Friday, December 12, 2014

Capcom Cup 2014 Preview

After ten long months of grueling competition through more than a hundred tournaments in over twenty countries and also online, all roads will converge this Saturday, December 13, at The Warfield in San Francisco, where the sixteen most distinguished players during this year’s Capcom Pro Tour will assemble to finally settle things in Ultra Street Fighter IV at the 2014 Capcom Cup.

Whereas last year’s Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012 championship included a mere eight competitors, each of whom had to qualify by winning a different major tournament from the second half of the year, this year twice as many spots were up for grabs, with a few different routes to qualification. First, a select ten tournaments deemed the biggest in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and spread out from March to the very end of November, were granted “Premier Tournament” status on the Capcom Pro Tour. Victory at any of these ten competitions earned the winner a ticket straight into Capcom Cup. The remaining spots, then, would be given to the next six players who had accumulated the most ranking points on the Capcom Pro Tour. Placing in the top 16 at any Premier Tournament earned a player ranking points according to their performance. Besides just the ten Premier Tournaments, however, there were more than forty additional “Tier 2” events granted “Ranking Tournament” status. Ranking Tournaments offered fewer points than Premier Tournaments, but the sheer number of Ranking Tournaments meant that a player who entered a lot and performed consistently well could amass a lot of points without necessarily having to win a major. Finally, there was the “Street Fighter Online Series,” which consisted of 28 online tournaments, each worth “Tier 3” points, open to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 players in the Americas and Europe.


Qualifier #1: Ryan Hart

The UK's Ryan Hart has been the most famous player in Europe for over a decade. He was one of the first Europeans to travel beyond his home continent to compete. Internationally, he made his name in 3-D fighters, such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter, as pretty much the one guy in the world who could go toe-to-toe with the South Korean giants. But Hart goes wherever the competition is, and these days he is known for having been one of Europe’s top 3 Street Fighter IV players throughout the life of the game.

Hart was the first player to qualify for Capcom Cup 2014 back in March. He did it by winning Final Round 17 in Atlanta, GA, USA. The release of Ultra Street Fighter IV was still months away, so this first Premier Tournament was conducted on Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012. To win, Hart had to get past South Korea’s Infiltration and NorCal’s PR Balrog. Although primarily a Sagat player, he foiled the former by shrewdly picking Yun as a hard counter to Infiltration's Akuma, then impressively turned back the freight train that was PR Balrog.

Hart followed up his Final Round victory with another big win in the US, taking Chicago’s Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 10 in May. He remained a consistent performer through the remainder of the Capcom Pro Tour, almost always placing 2nd or 3rd at European events. Still the No. 2 player in Europe, he has been a distant second since Evo, however, to longtime French rival, Luffy, whom he has not been able to defeat in a tournament in months. The transition to Ultra Street Fighter IV has clearly hurt Hart, and he has openly expressed his frustration with the changes to Sagat, raising serious questions as to his mental preparedness for Capcom Cup.

2014 Accomplishments:

Final Round 17 (2014) - Winner
UFGT 10 (2014) - Winner


Qualifier #2: PR Balrog

NorCal-based Puerto Rican player Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez has been the most successful Balrog user through the entire Street Fighter IV series. At both Evo 2012 and Evo 2013, he was the highest-placing American, getting 3rd and 4th respectively, leading quite a few analysts to declare him the best player in the US. The Japanese even invited him to be the American representative at this year’s Topanga World League, to compete against the best players in Asia.

PR Balrog qualified for Capcom Cup through the second Premier Tournament, April’s NorCal Regionals in Sacramento, CA, USA, where he bested Infiltration for the third time in as many events this year. Their rivalry having taken off with some classic bouts at Evo 2013, PR Balrog has continually proven himself one of the few US players ready to hang with the Evo 2012 champion. Unintimidated by Infiltration’s record and seeming aura of invincibility, PR Balrog treated him as he would any other player, which is maybe what gave him an edge. His aggressive play style was not so much disrespectful as it was fearless, but, either way, it got him the win.

PR Balrog's results declined somewhat after the tour transitioned to Ultra Street Fighter IV. In what was increasingly a trend among top players, he picked up an alternate character, Evil Ryu, to complement his main character, Balrog. Evil Ryu is undoubtedly one of the strongest characters in Ultra Street Fighter IV, whose overpowering offensive tools should suit PR Balrog’s play style. Still, some analysts feel that splitting time between Balrog and Evil Ryu has diluted PR Balrog’s potency.

