Day 1 Highlights of Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018

Posted in Event Coverage on September 15, 2018

By Chapman Sim

As Asia's world city, Hong Kong has transformed into one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. This weekend, a total of 908 players took part in the main event, making this event one of the biggest in the territory.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights of Day 1!

Japanese Heavyweights Cancel Their Trips In The Face of Typhon Mangkhut

This week, the Hong Kong and Chinese governments issued alerts to the nation and warned residents to "prepare for the worst". At around noon today, residents were told to be storm-ready by Saturday night as Super Typhoon Mangkhut was slated to hit shores. Currently, Mangkhut was estimated to have a maximum sustained wind at its center reaching up to 150 miles per hour, making it the fastest-moving typhoon to hit the city in history.

Tournament organizers were making preparations to ensure that Grand Prix Hong Kong could continue smoothly and safely. At around Round 8, after careful evaluation and observation of the news, the tournament organizers announced that Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018 would take place as usual.

However, word on the street was that numerous Japanese players had canceled their trips or declined to make the trip for personal reasons.

(11) Ken Yukuhiro, the top Pro Point earner of the Asia Pacific, was going to be the region's sole representative at the upcoming World Championships in Las Vegas. At Japan Nationals in Shizuoka last week, he knocked out (19) Yuuya Watanabe in the quarterfinals to secure his captaincy at the World Magic Cup. He informed me that he would be skipping Hong Kong to focus on the World Championship, which featured multiple formats. Since Watanabe had no chance to cause the upset, he canceled his trip in the face of the imminent Super Typhoon Mangkhut.

On the other hand, 21st-ranked Shota Yasooka made 52 himself and decided it was safer to stay home since he already secured the highest level. Japanese players who arrived in Hong Kong confided in me that air ticket prices from Japan surged fourfold due to a combination of two reasons - the closure of Osaka's Kansai International airport, as well as the storm warnings here in Hong Kong.

Tomoharu Saito also canceled his trip to Hong Kong, which was a supremely rare occurrence. As you all know, Saito was an eternal road warrior who very rarely turns down an opportunity to play Magic. The weather was undoubtedly a huge push factor which caused him to skip an Asian Grand Prix for the first time in years. Kazuyuki Takimura (who had 45 Pro Points) also declined to make the trip, the reason being that the only way he could make Platinum was to come in precisely 1st place!

With several heavyweights out of the way, it was a golden opportunity for the rest of the field to earn some precious Pro Tour invites, as well as to pick up some precious Pro Points!

The Last Chance For Some Precious Points

This weekend, we played host to one of the two final tournaments of the 2017-18 season. Grand Prix Hong Kong and Grand Prix Stockholm were the last opportunities for players to pick up some of the Pro Points they need, to secure a spot at the World Magic Cup, or increase their Pro Player Club level, or to bolster their existing position for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

We checked in with the top players in the room today to find out about their current status and goals. While some players were not in the running for anything impactful, this tournament was instrumental to numerous players. Here, we've got a quick overview of the top few players.

20th-ranked Kelvin Chew narrowly missed out on the World Championship but managed to lock up Platinum with 53 Pro Points, one more than the required 52. While nothing huge was at stake for him this weekend, he wanted to work on his seasonal Pro Point total to hold on to his Platinum status for the entirety of the 2018-19 season.

"I had a very good quarter at the beginning of the season, and I think I earned over 20 points in the first three months. However, once it rotates out, I will have a harder time maintaining my status," Kelvin shared. "This is why I need to start working on my Pro Point total for the new season, starting from today.

The above players had the luxury of taking a short break, and that was a luxurious spot to be in when were compared to these few other players.


Huang Hao-Shan is in danger!

Huang Hao-Shan found himself in the unfortunate position of fallingoff the train or the first time in five seasons. Sitting at 30 Pro Points, he needed at least second place finish if he wanted another year of professional Magic. Since he was guaranteed Silver for at least one Pro Tour, he could work on his total in the upcoming three months and hit Gold three or four months later to maintain another year.

