Profiles by Brian David-Marshall
I can think of no better way to kick off the 2007 Invitational than to give one of these five frequent fliers one more stop on their 2007 itinerary. The Road Warrior category was created to reward players who fully embody the Pro Tour lifestyle—or perhaps Grand Prix lifestyle is more apropos, as GP attendance was the difference maker on this year’s ballot. Each of the candidates attended at least 10 Grand Prix tournaments in the 2006 season, spanning three different continents. Often that meant setting up camp in their destinations, hanging out with their worldwide social network of friends to hone their game and explore the world.
Winner: Raphaël Lévy (43.3% of votes)
Before the current season, Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy last won a Grand Prix a full decade ago in Lyon. It was not for the lack of trying, as well as a ton of close calls as Lévy appeared in a Grand Prix Top 8 10 more times over the intervening years. After hitting 12 Grand Prix in 2006, his Hall of Fame induction seemed to spur Raph to new heights as his 2007 season has been nothing short of stunning, with wins in Dallas and Singapore on consecutive weekends. After waiting 10 years for his second Grand Prix trophy he didn’t even need to wait 10 days for his third—although he did have to travel almost 10,000 miles to get it. There's no sign that this Hall of Famer is resting on his laurels, as he has already been to six Grand Prix this season.
Tiago Chan (20.0%)
Portugal’s Tiago Chan got off to a fast start in the 2006 Player of the Year race with a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour–Honolulu and crossed the finish line with another Top 8 at the World Championships in Paris. Not only was he staring down the barrel of a nigh-unwinnable matchup in the Top 8, but the weary Tiago was seen at the site with his bags in tow as his hotel booted him and his umpteen roommates Saturday night. Tiago jokingly set up camp at the Louvre—and if he had been serious, who could blame him? After all, he was on the tail end of a four-week travel itinerary that had taken him from New Jersey to Yamagata and back to Paris. In the end the travel paid off—for him and readers of his weekly column “Leveling Up” on Star City—and Tiago earned Level 6 Players Club status for the 2007 season. After making it to 10 Grand Prix in 2006, he's off to another strong start with six GP appearances in 2007.
Shuhei Nakamura (9.6%)
Nobody on this year’s ballot has been to more Grand Prix over the 2006 and 2007 seasons than Shuhei Nakamura. Come to think of it, nobody NOT on the ballot has been to more either. Shuhei appeared at 13 Grand Prix in 2006. Let’s take a moment and reflect on that number: There were 22 Grand Prix tournaments in 2006 and playing in more than half of them would be impressive on its own. It gets more ridiculous when you consider that due to multiple Grand Prix being run on the same weekends, the most that any player could participate in was 16. When you factor in Pro Tours, Worlds, and other events like the Finals and Japanese Nationals, you realize that Shuhei was at a Magic tournament—on any of three continents—almost every other weekend of the year. That trend continues this year as both he and Kenji have attended a Grand Prix on every weekend one has been available.
Julien Nuijten (7.5%)
Netherlander Julien Nuijten has always found success on the Grand Prix circuit starting with a third-place finish at Grand Prix–Brussels that preceded his win at the 2004 World Championships. The then-15-year old Nuijten quickly embraced the role of world traveler and has become a fixture at Grand Prix events regardless of continent, leading a Dutch contingent of players to Mexico City, Copenhagen, Dortmund, and Hiroshima to watch him tally up his five career Top 8 finishes. The globe-trotting teenager played in 12 Grand Prix last season (winning twice) and has added five more in 2007. On the rare occasions Julien is not playing in a feature match, he contributes his experience and insight to the coverage team providing excellent commentary from a right angle to the action.
Kenji Tsumura (19.6%)
2005 Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura‘s next Grand Prix will be his 20th since the beginning of the 2006 season. Over those two seasons, he has posted five of his nine career Grand Prix Top 8 finishes and both of his wins. His wins in Toulouse, France and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were followed up with a North American Top 8 finish at Grand Prix–St. Louis. Crisscrossing the globe to attend Grand Prix events is one thing … to win, win, and Top 8 on three continents in a span of eight weeks is another thing entirely. Compounding the feat was the fact that these three Grand Prix were all in Limited formats. Kenji’s Player of the Year run had been fueled almost entirely by Constructed finishes, leading the Japanese player to vow to improve his Limited game studying at the feet of Canadian Richie Hoaen. Kenji’s Limited game is so improved that when the two players living a world apart teamed up for Two-Headed Giant Grand Prix in Amsterdam and Massachusetts, Richie let Kenji do the driving.
Click here to read posts from voters.