1998 World Championships
Players to Watch
The opinions below are those of Jack Lewis Stanton, and independent writer for The Sideboard. There have been so many requests for this sort of projection and speculation that we made sure you got what you wanted.
With the top fifty Pro Tour points leaders receiving invites to this year's World Championship, the flavor of the event has become much more serious and the playing skills higher. Though several teams from around the world have fielded the better players in their area, the all-around consensus is that the Pro Tour players will dominate this year. Here are some of the players to watch out for.
Players from the Asian Theater
Though Asia's performance hasn't been strong since 1996, this year's crop of players is looking to make names for themselves on the international scene. Japanese National Champion Toshiki Tsukamoto (1998 Duelist Invitational participent and Pro Tour Veteran), Australian National Champion Rod (1997 National Champ and Pro Tour vet), Australian Dane Coltman (2nd Sidney Invitational, Pro Tour vet), and APAC Champion Satoshi Nakamura are considered the odds on favorites to finish highest among the Asians.
Players from the European Theater
Through improvement in their drafting and practice methods, the Europeans have proven themselves to be several steps ahead of where they were at this same time last year. European Champion Sturla Bingen heads an all-star list of Europeans, all of whom have the talent to take home the title this year. Sigurd Eskeland (12th PT NY '98), Olle Rade (PT Columbus champion, Duelist Invitational invitee '97 and '98), Michael Debard (top ten in Pro Tour points), Marc Hernandez (1995 Worlds Runner-up), Manuel Bevand (top 50 points leader), Peer Kroger (PT veteran and top ten points leader), Janosch Kuhn (Runner-up Worlds '97), Svend Sparre Geerstsen (1998 Duelist Invitational invitee, top four Worlds '97, top eight PT LA '98), Tommi Hovi (PT LA '97 champion, Duelist Inviational invitee 1997 and 1998) all have the talent and desire to go far. Defending World Champion Jakub Slemr doesn't want to give up the title and will be playing strong in order to keep the coveted crown.
Players from North America
Representing the bulk of power players on the top fifty Pro Tour points players, the United States and Canada are incredibly hungry for the championship title that has eluded the North Americans since Zak Dolan won the first in 1994. Considered to have the best chance of any player to take home the title, Jon Finkel is a master of all formats, Pro Tour winner, and a virtual shoo-in for Pro Tour Player of the Year. With the Pro Tour players being invited on a grander scale, Professional teams have seen an increase in their teammates making the grade and getting Worlds invitations. One of the premiere teams on the Pro Tour, Team Deadguy, once again fielded four members for Worlds (David Price-PT LA Winner, Chris Pikula-two Pro Tour top eights, Matt Place-PT Meinz champion, and Worth Wollpert-top 25 composite rating). Not to be outdone, the Tongo Nation saw four of it's members make the grade for a Worlds invite (Mike Long-PT Paris winner and US National team member, Donnie Gallitz-top 25 composite rating, David Mills-top fifty points, and Peter Leiher-top 25 composite rating). Team CMU brought three members of it's team to this season's premiere competition (Randy Buehler-PT Chicago Winner, Erik "The Mad Genius" Lauer-master deckbuilder, and Mike Turian-top 50 pro tour points).
Random rogues from the United States looking to finish high include: Alan Comer (Master Deck builder and PT vet), John Chinnock (Top Eight Worlds '97, Top Eight PT NY '97, '98), Thomas Guevin (Finalist '96 PT LA), Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz (PT Mainz finalist, Grand Prix Zurich and Madrid winner), Darwin Kastle (PT Atlanta Runner-up, 1998 Duelist Invitational invitee), Kyle Rose (Top Eight PT LA '98, PT Chicago '97), Andrew Wolf (Top Eight Pro Tour LA '98), Rudy Edwards (Grand Prix Zurich runner-up), David Bachmann (Top Four PT LA '98 and PT NY '98), Mark Justice (1995 US National Champion, PT Paris Runner-up, only player along with Sweden's Olle Rade to have four Top Eight PT appearances), Brian Hacker (Blue haired wonder), Mark Le Pine (Swammi's Pick for '98 World Champion), and Ben Rubin (Finalist PT LA '98).
Just north of the United States, Canada has fielded several strong players looking to make up for failures throughout the course of the last Pro Tour year. Considered to be ranked right along side the United States for talent last year, this year has been a virtual nightmare for the Canadians. Having placed no players in the Top Eight of a Pro Tour this season, Canadians such as National Champion Peter Radonjic and Gary Krakower (Champion '96 and '97) look to turn around their losing ways and make a statement. Canadian veterans of the Pro Tours include: Terry Tsang (National Team), Gary Wise (top 25 DCI points drafter), and Paul McCabe (1997 Pro Tour Player of the Year, PT Dallas '96 Champion).
-Jack Lewis Stanton