2014 Accomplishments:

NorCal Regionals 2014 - Winner
Final Round 17 - Runner-Up


Qualifier #3: Momochi

Yusuke Momochi has never been the most explosive of players, but his fundamentals with Ken are among the most solid of any player even in his home country of Japan. It is his strong core game that has allowed him to place highly in Japan's last two elite Topanga A League invitationals. He sees through flashier players' gimmicks and takes them to school.

That is precisely what he did to Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue at South East Asia Major in June, the third Premier Tournament on the Capcom Pro Tour, and the first to be conducted on Ultra Street Fighter IV. Against the world's preeminent user of Yun, the game's greatest offensive powerhouse, Momochi kept his cool, cooled off his opponent, and managed to take control and impose his own pace against a character that should have been much faster than his own.

Momochi had no other major victories in 2014, but he did make Top 8 at Evo and finished 2nd in the 4th Topanga A League. Also one of the most versatile players, he does have other characters to cover his bases for potential matchups at Capcom Cup. If the situation calls for it, he can go from Ken to Juri for a little more juice. The opponent he'll probably most have to look out for is the next guy on this list.

2014 Accomplishments:

South East Asia Major 2014 - Winner
CEO 2014 - Runner-Up
Evo 2014 - 7th Place
4th Topanga A League - Runner-Up


Qualifier #4: Infiltration

Two years ago, a nigh-invincible Seonwoo "Infiltration" Lee had the most dominant season in Street Fighter IV’s competitive history. He was a problem that nobody could solve, but for the occasional Cammy player. He was not quite as much a terror in 2013, but still, any time he entered a tournament, the other players understood that they would need to have a solution to him, if they were to have any hope of coming away with the trophy. As Japanese pro player Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi put it, “The path of victory goes through Infiltration. If you want to win any major, you must defeat him.”

Heading into Community Event Orlando (CEO), the fourth Premier Tournament on the Capcom Pro Tour, the South Korean was coming off back-to-back victories in the first Ultra Street Fighter IV competitions of the tour, including wins against both recent nemesis PR Balrog and also Ryan Hart, whose Yun pick did not work a second time. At CEO 2014, Infiltration's own path to the Capcom Cup ticket would take him through Justin Wong, PR Balrog, and Ricky Ortiz, the top three players in the US, who were all sponsored by Evil Geniuses. Infiltration used three different characters to beat the US members of Team Evil Genius, then punctuated his victory by utterly breaking the team's Japanese ringer, Momochi, in a grand final with mainly pride at stake (the rules did not permit Momochi to "double-qualify," so the Capcom Cup spot would be going to Infiltration, no matter the result of their match).

Entering Evo 2014 two weeks later as the No. 1 seed, Infiltration would finish disappointingly tied for 25th. He then took most of the rest of the year off from competition, which leaves him an ominous question mark for Capcom Cup. There’s no telling what form he’ll be in on Saturday, but if he’s at his best, there may not be anyone who can beat him.

2014 Accomplishments:

CEO 2014 - Winner
DreamHack Summer 2014 - Winner
SoCal Regionals 2014 - Runner-Up
NorCal Regionals 2014 - Runner-Up
WECG 2014 Korea Qualifier - Winner


Qualifier #5: Justin Wong

Although we wouldn't know it until much later, Justin Wong’s 5th-place finish at CEO would be enough to get him into Capcom Cup via ranking points. He earned most of his points from Ranking Tournaments in the US during the first half of the year, when the tour was still running on Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012, and he never really contended for a Premier Tournament ticket after Ultra Street Fighter IV came out. He experimented for a period with playing as new character Elena, but has since gone back to playing Rufus almost exclusively. Rumor is, he’s got another character that he’s been saving just for Capcom Cup.

Justin will be an underdog, for sure, but the Evo 2009 runner-up should never be underestimated. His triumph in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Evo 2014 showed what he’s capable of when he really dedicates himself to a single goal, and now that the scene for that game has gone quiet after Evo, Justin has been able to focus all his competitive energies on training for Ultra Street Fighter IV and Capcom Cup 2014.

2014 Accomplishments:

Texas Showdown 2014 - Winner
PAX East 2014 - Winner
Stunfest 2014 - Runner-Up
PAX Prime 2014 - Winner


Qualifier #6: Luffy

The premier Rose specialist in the world (and, for a long time, just about the only one in international competition), France's Olivier "Luffy" Hay has long been one of the strongest Street Fighter IV players in Europe, but this year saw him take his game to another level. He qualified for Capcom Cup by winning an even bigger event.

