’s Arubi “RB” Kao, but he fell to Poongko’s Seth and dropped four straight rounds to 2014 EVO champion Olivier “Luffy” Hay’s Rose to bow out in 17th place.
2011 EVO champion Keita “Fuudo” Ai also failed to make the last 16 of the tournament. Fuudo’s day began with a loss to lower-seeded HumanBomb, a player who has given Fuudo trouble at previous events. He was able to find a way past China’s Xijie “Dark Jiewa” Zeng, but just like at EVO, he did not have an answer for NuckleDu’s Guile.
CAPCOM CUP 2015 - FULL RESULTS
1st - Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue (JPN)
2nd - Daigo Umehara (JPN), Mad Catz
3rd - Kun Xian Ho (SNG), Razer
4th - Lee Chung “Poongko” Gon (KOR), r/kappa
5th - Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis (USA), Red Bull
5th - Kentaro “Misse” Nakamura (JPN), r/kappa
7th - Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee (KOR), Razer
7th - Keoma Moutsatsos Pachero (BRA)
9th - Jonny Lai “HumanBomb” Cheng (HK), Canada Cup Gaming
9th - Olivier “Luffy” Hay (FRA), Meltdown
9th - Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada (JPN)
9th - Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi (JPN), Mad Catz
13th - Du “NuckleDu” Dang (USA), Liquid
13th - Kenryo “Mago” Hayashi (JPN), Mad Catz
13th - Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang (TWN), AverMedia
13th - Sanshiro “Shiro” Nagai (JPN), Yubiken
17th - Keita “Fuudo” Ai (JPN), Razer
17th - Hiroshi “Dashio” Arai (JPN), Yubiken
17th - Yusuke Momochi (JPN), Evil Geniuses
17th - Takenori “Tonpy” Shimomura (JPN), Magnolia Factory
17th - Benjamin “Problem X” Simon (UK), Keepin’ It Grimey
17th - Valentin “Valmaster” Petit (FRA), Team YP
17th - Haojun “Dakou” Su (CHN), Qanba/DouyuTV
17th - Zhuojun “XiaoHai” Zeng (CHN), Qanba/DouyuTV
25th - Ghim Kee “Gackt” Eng (SNG), Razer
25th - Arubi “RB” Kao (TWN), Razer
25th - Kevin “Dieminion” Landon (USA), YOMI Gaming
25th - Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto (JPN)
25th - Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero (USA), Winterfox
25th - Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi (JPN), Red Bull
25th - Justin Wong (USA), Evil Geniuses
25th - Xijie “Dark Jiewa” Zeng (CHN)
Photo via Capcom Fighters/Twitter