Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Evo 2007 main tournament report

I was quite happy that I had qualified, but now that I was in the main tournament, it was only going to get harder. Of the Seattle ST players, only myself and Nate Montes had qualified. Pablo had almost made it, losing a tough fight to Tony Cannon in the losers finals.

My first fight was against a player I didn't know. He was a Chun player, and I went with Claw. I won that match, and I was starting to feel good about my chances. I had four wins in a row so far!

My next match was against another player I didn't know. He played Chun li. I decided that my Chun Li was pretty good, and if I didn't know this person, he wouldn't be great. Well, in my first 20 seconds of play it was apparent that this player had amazing reflexes. He was very consistent with his reversals, hitting me every time I went for the neck breaker. The point at which I really realized that I was outclassed in the reflexes and timing department was near the end of the round. I had a super charged, and threw a jab fireball. He jumped over it, and I used the stored super trick to hit him as anti air. I saw the blue flash of my super, and then saw ANOTHER blue flash. He landed and counter supered me for the win. Now that I think about it, he must have stored his super and jumped, pressing kick when he landed to hit me. I don't know if I mistimed my super and did it too late, or if that's a legitimate counter, but either way, I was very impressed by his timing.

I was a bit shaken by this loss. I could still salvage the match though. Should I go with Claw or Boxer? I went with Boxer. We played a very close set, and at the end of the third round we both had zero life. His low forward hit me and won the game and match.

Afterwards, I learned that this unknown player is Buktooth, one of the top CvS2 players. I should have stuck to my guns and not changed tracks simply because I didn't know my opponent. Regardless, I was very impressed by Buktooth's innate talent.

Now that I was in the losers bracket, things would get rough. In the losers bracket you advance twice as slowly as in the winners bracket, so that means you have to work twice as hard to go the same distance. It sucks! Plus, there were many good players in the losers bracket. Many many extremely good players were there, because the brackets were set up in such a way that they had to fight each other in the winners bracket early on. I wasn't very happy being there so early, and I resolved to play without mercy and without underestimating any opponent (something I should have done in the winners bracket).

My first opponent in the losers bracket was a player that I didn't know (I've just learned that his nickname on SRK is "shirts"). He picked old Dhalsim, and I was able to win with my standard anti dhalsim strategy. I used a Claw trick that I had been practicing for a while against his Dhalsim, and I was happy to see it pay off in this situation.

After winning against Shirts, my name was announced again. My opponent was OhNuki. My heart sunk. Ohnuki had won SBO (the largest Japanese tournament) a mere month before this event, winning with a perfect against YuuVega, one of Japan's deadliest players. Additionally, I had played against Ohnuki in a tournament when I lived in Japan. This was on a different game, Street Fighter Alpha 3 instead of Super Turbo, but Ohnuki devastated me. Gian had called him one of Japan's five "God Players", along with Tokido and Umehara. I was done for, and I knew it. I picked Claw for my first match. I know that Ohnuki is a great player, and Claw should stay on the ground in this match. My twisted logic was that since Ohnuki was so good, I shouldn't do the BEST moves against him, because he would clearly be too good for that. Instead I should do BAD moves and try to suprise him with wall jumps. This is an idiotic strategy. It's called outhinking yourself or pysching yourself out. It's what bad players do against good players to make themselves play even worse. I lost all of my rounds to Ohnuki, and pretty badly.

So that was it for me. I wasn't super happy with my tied for 25-32nd place. I felt like I could have beaten Buktooth if I had played smarter in the metagame, even though he has more raw talent than me, I think I could have won with Claw if I had picked him.

That evening, I thought a lot about my mindset for Evo, how I felt before and how I felt afterwards. I had been trying to objectively look at my performance, taking my ego out of it. This is something that is hard for me to do, but something that is essential to being a good player. I was especially motivated by an interview I read with Muteki guile, and one of the things that he said was that he looked at every loss and tried to learn why it happened, and to learn from it. So objectively, I would rate myself as "good but not great". I did "well" in casuals before the tournament, I won my qualifying pool, but I lost decisively to one of Japan's top players, and I also lost to a very talented american player. I want to think about my mindset, and how it affects my play.

In order to do this, I need to look at how my mindset and self evaluation has changed over time. Before I moved to Japan, I considered myself "very good". I didn't think there was anyone that was better than me. Sure, there were people that beat me, or did better than me in tournaments, but in my "heart of hearts", I was certain that if I practiced enough, I could beat anyone. I felt that my ability to learn, and ability to impose my will on my opponent was as strong or stronger than anyone elses, and that although my execution wasn't naturally great, that I had the ability to excecute anything if I really put the time into it. Part of this self evaluation was reinforced by my tournament performance. I did fairly well in tournaments, and there was no player that I had never beaten. There were players that did consistently better than me, but I had been able to beat those players both in tournaments and in casual, and I didn't feel that I couldn't do it again.

After I moved to Japan, my mindset changed. The Japanese players were just so much better than me. When I played at MORE arcade, there were players I simply could not beat. I lost to MORE's "Sky High Claw" player 20 games to 0, in the Boxer vs Claw matchup, something I was certain I would win every time. In Japan, I almost never won tournaments (except one). After a while, I changed my mindset. I started playing for the enjoyment of the game, and I didn't have any illusions of being anything other than an "okay" player. I could win in arcades, but I was nowhere near the level of the top players there.

But now, my mindset has changed again, and twice during this tournament. After my loss to Ohnuki I really felt like I was never going to be good.. but watching Graham play in the finals really inspired me. He completely destroyed Gian and Ohnuki. Graham did everything that I should have done against Ohnuki. He stayed on the ground. He played smart. He didn't lose his cool. He didn't change his strategy because of fear of another player. Graham was amazing. Watching Graham has made me come to the conclusion that I can do that well too. I'm not the best ST player, but I am good, and I can use my head to be even better. I've gone from disappointed in my performance to energized and inspired that I can do better next year.

Finally, there is one additional way in which my mindset has changed. When I lived in the US before moving to Japan, I really cared about my own performance. So much so that if I identified another player as a possible threat to my own tournament results, I would not want that other player to improve. After I was eliminated from the main tournament, I saw that a former classmate of mine at MIT, David Sirlin, was in the top 8. David uses Claw. I thought about the two Claw tricks that I had practiced for the last weeks, the tricks that I had hoped would win me the tournament. My old self would have just kept them a secret, and used them next year. But this time I thought to myself that I should wish my friend luck, and give him every opportunity to win. He's a great player, and telling him this could certainly hurt me at a future date. But at this point, I wanted to wish my friend luck and success, and so I told him everything. I'm happy that I can be competitive at this game, and play to really win, but I'm also happy that I'm not so competitive that I won't share and discuss strategies with people that have the potential to do better than me. I'm glad that I've changed for the better in this respect.

1 comment:

R-Jive said...

That was a great read man !