At Evo 2014, Luffy ran through a veritable Topanga A League of Japanese players, en route to a final showdown against the 3rd Topanga A League winner himself, Sagat master Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi. The bracket may actually have worked out in Luffy's favor in the grand final, however, as he brought with him countless battles' worth of experience against one of the best Sagat players in the world in Ryan Hart, whereas Bonchan had never faced a Rose that was anywhere near Luffy's level.

Luffy's victory at Evo 2014 would be only the beginning. He would go on to win more tournaments than any other player in 2014, proving that there was nothing random about his victory at Evo. Even against the big Japanese names, he'll surely head into Saturday as one of the favorites. Heck, he already beat most of them at Evo, so he's not likely going to be intimidated at the prospect of running into any of them here. The biggest threat to him may be Xian, who was the only player to take a match from Luffy at Evo 2014, after having defeated him at Evo the previous year as well.

2014 Accomplishments:

Evo 2014 - Winner
Stunfest 2014 - Winner
DreamHack Valencia 2014 - Winner
DreamHack Stockholm 2014 - Winner
Red Fight District III - Winner
VSFighting 4 - Runner-Up


Qualifier #7: Bonchan

On the Capcom Pro Tour, Evo was its own tier beyond even the Premier Tournaments. The winner would get an instant ticket to Capcom Cup, of course, but additionally the ranking points at stake were four times as many as at regular Premier Tournaments. For coming in 2nd, Bonchan received 512 ranking points—easily enough to qualify him for a spot at Capcom Cup. The world's greatest Sagat player continued to add to his points total, however, by placing highly at event after event in arguably the most competitive region in the world. His record definitely makes a strong case for him being the best player of 2014.

If he has one weakness, however, it would perhaps be his inability to adapt quickly enough when facing unfamiliar matchups. Reviewing the Evo 2014 grand final against Luffy, it was clear that Bonchan was completely lost on how to approach the Rose match. At the Mad Catz Tokyo Game Show Tournament in September, Bonchan again went virtually unchallenged on his way to the final through a field including every top Japanese player, before running into one Yudai “Pepeday” Furushima, a walk-on entrant from the remote southernmost island of Japan. For all his honed skill with Sagat, it was once again clear that Bonchan had no idea what was going on in this match against this hidden El Fuerte master, and, even in a longer first-to-5 set, he could not figure Pepeday out.

Before anybody gets to thinking that Bonchan simply chokes in grand finals, I'll add that he did dominate September’s Thaiger Uppercut, one of the biggest double-elimination tournaments in Asia. Against such known competitors as Xian and Itazan, who could not surprise him, Bonchan had no trouble at all. For Capcom Cup, he has also vowed to be ready this time for the Rose match. Unless any of the other qualifiers have new tricks saved up just for him, he may well end up running over the field.

2014 Accomplishments:

Evo 2014 - Runner-Up
Thaiger Uppercut 2014 - Winner
Mad Catz TGS 2014 - Runner-Up
Taito Arcade Nationals - Runner-Up


Qualifier #8: Valmaster

Valentin "Valmaster" Petit of France is perhaps the greatest Chun-Li player active right now. He first drew international recognition toward the tail end of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012, a Chun-Li specialist at a time when the character had gone nearly extinct at the tournament level and was regarded as among the weakest in the game. Rather like Evo champions Luffy and Xian, Valmaster emerged then as a singular specialist maximizing a seldom-seen character perceived as mid-tier at best, and so excelling with her that public estimation of the character became almost solely determined by the one player’s performance with her. In Europe, to say that Chun-Li is a threat is really to mean that Valmaster is a threat with her.

Valmaster's breakthrough major victory came in March at Hypespotting 3 in Scotland against Ryan Hart, and he followed that up with an impressive performance at Stunfest, where he defeated Japanese fighting game god Tatsuya Haitani. One of the best players not present at Evo 2014, Valmaster's first major in Ultra Street Fighter IV would be VSFighting 4 in Birmingham, UK, one of Europe's two Premier Tournaments, where he became the player to snap Luffy's post-Evo winning streak.

Valmaster will go into Capcom Cup having never faced most of the other competitors. Thus, it will be hard to call many of his potential matchups, especially in a best-of-3 format. His first-round opponent happens to be Xian, however, who has faced and beaten him before.

