Published on August 7th, 2012 | by Cybertron0
Scouting Report: Players to Watch at the 2012 World Championships (Seniors Edition)
Let’s be honest. You were disappointed when Scott posted Scouting Report: Players to Watch at the 2012 World Championships only to discover that it only covered the Masters division. That’s okay. Although the Seniors division is new, there are plenty of top competitors that will be attending the World Championships this week, and we are all interested to see who will walk away as the second ever Seniors World Champion in just a few days.
By the way, here’s a fun fact for you. Out of every Senior who attended last year’s World Championships, the following will be returning again as a Senior: myself, Kamran Jahadi, Jaime Martinez Alonso, Edward Thompson, Mohsyn Bharmal, Julia Wurdack, and Shota Yamamoto. Congrats to everyone who successfully returned, proving they really are one of the top Seniors in the World!
Here’s the disclaimer. Just like Scott’s article, this list is very subjective, and I cannot include everyone. I have chosen the following players based off their past results and qualifications, with success in this year’s tournaments having the most weight. One of the coolest thing about the World Championships is that anybody can win. It’s an open field where all the best players represent their country in hopes of bringing a title home, along with a nice scholarship and a chance to defend their title the following year. But if you asked me who I would pick to win, I’d respond with these trainers.
Kamran Jahadi (Kamz)
It would be silly not to lead off with Kamran Jahadi. Kamran is the first and only Senior World Champion, defeating Sejun Park in the 2011 World Championship finals, and he’ll do whatever it takes to retain that title. Not too many people knew him prior to his success last year, but he’s actually had the exact same results at Worlds as Shota Yamamoto: a 4th place finish (in 2009) and a World Championship title, which is pretty dang impressive. Kamran received a lot of criticism after last year’s World Championships for using my winning 2011 US Nationals team (the very team I used at the World Championships as well) and for getting lucky throughout the entire tournament at Worlds.
The thing is, we can’t judge him off one tournament. He might have had luck in his run up to top, but in the end, he was the World Champion, and quite frankly, this is Pokémon we’re talking about. No one wins a tournament without a little luck somewhere along the line. If anything, Kamran will come into Worlds looking to prove the doubters wrong as he faces off against the world’s best trainers and attempts to join Ray Rizzo (Ray) as a back-to-back World Champion.
Let’s also take a look at Kamran’s preparation for the World Championships, because it’s certainly a lot more than what I’ve gotten. He is probably one of the most practiced battlers coming into Worlds, always on Pokemon Online grabbing a practice battle or two. Practice and experience are what molds a good player into a great player. You often learn from your mistakes, especially when playing in high-pressure tournament matches, and Kamran has just that: preparation and practice.
Not much is known about Won, but after some research, here’s what I can tell you. In Korea, there are only two age divisions: Juniors, and Seniors/Masters. As one of the youngest players in the field, Won bested everyone and proved that Seniors do stand a chance against Masters, taking 1st place at the 2012 Korea National Championships. Interestingly enough, both Korean National Championships have been won by players that are young enough to be Seniors. Last year, Korean National Champion Sejun Park finished 2nd overall at the 2011 World Championships in Korea’s first year, and I expect great results from Won as well.
While creating my winning US Nationals team, I looked through videos of all the other National Championships, and Won definitely had one of the most interesting, creative, and deadly teams. He used standard Pokémon (Hitmontop, Volcarona, Cresselia, Thundurus, Garchomp and Ferrothorn) but had a few tricks up his sleeve that made his team work. Frustrated that I couldn’t get a team to work for me, I tried his team and eventually molded it into a team that fit my own personal play style.
Korea’s Nationals did not receive as much attention as any of the other Nationals, but as one of the few people who followed it intently and watched most of the videos, I can say with confidence that Won is an excellent player who knows what he is doing. It is tough to judge him as a player simply because hardly any footage of his matches are online, and the videos I had of his finals matches were removed. But let’s just be real for a minute here. He must be pretty good if he was able to beat all the Masters-age trainers in Korea. Will Won match Sejun Park’s 2nd place finish last year? Or will he be able to bring home the championship to Korea for the first time in history? We’ll just have to see.
It was no surprise to anyone when Shota Yamamoto rose to the top and won Japan’s National Championship this year. The Senior prodigy has had a tremendous amount of success in previous years. He knows what it’s like to become a World Champion and he’ll be attempting to join Ray as a two-time World Champion this year, the only player besides Kamran who has that chance. What do you get when you pit two of the best Japanese players against each other? In 2010, Shota bested fellow Japanese trainer Santa Ito in the finals of the World Championships in the longest and most intense set of games I’ve ever seen from Juniors. I’m sure he’s eager to return to Hawaii for another shot at the championship. Shota had quite an easy transition from the Juniors division into the Seniors division last year, finishing 4th overall at the World Championships in San Diego, eventually losing to Sejun Park in the semi-finals. And let’s take a look at his success this year. He proved that he really was Japan’s best (Senior) trainer when he rose to the top and won the 2012 Japanese National Championships.
