Longtime Friends

Posted in GRAND PRIX KYOTO 2016 on September 11, 2016

By Ben Swartz

It doesn't matter if you are a Hall of Famer or if you are a new player on the scene; you're hard pressed to have a better time playing Magic than with your friends. At Grand Prix Kyoto 2016, I caught up with Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura and asked him about his teammates. For this event Kenji teamed with longtime friend Yuuta Hirosawa and Takehiro Fujimoto.

"My partner is Yuuta Hirosawa, we always team up together since 2006 so we didn't separate maybe forever" Kenji mentioned. "Yuuta is a very underrated player, and if he plays up he is very good", Kenji explained.

While Hirosawa hasn't had the same level of Pro Tour success that Kenji has had, he did get 8th place at Japanese Nationals in 2005. For Kenji, the friendship is the important part. When Kenji played in the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour in San Diego, he didn't hesitate to play with Hirosawa.

Kenji Tsumura and Yuuta Hirosawa

For someone who has pick of the litter as far as teammates go, I was curious as to why Kenji continually picked to play with Hirosawa. "[I've known] him maybe 10 years. [We have a] good friendship and he is very good," Kenji went on. "The first time we played a team draft I lost against him."

"The third teammate is always changing," explained Kenji, "last time we played with Chikara Nakajima. This time, [we're playing with] good fellow Fujimoto." Takehiro Fujimoto has had limited Pro Tour success, with a Top 32 at Pro Tour Origins in 2015. "We call him as a nickname–Hamachi, you know, sushi. All of us call him Hamachi."

(left to right) Yuuta Hirosawa, Kenji Tsumura, and Takehiro Fujimoto

With both Fujimoto and Hirosawa hailing from Osaka, the two have known each other since high school. Hall of Famer, Shuhei Nakamura, shared the origin story of Fujimoto's nickname: "Fujimoto and Hirosawa have been friends since high school. In homeroom before class started Hirosawa started calling Fujimoto "Hamachi" because of his resemblance." The nickname has stuck for 10 years and counting.

"I love team tournaments," Kenji Tsumura continued. "They're very difficult. If we practice hard it's possible. Ken Yukuhiro practiced a lot and he went 9-0, and LSV always win-win-win-win," he explained. While Kenji and company practiced a lot for this event, they barely scraped into the second day with a 6-3 record: "[I played] maybe 20 [team] sealed pools, but apparently [it's] not good enough, I need[ed] more."

Regardless of how much you practice, you end up playing with the sealed pool you receive. "[Yesterday] maybe we could've been 7-2 or 8-1, today[‘s pool is] VERY GOOD, but [we] only [get to play] 5 rounds," Kenji bemoaned.

Kenji's prediction has held up, so far today their team has been undefeated. Even though it looks like Top 4 is out of the picture this weekend, the three friends can be seen with smiles on their faces, win or lose.

(left to right) Takehiro Fujimoto, Yuuta Hirosawa, and Kenji Tsumura