2014 Accomplishments:

VSFighting 4 - Winner
Hypespotting 3 - Winner
Stunfest 2014 - 3rd Place


Qualifier #9: Xian

One of the most technically skilled players in the world, Ho Kun Xian of Singapore was the first and still only player to win majors with Gen, perhaps the most execution-intensive character in the game. Last year, Xian played that character so far beyond anyone else's understanding that he made winning Evo 2013 look effortless, when in fact it was a lot of hard work. That probably led to Gen being unfairly weakened in Ultra Street Fighter IV, and, in 2014, along with some of Gen's tools went a bit of Xian's confidence.

Xian struggled early in Ultra Street Fighter IV against the Japanese players at South East Asia Major, which was actually his home major (it was hosted by Tough Cookie TV, the gaming cafe that Xian manages). He started to find his form again after Evo, however, winning Ranking Tournaments in South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore. By the time he made the trip out to The Fall Classic in Raleigh, NC, USA to try to win a direct entry to Capcom Cup, he was already close to a lock on points anyway. Xian proceeded to steamroll through the field while barely dropping a game on his way to the grand final. He left little doubt that he was still one of the strongest players in the world, as he crushed Sanford Kelly’s Oni with new alternate character Poison, then doused Dudley specialist Smug, who was usually one of the hottest and most entertaining players on the tour.

The victory over Smug secured Xian enough ranking points to guarantee a spot at Capcom Cup, but he still wanted to go one step further and win a Premier Tournament. Standing in his way, unfortunately, was Snake Eyez.

The two memorably played one another at Evo 2014, and, although it was close, it was apparent that the defending champion was not comfortable with the Zangief match. Snake Eyez took it, and then Xian had the misfortune to run into another Zangief player, Japan’s Hiromiki “Itazan” Kumada, who eliminated him in the losers bracket. Two months later, at Thaiger Uppercut, Xian lost to Itazan again, thoroughly exposing the Evo 2013 champ’s weakness to this character. Against Snake Eyez at The Fall Classic, Xian lost to Zangief yet again. Clearly, the character is Xian's demon, and Snake Eyez will be the player he'll most hope to avoid at Capcom Cup.

2014 Accomplishments:

Saigon Cup 2014 - Winner
The Fall Classic 2014 - Runner-Up
CPT Asia Finals 2014 - Runner-Up


Qualifier #10: Snake Eyez

The foremost Zangief player in the US, Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis of Southern California has been considered by many to be the highest-level Street Fighter IV player in the country. The only thing that has held him back from winning more major tournaments has been the number of near insurmountable mismatches that his character faces against hard counters, such as Sagat and Dhalsim. In 2014, with the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV having brought with it some improvements to Zangief, however, Snake Eyez has been having a banner year.

At Evo 2014, Snake Eyez made it all the way to 4th, the highest-placing American. He only seemed to grow in strength after that, and pretty soon there could be no argument anymore that he was the best in the nation. He has been handily defeating Justin Wong and Ricky Ortiz on a consistent basis, becoming the top-ranked US player on the Capcom Pro Tour leaderboard. With his victory over Xian at The Fall Classic, he also became (along with PR Balrog) only the second American to win a Premiere Tournament.

Even as Snake Eyez is Xian's demon, however, the Zangief player may have to face his own demon at Capcom Cup in the form of Fuudo. The Japanese Fei Long player has won all of their previous encounters, thwarting Snake Eyez at the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Tournament and again at Evo 2014.

2014 Accomplishments:

Evo 2014 - 4th Place
The Fall Classic 2014 - Winner
San Diego Comic-Con - Winner
Absolute Battle 5 - Winner
Winner of Wednesday Night Fights Ranking Season


Qualifier #11: Nishikin

The very same weekend as The Fall Classic, October hosted the finals of the Taito Arcade Nationals in Japan. The Japanese national championship for Ultra Street Fighter IV, this was, for the Japanese, maybe as coveted a prize as either Evo or Capcom Cup itself, for which it served as a Premier Tournament. Like Capcom Cup, it was conducted in stages, with regional qualifiers before the national finals, and it was held entirely on arcade, making it a true purist’s dream tournament. Yet the final result was more baffling than anything else.

The No. 1 Blanka specialist in the world, Hiroshi "Nishikin" Nishikido was a known player, but his record did nothing to suggest that his character was anything but bottom-tier. US stream watchers would remember him from CEO 2014, where he got perfected by Smug and then eliminated by Infiltration, who was using Hakan, one of his tertiary characters.