Just look at this year’s Nationals finals (part 1 and part 2). In an arguably more interesting match than the Masters finals, we got to see what Japan’s best had to offer as Shota and fellow Japanese player Takuya Tsukatani fought for the title. The match lasted the entire 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes; the Japanese at least realized that 15 minutes is not nearly enough time and allowed 20 minutes for their Nationals matches) with Shota being crowned the victor in the end due to time as his Gastrodon had more HP than Takuya’s Scizor. The match featured a lot of switching between both players and could have gone either way. One thing you should realize is that Shota will find a way to win, even if it looks like the chances are slim. In the end of the game, it was his 68 HP Salamence and 57 HP Gastrodon against Takuya’s near full HP Scizor. Had Takuya realized Shota’s Salamence was Choice Scarfed and locked into Draco Meteor and simply KOed Shota’s Gastrodon with a Bug Bite, he would have easily taken the game. Shota saw that his only out was to Recover with Gastrodon to have more HP than Scizor in the end and hope Takuya was fooled. This paid off as Takuya Protected with Scizor. A lot of Pokémon players will give up at the end when they think they have no chance, but Shota will almost always find an out. Don’t count him out until the game has officially ended.
Having played Shota at last year’s World Championships and practiced with him before his Nationals, I’ve gotten to know him pretty well as a player. He is an incredibly innovative team builder who is really in tune with his team. He likes to switch to gain the advantage on the field, and his generally bulky teams allow him to switch without risk. At last year’s World Championships, he used an incredibly interesting team for such a limited metagame, featuring sets like Focus Sash Amoonguss, Shed Skin Scrafty, and Choice Scarf Landorus, all of which caught me off guard when we played in Round 2. Small quirks like that offer a major advantage at the World Championships, especially when your opponent is not used to seeing them. Shota capitalized on the restrictive metagame by simply changing a few items and movesets, and made my time against him a lot more difficult. I’m sure he’s studied this year’s American and European metagame as well and will bring an incredibly deadly team to Worlds.
Shota’s exceptional teams, combined with his defensive and smart playstyle, led to his success and I expect nothing less from him this year. To be honest, if there’s any one person on this list I expect to win, it’s Shota. He’s got the experience. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got the team. Now it’s just up to him to return to Hawaii, where he won the 2010 World Championships, and become the first person to win the World Championsip in two different divisions.
Takuya is definitely overshadowed by his counterpart Shota Yamamoto because of Shota’s status as a past Juniors World Champion and current Japanese National Champion. But let’s not overlook Takuya, who blitzed his way to a 2nd place finish at the Japanese National Championships. Watching his finals game against Shota (part 1 and part 2), I can see how smartly he plays, and he is just as much as a threat is as Shota is. His smart playstyle is similar to Shota’s, switching often to gain an advantage on the field. Although Shota walked away vicotrious in their battle, Takuya was right on his tail the entire time and even had a chance to clinch it in the end, losing to time.
Like I said in Shota’s description, the game between Shota and Takuya was very back and forth — there was no clear winner until the very end, when time expired and a winner was declared. It was truly one of the best VGC 2012 matches I’ve ever seen, with each player gaining momentum at points. You know a game is really good when you’re biting your nails down to the very end, anxious to see who will win in the final seconds, and the match between these two was just that. Takuya was very close to finishing the match off, but in a game where the only prize is bragging rights, I’m sure he didn’t play his absolute best. Regardless, it showed what the lesser known Senior of Japan has to offer.
I don’t know too much more about Takuya and his past VGC experience, but seeing him play so well against the best Japanese Senior and nearly winning is absolutely frightening from an outsider’s viewpoint. I’m sure he’s eager to come out of Shota’s shadow and prove that he is just as qualified to represent Japan as Shota is.
Aaron Zheng (Cybertron)
Since it’d be a little silly not to include the 2-time reigning US champion in this article, but Aaron is not QUITE narcissistic enough to write a section about himself, this description will be guest written by Scott.
