Going into Round 12, there was only one player left undefeated—Argentine Renzo Chiappa. Coming into the tournament, he might have seemed like a long shot to hold this honor. He has only been playing for two years, he is only 18 years old, he had no byes, and he’s not from Buenos Aires, where the largest contingent of competitive Argentine players reside. But as South America grows more as a Magic community, good players begin coming from more and more places.
If Renzo can close out these last few rounds, he can overcome the odds against him, put up his first Top 8 finish, qualify for the Pro Tour, and likely influence more people in his community to do the same.
Renzo hails from Mar Del Plata, about a four-hour drive from Buenos Aires. It has a much smaller population than the capital city, and a much smaller Magic community. But Renzo and others from the area have been making their voices heard—and that has the potential to transform the way his city looks at Magic.
Two years ago, another Mar Del Plata native, Matias Soler made it to the finals of Grand Prix Santiago. He was the first in the community to finish so highly. It is unsurprising that Renzo came back to the game about two years ago. I talked to Javier Constanzo about this link and he told me that the game was been growing strongly in Mar Del Plata, especially since Soler’s finish. After Grand Prix Santiago, many people immediately went out and got Magic Online. Though Renzo’s own path was slightly different, he is part of this post-Soler generation in Mar Del Plata. And thanks to the competition available online, the insular aspects of the community don’t stop the players from growing—and quickly.
For Renzo, he came back to the game during Return to Ravnica, at 16, and has been playing non-stop since. He’s mostly a Modern player, but couldn’t pass up the chance go to a Grand Prix so close. “For me, it’s about playing the game and enjoying it. That’s what it’s about right? ... because I’m not always winning,” he said.
Though many people say he’s one of the best players in the city, and had made the second day of a Grand Prix before, he was not the most likely candidate to be the last remaining undefeated player. Yet here he is, still running strong.
Players like Soler, Constanzo, and Axel Rodriguez—a Worlds veteran—are helping to make the previously impossible for competitive Magic seem possible for players in Mar Del Plata. Just like I heard from the Uruguayan players yesterday, once you see your friend do something you thought you couldn’t do, you realize you can.
Constanzo said that Renzo Chiappa’s performance can inspire more people in Mar Del Plata to work to achieve the same thing he has achieved—just like Soler did. Soler was an elder statesman in the game, and it could be easy to brush off his finish as something that less-experienced players couldn’t replicate. But here’s Renzo, 11-0, 18 years old, and only having played the game for two years.
There’s still more work to do for both Renzo Chiappa and the Mar Del Plata community, but it only takes a few sparks to start a blaze. If Renzo can run well for the next couple rounds, he might have himself a bonfire.