How this guy took the national championship, ahead of Bonchan, Momochi, Daigo, Kazunoko and the rest, is a riddle. Even watching the matches that Nishikin won at the Taito Arcade Nationals doesn’t really clear anything up. His character is gimmicks, and not even anything too out-of-control, but just parlor tricks that work the first time and probably shouldn’t be tried a second (and, to Nishikin’s credit, he seems to recognize this). We’ll see if his bag of tricks goes deep enough to carry him through Capcom Cup. Definitely the long shot, if nothing else, Nishikin could play spoiler by winning in the first round against No. 1 seed Luffy, who likely does not have as much experience with Blanka as he does fighting the other qualifiers’ characters.

2014 Accomplishments:

Taito Arcade Nationals - Winner
WECG 2014 Japan Qualifier - Winner


Qualifier #12: Chuchu

Elsewhere, the news out of South America was that one Eric Moreira “Chuchu” Silva had won the Ranking Tournament at Brazil Game Show 2014, thereby guaranteeing himself a qualification spot at Capcom Cup. For most hearing this news, the immediate reaction was a “Who?” followed by a “How?”

To most, Chuchu was an unknown player who had beaten a bunch of other unknown players at a random tournament in the middle of nowhere. So how was he qualifying ahead of players like GamerBee and K-Brad, who had traveled extensively during the Capcom Pro Tour and even won Ranking Tournaments themselves?

As it turned out, the majority of Chuchu’s ranking points came controversially from online competitions, which some pro players had early on criticized as poorly conceived, poorly publicized, poorly run. Even with online tournaments occurring almost every month, with ranking points up for grabs, very few known players bothered to enter. This created an opportunity for any high-level player who did participate in all or most of them. Recognizing that the field would likely be mediocre, a shrewd competitor could swoop in while everyone else slept and quietly win a bunch of points without ever leaving home. That is exactly what Chuchu did. He was one of only a few players to participate in nearly all of the American online tournaments, both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Now, Chuchu will enter Capcom Cup as the wildcard of the tournament. There is footage of him out there, in case the other competitors want to study up on him, but, even then, he plays Sakura, Chun-Li, and C. Viper all about equally, so it will be very hard to come up with a specific plan for dealing with him. It so happens, however, that his first-round opponent at Capcom Cup will be Infiltration, the one guy out of the entire group who has faced Chuchu before. If Chuchu was hoping to rely on the surprise factor of being the least known player, it is perhaps unfortunate that he will start off against Infiltration. On the other hand, maybe the fact that he actually beat Infiltration in their previous encounter will give him the confidence boost needed to get off to a good start.

2014 Accomplishments:

Brazil Game Show 2014 - Winner
Winner of 4 Street Fighter Online Series Tournaments


Qualifier #13: Ricky Ortiz

Like fellow Rufus player and Team Evil Genius member Justin Wong, Ricky Ortiz started the year quite strong, winning multiple Ranking Tournaments in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012, but then fell off somewhat as the tour wore on. The Evo 2010 runner-up did have a very impressive run at Evo, which included a victory over Capcom Cup 2013 champion Naoto Sako, but afterward she had to grind along all the way to the final Ranking Tournament, traveling down to Thunderstruck in Monterrey, Mexico to collect some free points to just barely qualify.

Also, Ricky began to openly identify as female this year—news that probably slipped by anyone who only watches the games and not the players' Twitter accounts. Maybe she prefers that this be considered separately from her professional gaming, which is why this wasn't made into a bigger story. The lack of reporting did cause many people, myself included, to make asses of ourselves by continuing to refer to Ricky using masculine pronouns for months before we got the memo.

In any event, Ricky will be an underdog at Capcom Cup, but at least she is now the strongest female player in the world by a fair margin.

2014 Accomplishments:

Evo 2014 - 5th Place
Civil War VI - Winner
East Coast Throwdown 2014 - Winner


Qualifier #14: Daigo

A player who needs no introduction, Evo 2009 and 2010 champion Daigo Umehara was the competitor most conspicuously (and, for spectators, disappointingly) absent from last year's Capcom Cup.

2014 has so far not proven quite the comeback year he might have hoped for. He started strong by winning the Topanga World League. Then, with the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV, he switched from his longstanding main of Ryu to arguably the new strongest character in the game, Evil Ryu, and quickly rose to the top of the Japanese arcade rankings. But Daigo was not able to win at any of the major elimination tournaments on his selective schedule. After his earliest exit ever at an Evo, he rejoined the Capcom Pro Tour fairly late, but just in time to contend in the Capcom Pro Tour Asia Series, a group of Ranking Tournaments that then culminated in a Premier Tournament.