While Aaron might be a little rusty going into Worlds due to his parents shipping him off to math camp for the summer or something, if Vegas had a betting line for underage players of obscure video games, Aaron would be the most conservative bet. I think it is fair to say he was the odds-on favorite going into 2011 Worlds after winning US Nationals in 2011, and while he fell a little short of our expectations (and his own) last year, it has motivated him to have another fantastic year in 2012, winning US Nationals for the second year in a row. Back-to-back Nationals victories puts him in pretty elite company with Wolfe Glick (Wolfey) in the Masters division, and as with Wolfe, that comes with pretty hefty expectations. Aaron has also proven he can get it done against any opponent and that he is a consistent player: in addition to being the Senior US National champion in 2011 and 2012, he qualified for Worlds as a Junior in 2008 and nearly cut Seniors at US Nationals prior to Masters existing in 2010, finishing in the incredibly stylish 17th place against opponents much older than him.
In addition to proving he can out-battle his opposition, Aaron has proven to be an excellent team builder, helping Kamran to win Seniors Worlds last year, his brother to go deep in Juniors for approximately 300 consecutive events, and even managing to make the Skarmbliss PO server less varied than most cartons of eggs through half of the players using teams suspiciously similar to his.
While Aaron has had some issues finishing when it counts the past — probably because he was too nervous about trying to win the girl last year — he has put himself in a position to finally go all the way. Can he manage to graduate from Seniors as
math club president champion?
If so, will we remember to buy the stool for his interview?
Jaime Martinez Alonso (Repr4y)
As we move onto the European players who will be at the World Championships, we begin in Spain. Spain is one of the top Pokémon countries, and with such a strong representation at this year’s World Championships with six Seniors (second only to America’s seven), it might finally be their time to shine. I, sadly, don’t know very much about most of the Spanish Seniors, but out of all the names that are on the “Attending” list, one strikes me in particular: Jamie Martinez Alonso. Jamie defeated 7014gree in last year’s Spanish National Championships to capture the title of 2011 Spain National Champion. He also finished with a 2-3 record, netting 16th place, at last year’s World Championships.
This year, Jamie attended the France Nationals and met Mohsyn Bharmalm (bcaralarm) in the finals. The two played an incredibly close match, similar to Shota and Takuya’s championship match but a lot more fast paced. Mohsyn made an incredibly smart prediction early on, picking off Jaime’s Hitmontop on a switch, and hampered Jaime’s chances of winning, but Jaime played smartly and brought it down to a 1-0 loss. One of the interesting things about Jaime’s Nationals team is that he used Steel Gem Swords Dance Scizor, a set that was relatively unknown until both Wolfe Glick (Wolfey) and I used the same set to win this year’s US National Championships. His use of Scizor shows that, despite using common Pokémon and with common movesets like Hitmontop and Latios, he also has a couple of tricks up his sleeve,and I expect nothing less from his Worlds team.
Spain’s still looking for its first championship title, and after a disappointing finish at least year’s World Championships, Jaime Martinez Alonso is ready to shine in 2012.
I don’t know too much about German player Julia Wurdack, but her accomplishments and dominance in Europe speak for themselves. Julia has been trained by her older brother Florian Wurdack (DaFlo) to become the strong player she is today. She is incredibly underrated compared to what she has been able to accomplish in the past three years. Although many players here in the US do not recognize her, let’s take a look at her recent accomplishments. Julia has qualified for the 2010 and the 2011 World Championships by winning the German National Championships both years. To win two Nationals is an incredible feat by itself, but she didn’t stop there. This year, Julia finished in the top 4 at the Italian National Championships to return to the World Championships for the 3rd year in a row, a feat only one other Senior (Shota Yamamoto) has accomplished. Although she has yet to shine at Worlds, placing 21st in 2011 and 31st in 2010, she has a ton of experience under her belt and as they say… the third time’s the charm.
Unfortunately, not many of Julia’s games have surfaced online, making it difficult to judge her strength as a player this year. But to qualify for Worlds three years in a row (with a paid trip all three years!) and win German Nationals two years in a row says enough. Germany hasn’t had much success at the World Championships in previous years, but Julia’s ready to give it another shot in her third year.
Mohsyn Bharmal (bcaralarm)
You might know Mohsyn for one of two things: either his success at Pokémon or the tendancy for his fans to scream “BCARALARM!” at him. As one of the strongest Seniors from Europe, Mohsyn will return to the World Championships for another shot at bringing the gold back to the United Kingdom. Mohsyn is one of the few 2-time National Champions in the world, and earlier this year, he successfully defended his title as French National Champion. Mohsyn is an incredibly smart player, even if he did crit me turn 1 both games at last year’s World Championships in Round 5 — I swear I’m not bitter. All kidding aside though, Mohsyn displayed his prediction abilities against Jaime in the finals of France Nationals this year as he used Zen Headbutt on a Latios, expecting a Hitmontop to switch in… which is exactly what Jaime did. This crucial prediction gave Mohsyn a major advantage as he instantly took out one of Jamie’s Pokémon. Smart plays and risk-taking like that are what separate the good players from the great. In the past, Mohsyn has used “standard” teams and maneuvered them to great success with his superb playing ability. Whether he’ll bring a more unique team to Worlds is an interesting question, but one thing is for sure: his keen eye for making major plays that give him big leads will be a major threat to all his opponents at Worlds.
