I’ll always remember the first time I faced Kenji Tsumura. We were on a team draft in GP Sendai back in 2004; I was teaming up with Sam Gomersall and my brother Antoine against Go Anan and his pals. My team was up 4-2, and it would only take one of us (Antoine, Sam or I) to win against the kid of the team to make it.
- “Go Anan, where’s your team mate?”
- “Kenji? Hmm… drink drink come back later”
- “DRINK??? Isn’t he 15?”
No, he was actually 17, and when he came back to the hotel two hours later we were feeling pretty confident, as he looked, how to say that,… wasted, as if he had a little bit too much to drink. Eventually, the little kid wearing his cap askew did beat me, then Antoine and finally Sam and went to bed, letting us shocked in the room. 18 months later, Kenji didn’t grow up that much; he’s now 19 but still looks like being 16. The difference is that he became in the meantime a great player, the very first Japanese to grab the title of Pro Player of the Year.
He answers to all the questions, pretends being lucky and not that skilled. It is a little bit irritating at first, but the little man is not acting, he is just as modest as he’s good, a pretty good example to follow for everyone.
On the Pro Player of the Year board, your name appears after Jon Finkel, Kai Budde and Gabriel Nassif, how does it feel?
It is an extreme honour for me. But as far as playing skills are concerned, I'm far behind them. I'll practice more (smile).
Do you feel more pressure now?
Kind of. But even if people perceive me as a good player, it doesn't mean I am one, so I don't pay too much attention to it.
People are expecting a lot from you, as you performed so well last season. Do you have the feeling your opponents are different when they play against you now? Not so much... I think.
They must show more respect than before?
I don’t believe so.
Don’t tell me they’re not intimidated!
You won over 50.000 dollars with Magic in 2005, do you know what you will do with that money?
Basically, I'll spend it for playing Magic. It costs 350 dollars just for the airline ticket to practice in Tokyo!
Do you do anything beside Magic? Do you have a job or are you a student?
Not at all…
So, it is really possible to make a living from Magic?
If I can maintain my Level 5 or 6, yes, but it’s too hard for me with my current skills, so I’ll try to improve so I can really live of Magic.
Let’s move to PT Prague, the format will be Ravnica/Guildpact/Dissension, how do you feel about it?
I hope I’ll have the chance to practice; otherwise it is bad for me.
Now let’s move to the fast questions. First, the ones concerning Magic:
Any kind of constructed.
Any format you don't like?
Limited. I won't say I don't like it, it’s more that I am not at my best in this format.
Any kind of deck contains Gifts Ungiven.
Favourite archetype? Control then I guess.
Yes, I like control. But after watching the finals of PT Honolulu, I was positively impressed by the beatdown decks. The games confronting Olivier and Craig Jones were fantastic.
Are there any players you respect more than others?
Masashi Oiso, Katsuhiro Mori, Itaru Ishida, Olivier Ruel, Kai Budde
Any mentor or close friend?
My mentor is Masashi Oiso. And anybody playing Magic is my friend (smile).
People you don't want to play against?
Players you don't like at all?
None, I told you!
Your dream team for a team PT?
Olivier Ruel and Billy Moreno (smile)
Now the fast questions about Prague, favourite common?
Ravnica; Galvanic Arc. Guildpact; Steamcore Weird
Ravnica; Moldervine Cloak. Guildpact; Gelectrode
Dual land :) just kidding. Ravnica; Hex. Guildpact; Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
What do you think about the RRG draft format?
Difficult, but very very interesting.
Favourite colour association?
UBR or GR.
Most overrated card in RRG?
Sword of the Paruns.
Frenzied Goblin,Gruul Scrapper, Lurking Informant, Consult the necrosages.
Who do you think will win PT Prague?
Who will be in the Top 8?
Masahiko Morita, Rich Hoaen, Gabe Walls, Adam Chambers, Jon Sonne, Raphael Levy, Roel Heeswijk.
Enough Magic for now, what are your hobbies outside of Magic?
Listening to music, and Karaoke. When I’m at home, I would always be listening to something.
Bump of Chicken, Aiko
FLAME VEIN/Bump of Chicken
Hayao Miyazaki movies.
You said you enjoy Karaoke - what is your favourite song for singing in Karaoke?
Any Bump of Chicken song.
Let’s get back to Magic to close this interview, how do you feel about the Pro Player Club?
It's a great initiative. You’re probably aware that Masahiko Morita could go abroad thanks to it!
It also encourages you travelling; you recently went to GP Dortmund with Nakamura and Oiso, a long trip for a 1.100 player GP. What did this experience bring to you?
First of all, it was good to me as I could score 5-1 in booster draft - it boosted my confidence. And it was my first participation in an event gathering over 1.000 players... it was so hard! But I envy European players so much because GP attendance in Japan is decreasing at the moment…
These GPs are usually 2-3 hours longer than the Japanese ones; considering the jet lag you had to cope with, plus the long flight from Japan, wasn't it too hard for you to play in these conditions?
I don’t suffer from jet lag because I would always sleep while on a plane. It is also always very exciting to visit a place for the very first time, and when the match starts, I simply don’t think anymore about how tired I can be.
You finished 11th on tiebrakers with a 12-3 record, would you have Top 8d in Japan with the same result?I think so. That's only European case!
Now that you've been playing GPs in the US, in Europe, and in Asia, where do you feel it was the easiest?
I never felt anything was easy while I was in tourney.
The most difficult?
European GP, because of the massive attendance. It was so shocking to me.
Will we see you on European GPs again?
I really want to, but to my regret, we have European and US GP at the same date in March. We, Japanese, would always give our preference to a US GP, because of the airfare cost and of the flight duration. Personally, I really would like to make it to Italy and France, so if there'll be a GP at a certain point of time in these countries, I will go.
Torino and Toulouse are announced; maybe we’ll see you there then.
I really hope so!
Anything you would like to tell us about?
I'm not that good at limited, so I want to learn more about limited this season. I hope everybody enjoys Magic. Thanks for reading the interview.
Thank you Kenji, and thanks a lot to Shindo-san for the translation!
*: Jump the largest manga (Japanese comic) editor, has a prepublication magazine, released on a weekly basis, featuring one chapter from all its most popular mangas.
Next week, I’ll welcome Julien Goron
This interview has been written listening to Jeff Hanson/JEFF HANSON, Nervous Cabaret/NERVOUS CABARET and The Libertines/UP THE BRACKET