In the grand final, Daigo faced off against Xian, who was playing with house money at this point. The Evo 2013 champ had already secured his Capcom Cup spot via ranking points, but still his performance here could have had a huge influence in shaping Capcom Cup 2014. Xian was still eligible to receive the direct ticket, so if he had won here, it would have slammed the door shut on Daigo's chances at entering Capcom Cup, as Daigo had not accumulated enough points to qualify except by winning a Premier Tournament. But, of course, Daigo did win, and in convincing fashion over Xian.

Even when he's not having the most consistent season, it's always hard to bet against Daigo, especially in a tournament like Capcom Cup, where he'll know ahead of time all of the opponents he might have to face. Daigo completely dominated the CPT Asia Series Finals and the 4th Topanga A League, which were both closed-entry competitions.

2014 Accomplishments:

Topanga World League - Winner
4th Topanga A League - Winner
CPT Asia Series - Winner
No. 1 Player on Japanese Arcade Rankings


Qualifier #15: NuckleDu

Florida teenager Du “NuckleDu” Dang was the only player to qualify for Capcom Cup without winning even a Ranking Tournament. He is not an unknown, as he travels quite regularly to events in the US, and he also qualified last year for the Street Fighter X Tekken championship at Capcom Cup. But, like Chuchu, more than half of his points this year came from online tournaments. Indeed, he leapfrogged GamerBee and other players in the rankings very suddenly and very late in the game by winning the final two American online tournaments on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

NuckleDu’s most impressive performance was probably his match against Pepeday at The Fall Classic, where he turned the tables on the master of the esoteric El Fuerte by playing Decapre, a character that the Japanese player had probably never encountered before at a high level.

NuckleDu’s primary character, however, is Guile. One of the best Guile players in the world, he plays the character quite a bit differently from others, favoring an aggressive style that would seem to run counter to the character’s entire design philosophy. One of NuckleDu’s signature moves is Guile’s “Shades of Glory,” where Guile puts on sunglasses, which then stay on for the round unless the player performs the move again to take them off. To be clear, this is a taunt, nothing more; it has no practical use. I can’t think of any other top player who would dare to perform a taunt in a real match, but NuckleDu does it all the time, including this year on the Evo main stage, generating quite the reaction from the crowd.

Without actually digging up the stats, I'd wager that NuckleDu has either a losing record or none at all against each of the other players qualified for Capcom Cup. But I'd also guess that that doesn't bother the young showman.

2014 Accomplishments:

First Attack 2014 - Runner-Up
GUTS 3 - Runner-Up
The Fall Classic 2014 - 4th Place
Winner of 4 Street Fighter Online Series Tournaments


Qualifier #16: Fuudo

The final qualifier, Keita "Fuudo" Ai, made it in by winning the last Premier Tournament, DreamHack Winter in Jönköping, Sweden just two weeks before Capcom Cup.

For the Evo 2011 champ, this was a year of mixed results. Fuudo finished a very strong 3rd at Evo 2014, but then performed abysmally in the 4th Topanga A League, finishing dead last. He did not travel very much this year, and seemed to have no interest in joining in the hunt for Capcom Pro Tour points. It was really quite unexpected when he was added at the last minute to DreamHack Winter, and it was kind of heartbreaking when he took the spot by defeating GamerBee, who had worked so hard all year long to try to qualify.

But that's Fuudo in a nutshell. He's a crushingly indiscriminate combatant, dominating with a complete disregard for who his opponent might be. His character might be, on paper, the strongest in the game, and Fuudo's exceedingly patient, systematic play style represents the most perfect distillation of Fei Long's strengths. Fei Long's excellent poking attacks control the ground, while Fuudo's unparalleled reflexes make jumping in on him almost impossible. Winning is consequently almost automatic to him. Beating him requires more than just training and scouting; it takes some inspired play.

That said, the opponent Fuudo will definitely want to avoid is Luffy, who, at Evo 2014, crushed all three of the top Asian Fei Long players, Fuudo included. I don't think Luffy has lost to that character in a tournament in years.

2014 Accomplishments:

Evo 2014 - 3rd Place
DreamHack Winter 2014 - Winner


Finally, just for fun, my prediction for the final: Infiltration over Daigo.

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