Last year, Mohsyn finished with a 3-2 record at Worlds after beating me in Round 5, but his resistance was not strong enough to move onto the Top 8. After winning a 2nd consecutive championship, he’s ready to go further at Worlds and take his skills to the next level.
Let’s Talk about LCQ
The Last Chance Qualifier for the Seniors division won’t be nearly as intense as it will be for the Masters division, but that’s not to say that it’ll be easy to grind in. With a much smaller field than Masters, I can actually count the number of competitors that I know are going on one hand, but let’s take a look at some of the best Seniors attending.
Natalie Kaspszak (Maski), Pokémon’s cutest Poké-girl, was the 2011 Southeast Regional Champion. At last year’s National Championships, she was just one round short of a Worlds invitation as she lost to Brandon Tang in the Top 16. And in last year’s LCQ, she was, once again, just one round short as she lost to eventual World Champion Kamran Jahadi in an exhilarating match. This year, she finished 2nd at the California Regionals, and at Nationals, she unfortunately bubbled out with a 34th finish, just two below the Top 32 cut. The LCQ will be Natalie’s last shot for qualifying in the Seniors division, and she’s got to give it her all to qualify.
Henry Maxon (Snake) has had an incredibly strong transition from the Juniors division to the Seniors division. Known for winning both the 2011 Northwest Regional Championships and the 2011 US National Championships undefeated, Henry’s run at Worlds fell short when he barely missed the Top 8 with a 3-2 record. This year, Henry finished 15th at US Nationals as one of the youngest competitors in the field. He was unfortunately knocked out in the Top 16 by yours truly. The most incredible thing about Henry’s run at Nationals is that he started off with an 0-2 record and won every game after that to safely make top cut. Henry knows what it’s like to be at Worlds, and he’s played in high pressure matches before. He just needs to pass through the LCQ, and he’ll be on familiar ground, a huge advantage against less tested competitors.
Gavin Michaels (kingofkongs) deserves a lot more credit than he receives. He finished in the Top 4 at the California Regionals both this year and last year, and he’s made Top Cut at Nationals both this year and last year. Gavin’s weakness is in the best-of-three rounds, losing in the first round of both Nationals and Worlds LCQ last year. His 0-3 record of best-of-three matches in sanctioned play is incredibly ironic given his victory in this year’s Smogon VGC tournament, a single elimination tournament which required you to win a best 2-of-3 every round to proceed. Gavin went undefeated and beat several well-known players, including 2011 Worlds Finalist Matteo Gini in the finals. Similar to Natalie, this is Gavin’s last shot for qualifying at Worlds in the Seniors division. Will the LCQ’s best-of-three format trip him up again? Or will he finally prove he is a strong player and power through the LCQ? More on Friday!
Santa Ito, 2009 and 2010 World Finalist, will also be there to represent Japan. Although he is young, he has a ton of VGC experience and has played in three World Championships and has done incredibly well, placing 2nd twice. Santa finished the Worlds Swiss rounds undefeated in both 2009 and 2010 and knows what it takes to win in a best-of-three format. I actually played him earlier this year in the International Challenge, and his team was absolutely deadly. I’m sure he has been training hard with Shota and the rest of Japan, so expect nothing less than victory from the rising Senior.
There will definitely be more Seniors at the Last Chance Qualifier, but, to be honest, I am going to predict that at least two of those four players will make it through. Maybe even three or four if they are lucky enough to avoid each other to the very end. The LCQ tournament is a relatively small one, especially for the Seniors division, and I don’t expect more than 32 players. That’s a pretty intense prediction, but Hawaii is kind of expensive, if you didn’t know. I’m sure a bunch of Japanese players will be showing up as well, and I expect them to be fierce competition.
I wish I could have included more players, but the truth is I just don’t know very much about many of them (mainly Europeans) and all the players on this list have a ton of experience. Besides, if I included all of the strong players going to Worlds, I would just be listing the qualifying lists. There are a lot of other players I have heard great things about, such as my friend Luca Breitling-Pause, Alex Gomez Berna, Miguel José Romero Fite, and all the American Seniors including Toler Webb (Dim), Jonathan Hiller (Mr. Fox), Paul Chua, and Nitesh Manem (Nachocheese999). Worlds is still anyone’s game, and if you’d like to make your own personal predictions for the Senior division or think I’ve made a huge mistake, well, that’s what the comments section is for!