Not only that, Huang was one Pro Point behind Grand Prix Indianapolis 2016 Champion Yeh Chih-Cheng for Chinese Taipei captaincy. Even if Huang failed to make Top 2 for Gold, he still needed X-3 to overtake Yeh for the World Magic Cup. Yeh would not be at either Hong Kong nor Stockholm and would need to keep his fingers tightly crossed.

Some other players chasing Gold level were also in attendance. To hit the required 35 Pro Points, Yoshihiko Ikawa needed X-4, Yuuki Ichikawa needed Top 8, while Ernest Lim and Yuki Matsumoto had to make the finals. Ikawa had mixed feelings about his chances, while Ichikawa decided to give him a morale boost by telling himself that the Top 8 was "real easy".


Yoshihiko Ikawa tries to stay positive in his quest to hit Gold level.

The Third Member of Team Hong Kong

Since we're in Hong Kong, I decided that I wanted to feature Team Hong Kong. Except that, nobody knew who the third member was.


Hong Kong National Champion 2018, Alexander Dadyko

To get the story started, I sought out the newly-minted National Champion of Hong Kong, Alexander Dadyko. Dadyko defeated Lee Shi Tian in the finals to earn his first title and was overjoyed to have Lee on his team. Lee, currently sat at 45 Pro Points, was also the current Pro Point earner of Hong Kong, meaning that he had earned himself a "duplicate" invite. Regardless of what happened this weekend, Dadyko and Lee were guaranteed to a spot at the World Magic Cup in Barcelona.

However, a win at Grand Prix Hong Kong - which would earn Lee exactly 8 Pro Points - would bump him up to 53 Pro Points which was sufficient for Platinum status. However, Lee didn't feel exactly optimistic about his odds.

Meanwhile, Yam Wing Chun has 43 Pro Points, and he could earn a spot at the World Magic Cup if two conditions were fulfilled. Firstly, Lee had to crash out, so it was easier for Yam to overtake. Secondly, Yam needed to reach at least the Top 4 to upgrade his worst Grand Prix finish (a two-pointer) into a "five-pointer". That would give him 46 Pro Points - making him the top Pro Point earner of Hong Kong instead of Lee.

Interestingly, Lee and Yam were not the only players from Hong Kong in the equation. Grand Prix Guangzhou 2016 finalist Wu Kon Fai came in third at Hong Kong Nationals. Since Lee came in second, Lee would have to pass down the invite if he remained the top Pro Point earner. However, if Yam overtook Lee as the top Pro Point earner, Lee would be forced to save the 2nd place invite from Nationals for himself and thus displacing Wu.


(From left) Best of friends, Yam Wing Chun, Lee Shi Tian, and Wu Kon Fai.

Yam added, "basically, I cannot reach Platinum even if I won Grand Prix Hong Kong. Today's battle is actuall not between Lee and me, but it is between me and Wu. It's either him or me at the World Magic Cup."

This three-way tussle between three good friends was the focal point of the local community. As the day progressed, it was clear that Yam's plans were not going to pan out. After Yam failed to make Day 2, it was set in stone that Wu would complete Team Hong Kong as the third member. Congratulations to Alexander Dadyko, Lee Shi Tian, and Wu Kon Fai for making it to the National team this year!

Five 8-0 Players Atop The Competition

After eight rounds of Modern action, the field of 809 was reduced to 170. Among those were five undefeated players, namely Shota Takao, Richie Robert Ong, Takumi Utsunomiya Takumi, Yuya Hosokawa, and Sui Xin.

Close behind at 7-1 were seasoned veterans from various countries, such as Han Bing from China, Jacob Hart from Australia, Albert Budisanjaya from Indonesia, Albertus Law from Singapore, Sukhum Kiwanont from Thailand, Raymond Tan from Malaysia, Kingston Tong from Hong Kong, Teruya Kakumae from Japan, and Kelvin Chew from Singapore.

Shota Takao's Jeskai Tempo

Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018 - Day 1 (8-0)

Richie Robert Ong's Red-Green Eldrazi

Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018 - Day 1 (8-0)

Takumi Utsunomiya's Bridge Vine

Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018 - Day 1 (8-0)

Yuya Hosokawa's White-Blue Control

Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018 - Day 1 (8-0)

Sui Xin's Hardened Scales Affinity

Grand Prix Hong Kong 2018 - Day 1 (8-0)

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