As the 2019 season draws to a close, the Capcom Pro Tour’s Regional Finals seek to determine four of the final five qualifiers for Capcom Cup in December. With SEAM having decided the Asia Regional Finalist earlier this month, EGX stood as the European Qualifier - but this tournament took a historic turn that fans didn’t predict.
As both a Premier Event and the European Regional Qualifier, EGX 2019 boasted two massively important competitions in the span of a single weekend. With 700 points and a qualifying place in Capcom Cup on the line, competitors showed out with fangs bared at one of the last Events of the season to jockey for position on the global leaderboards - but the odds of a single player taking both tournaments were slim.
EGX - Europe’s tense Regional Final
Unlike the Regional Final, EGX’s Open Premier allowed any player from across the globe a chance at competing for the title of champion. With names like Urien main Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto and 2018 Capcom Cup runner-up Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada in attendance, pools were stacked with top killers - including the likes of Adel “Big Bird” Anouche, who notably scored second place at EVO 2019 in a nail-biting Grand Finals set against Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi.
As runner-up of the Tour’s first-ever Super Premier Event with multiple top placements under his belt, Big Bird was settled at ninth place in the Global Rankings - but EGX’s Open Premier would send him soaring up in the hierarchy in a major way. Having “single-handedly” put the UAE on the esports map alongside fellow pro Amjad “AngryBird” Alshalabi, Big Bird came into EGX with high hopes - and he wasn’t the only player who hoped to make a splash in the competition.
“Go home and be a family man!”
Notable Vega player and hometown hero Jermaine “Jester Power” Landell wowed fans by making Top 16 against some of Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition’s top names, just after his wife gave birth to their son two days earlier. As a new father, Jester Power’s family-inspired “power-up” saw him defeat famed pros Zhuojun “Xiao Hai” Zeng and Menat main Naoto Sako, going on to face UYU’s Li-Wei “Oil King” Lin. Oil King’s Rashid knocked Jester Power into Losers’ bracket, where he faced off against Itabashi Zangief in a tense set - and although he didn’t make it to Top 8, Jester Power’s 9th place victory cemented his status as one of Europe’s strongest contenders in wake of his son’s arrival.
Cool Kid makes a splash
Jester Power wasn’t EGX’s sole fan favorite, by far: the Chicago-based Marcus “Cool Kid” Redmond also made a spectacular showing at the Open Premier, making his way to the Top 32 against major odds. The explosive Abigail main shook up the competition by taking out EVO 2018 champ Benjamin “Problem X” Simon in a solid 2-1 run in Winners’ side, moving on to face off with Itabashi Zangief. The battle of big-bodied characters ended in Itabashi’s favor, with Cool Kid later getting knocked out of tournament by “Shaquille” - but Cool Kid’s performance proves that he’s nothing to sniff at, in spite of his loss.
With such fiery moments as these in the Open Premier, the weekend was bound to end in a similarly excitable fashion - and the Top 8 bracket did not disappoint. Boasting players like Urien-turned-Bison main Ryo “Dogura” Nozaki and Singapore’s Kun Xian Ho, EGX’s Top 8 ended in a final showdown between two of Europe’s heaviest hitters - Arman “Phenom” Hanjani and Big Bird.
Big Bird’s near-surgical playstyle from EVO 2019 was in full effect during Grand Finals, where he took the win from Phenom 3-1 without letting his opponent reset the bracket. Having managed to stay in Winners’ side throughout the fray, Big Bird’s prowess shone stronger than ever, even earning him 700 points and bumping him to 6th place - but that wasn’t the end of his reign, by far.
“The stage of battle is set!”
EGX wasn’t over: the CPT’s 2019 European Regional Finals marked the last tournament of the weekend, with the region’s Top 8 ranked competitors facing off against one another for a chance at participating in Capcom Cup. With six of Europe’s pros already being qualified, this meant that, should one of these six take the victory, the highest-ranked unqualified player would earn the spot - but who would end up standing as Europe’s top champion?
In the history of the Capcom Pro Tour, no player has managed a double-victory by winning both an Open Premier and a Regional Final at the same event. With EGX’s bracket seeing pros like Olivier “Luffy” Hays and DC “Infexious” Coleman in the mix, it seemed highly unlikely that Big Bird would take yet another back-to-back win: but he turned this doubt on its head in a stunning display of strength that left audiences’ jaws on the floor.
Big Bird topples CPT history
Yet again, Big Bird pulled off another impressive run in Winners’ side, taking out Phenom 3-2 in an electrifying runback during the Semi-Finals. This set up the UAE champion to face off against Problem X, who, with 1,615 points and an EVO championship under his belt, stood as an imposing opponent. Despite his stellar use of M. Bison, Big Bird proved that the Turbulent Wind was superior to Psycho Power, defeating his Shadaloo nemesis in a convincing 3-0 run to land in the Grand Final.
He wasn’t the only EVO 2019 finalist in this Grand Final, either: Infexious, who made waves at this year’s EVO with Zeku, took out Problem X 3-1 in the Losers’ Final to face off with Big Bird for the Regional championship in a matchup that is rarely seen in top competition.
It was a fight between the UAE and the UK’s hometown hero for the title of Regional Finalist, with a potentially historic victory on the line for Big Bird and a major win for Zeku players across the globe, should Infexious reset the bracket and take the crown. However, Big Bird stopped Infexious’ ambitions short, taking the set 3-1 without a bracket reset and laughing in the face of CPT history.
Words from the Bird
For the first time ever, a player has taken both an Open Premier and a Regional Finals at the same Event - a huge development for Big Bird, who fell short of the EGX championship twice in the past two years. “It feels amazing, especially when I blew up my chances of winning EGX last year,” he said of his 2019 wins. “I feel like I'm in my best form right now, and that's a good sign going towards Capcom Cup. It's definitely something to remember over the years, and hopefully I can keep it up.”
Considering his momentum thus far, the pro is hopeful that he’ll make an equally impressive showing at the Cup as a means to combat his previous performances at the CPT’s final Event. “I just hope I get to play the way I want to, regardless of the result, because I have had a bad history in Capcom Cup the last two years,” he continued. “I just want to redeem myself this year, and winning it will be the best ending for me. The way I've been playing recently, I don't think it's impossible to win it. I think it's very doable.”
Counting down to First Attack
With Big Bird making such a massive showing toward the end of the season, the UAE pro is cementing himself as a major contender for the Cup in December: but with pros Victor “Punk” Woodley and Bonchan also sporting a dominating year, there’s no telling which World Warrior will emerge the definitive Street Fighter V champion of 2019.
With another EGX in the books, the CPT looks toward the Latin American Regional Final next weekend at Puerto Rico’s First Attack. Which pro will take the third Regional Final of the year? Who will win Puerto Rico’s Open Premier? As time ticks down to Capcom Cup, more and more players are coming out of the woodwork for last-minute points in one of the Tour’s most explosive years to date!