Operation Kaji

Posted in GRAND PRIX BEIJING 2015 on October 24, 2015

By Chapman Sim

Team Limited sounds like the perfect way for Pros to get their old pals back onto the Pro Tour. Perhaps one of the most epic stories in recent memory would be Grand Prix San Jose, an event which saw Luis Scott-Vargas, Eric Froehlich and Paul Cheon lift the silverware.

If memory serves me correctly, Cheon needed to win the tournament to secure sufficient Pro Points in order to qualify for Pro Tour Fate Reforged the following week. Everything fell into place, just like a happy fairy tale ending.

Grand Prix San Jose 2015 Champions. From left to right, Eric Froehlich, Paul Cheon and Luis Scott-Vargas

It all started with a simple notion, a similar notion.

"Let's try to get Kaji back on the Pro Tour and perhaps even the onto Hall of Fame," Nakamura said to Jůza. Between these three esteemed players, they have a combined of 10 Pro Tour Top 8s and over 50 Grand Prix Top 8s.

Team Jůza/Kaji/Nakamura at Grand Prix Beijing today! Clockwise from left, Tomohiro Kaji, Martin Jůza and Shuhei Nakamura.

While Jůza and Nakamura have been Pro Tour mainstays and household names, lesser-known Kaji has devoted his past few years to coverage work on the Japanese team.

At this point, it would be apt to remind newer readers that Tomohiro Kaji is in fact a former Pro Tour Champion, a feat of strength he unlocked alongside Tomoharu Saito and newly-inducted Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka at Pro Tour Charleston 2006, nearly a decade ago. With three Pro Tour Top 8s (including a win) and enormous contributions to the Japanese community, Kaji just needs a slight push before the world remembers how great he really was.

Pro Tour Charleston 2006 Champions. From left to right, Tomohiro Kaji, Shota Yasooka and Tomoharu Saito

Jůza also shared that "there's this new airline that flies directly from Prague to Beijing. So it's pretty convenient for me to make the trip." Not that inconvenient flight routines have ever stopped Jůza from attending far-flung events.

The same is true for both Japanese road warrior Nakamura. So what has he been up to recently? Aside from recently winning Grand Prix Dallas Fort Worth for his seventh Grand Prix title, Nakamura's pretty much chasing his 8th title here in Beijing to go one up against fellow seven-time Champions Yuuya Watanabe and Kai Budde.

"I'm very happy to be playing with Kaji this weekend," Nakamura proclaimed. "It's like reliving the good old times again. He was an awesome player back then and a lot of that still lies within him. He won't disappoint!"

Keep your eyes peeled. Will Team Kaji/Nakamura/Jůza live up to expectations? We'll find out very soon!