By Jesse Turnbull, Contributing Writer
With the Pokkén Tournament World Championships only two months away and players from Japan already occupying half of the 16 qualifier spots in the Masters Division, everyone following the competitive Pokkén Tournament scene knew this year's North America International Championships would be an important event for the 2019 Championship Series. While the Pokémon VGC and TCG events were into their second day, Saturday was the start of the Pokkén Tournament bracket.
In order to compete in Sunday's top 8, players could take only a single loss throughout Saturday's matches. To make things even more challenging, many of the world's best players—including the 2017 and 2018 World Champions Abe "Tonosama" Hisaharu and Jacob “ThankSwalot” Waller—were among those vying for a spot in the finals. Spectators were treated to some of the best Team Battle action North America has ever seen, setting the stage for some excellent matches in the finals Sunday.
Remember that all Pokkén Tournament final matches will be livestreamed Sunday on Twitch.tv/PokkenTournament starting at 9:15 a.m. EDT. See the tournament schedule for details, and be sure to tune in to find out who will secure their spot at the Pokkén Tournament World Championships!
Ashgreninja1 and Kitty Continue to Dominate in the Senior Division
Though the Masters Division will conclude Sunday, the Senior Division played out from start to finish Saturday. A dozen players gathered with the hopes of securing one of two qualifying spots, and the Grand Final was broadcast live on Twitch.tv/PokkenTournament. The finalists, Collin “Ashgreninja1” Jones and Emma “Kitty” Cox, are no strangers to those who have been following the Pokkén Tournament Championship Series. No other player was able to win a single game against either of these two competitors earlier in the day, which made for an exciting final match between them.
Despite her best efforts, Kitty was not able to overcome Ashgreninja1's team of Mewtwo, Shadow Mewtwo, and Aegislash. The 2018 North American Champion defeated Kitty 3-0, with his Shadow Mewtwo emerging victorious in seven of the nine rounds in which it appeared across the three games. Now that he has qualified, fans can look forward to seeing how Ashgreninja1 performs at the World Championships this August, where he finished in second place last year.
There's no question that Kitty has earned her own spot at this year's World Championships, however; in fact, this was her third top 2 appearance at 2019 Qualifier events! With a first-place finish in Oceania and a second place finish in Europe, Kitty has had one of the most impressive years in the history of the Pokkén Tournament Championship Series. She may not have taken first place at this year's North American Qualifier, but her team of Suicune, Pikachu Libre, and Mewtwo put on an awesome show.
Will Another Player from Japan Qualify?
In the Masters Division, more than 40 players competed for a spot in Sunday's finals. Two of these players were Tonosama—the previously mentioned 2017 World Champion—and Motochika “ELM” Nabeshima, who already qualified for this year's World Championships through the Oceania Qualifier. These two talented players from Japan announced they would be attending the North American Qualifier less than 40 hours before matches kicked off, surprising spectators and their fellow competitors alike.
While ELM has already qualified for the World Championships, Tonosama is hoping to secure his spot this weekend. He attended Japan's Qualifier earlier this month, but was knocked out of the tournament before the event's top 8. Saturday in Columbus, Tonosama managed to secure his spot in Sunday's finals with 2-0 finishes across all his matches. His attendance surely caused some added stress for other competitors, as it meant that the last two World Champions stood between them and qualifying this weekend. As for ELM, he will be starting Sunday's finals in Losers after being upset by Christian “TheJrJam” Williams early on.
In addition to those hailing from Japan, six players from the United States have also made it to the finals. On the Winners side, Chaz “Mewtater” Wright will be facing off against Tonosama, while Allister “ALLISTER” Singh will face Shadowcat—a player so shrouded in mystery that few know his real name. Due to his expert precision and optimal play, as well as the fact that he usually practices online rather than at in-person events, players have joked in the past that Shadowcat must be artificial intelligence rather than human. Things will certainly get real in tomorrow's match between ALLISTER and Shadowcat, which will be a rematch from last year's North America International Championships, where they also fought in top 8.
On the Losers side, ELM will be facing Anthony “Rokso” Paratore, while Benjamin "Toasty" De La Rosa will go head-to-head with ThankSwalot. Rokso was sent to Losers by Shadowcat, while Toasty lost to Tonosama. As the finals unfold Sunday, it will be exciting to see if either player gets a rematch with the opponent who knocked them into Losers.
The Action Concludes Sunday!
Shortly before Saturday's matches, broadcaster Brendan “Burnside” Hansen noted that the Champions of the Oceania, Europe, and Japan Championships all used both Mewtwo and Shadow Mewtwo on their teams. Among those moving onto the finals at the North America Championships, only two used that pairing today: ELM (Oceania's Champion) and Mewtater. Fans will find out Sunday whether this trend will continue.
Based on Saturday's matches, the finals are likely to be some of the best Team Battle action that North America has ever seen. While viewers can expect to see popular picks, the presence of players like Shadowcat, Rokso, and ThankSwalot mean that Pokémon such as Darkrai, Scizor, and Empoleon will likely get time in the spotlight, as well.
To recap, here are the matchups that will kick off Sunday's top 8:
Chaz “Mewtater” Wright (United States) vs. Abe "Tonosama" Hisaharu (Japan)
Allister "ALLISTER" Singh (United States) vs. Shadowcat (United States)
Losers Round 6:
Motochika “ELM” Nabeshima (Japan) vs. Anthony "Rokso" Paratore (United States)
Jacob “ThankSwalot” Waller (United States) vs. Benjamin "Toasty" De La Rosa (United States)
Congratulations to these eight competitors and to every player who gave it their all Saturday. Get ready for the exciting final matches Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m. EDT on Twitch.tv/PokkenTournament, and don't forget to check out the TCG and VGC finals, as well, which kick off at 10 a.m. EDT on Twitch.tv/Pokemon!