No Stopping Steven O

Circulo de Bellas Artes, a historic theater and exhibition hall in sunny Madrid, hosted the first Grand Prix tournament of 1998. At 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, the lobby was packed with players, including a number of familiar faces: France's Michaël Debard (winner of Grand Prix-Como), Italy's Gabriele Pisicchio (a quarterfinalist from Pro Tour-Mainz), and Ivan Garcia Gonzalez and Rafael Jimenez Bano from Spain. Even a number of American competitors made the cross-Atlantic voyage to compete, including Pro Tour-Chicago champion Randy Buehler and Pro Tour-Mainz finalist Steven O'Mahoney-Schwartz.

Saturday's competition ran smoothly once initial registration difficulties were sorted out. At the end of the day, the 315 players who began the competition were winnowed down to 64 for the second day of play. In addition to the main event, many side tournaments were held, including Limited events featuring the very popular Asian-language boosters. In the art gallery, Jeff Miracola, a mainstay on the Magic art scene since the Mirage expansion, signed cards and sketched on players' card boxes and binders.

Five rounds of Swiss pairings on Sunday identified the Top 8 players in the tournament, including perennial top contenders Debard, Pisicchio, and O'Mahoney-Schwartz. In the quarterfinals, France's Jérémie Lagarde defeated Christian Celades of Spain, who played a red burn deck, two games to one. Despite the originality of Pisicchio's five-color deck (which had many opponents confused as to what it was trying to achieve), he lost to O'Mahoney-Schwartz 2-1. Hervé Drevillon of France triumphed 2-0 over Spaniard Omar Sagol (playing a deck with white creatures and direct damage), while Debard swept Spain's Marc Iglesias and his Goblin deck 2-0.

The semifinals pitted Lagarde against O'Mahoney-Schwartz and Debard versus Drevillon. Lagarde, who played a red-white Scroll Tax deck, won the first game of the match, but the second ended in a draw. A clutch victory by O'Mahoney-Schwartz in Game 3 forced a decisive fourth game, due in part to a number of mental errors on the part of Lagarde, who was late for his train back to Paris. These errors proved crucial as O'Mahoney-Schwartz's Frenetic Efreet finished off Lagarde, who then swept up his cards and ran off for the train.

The other semifinal match finished more quickly as Debard's Bottle Gnomes-Corpse Dance combination proved too difficult for Drevillon's red-white-blue deck. With a 2-0 victory, Debard moved on to face O'Mahoney-Schwartz in the finals.

The final match was a close-fought struggle between Debard's Pox deck, which was picked by the judges as the most original of the tournament, and O'Mahoney-Schwartz's red-white-blue deck. The life-gaining potential of Debard's Bottle Gnomes, when combined with his reanimation spells, was extremely potent. However, he was very concerned about Aura of Silence and Disenchant, as well as "combo" decks, as he had no way of breaking game locks. O'Mahoney-Schwartz's deck depended on fast creatures, with the final push provided by Cursed Scrolls.

Debard won Game 1 thanks to his Triskelions, which were able to destroy O'Mahoney-Schwartz's creatures. However, in Game 2 O'Mahoney-Schwartz sideboarded in two of the cards Debard feared most: Aura of Silence. The second game went to O'Mahoney-Schwartz as he quickly played an Aura of Silence and was able to use Wasteland to destroy Debard's land. Soltari Monks provided the finishing damage as the matched evened at one game apiece.

Game 3 was very close as the advantage swung back and forth between the two players. Debard got his creatures recycling while O'Mahoney-Schwartz summoned his Monks. An Aura of Silence slowed down Debard, who began to lose concentration due to an imminent plane flight. One final attack by O'Mahoney-Schwartz brought Debard to the brink of death, and a Lightning Bolt pushed him over the edge.

Rank Name Country
1 Steven O'Mahoney Schwartz USA
2 Michael Debard France
3 Jérémie Lagarde France
4 Herve Drevillon France
5 Christian Celades Spain
6 Omar Saqol Spain
7 Gabriele Pisicchio Italy
8 Marc Iglesias Spain
9 Raphael Levy France
10 Laurent Laclaverie France
11 Julien Oriol France
12 Laurent Pagorek France
13 Jon Finkel USA
14 Randy Buehler USA
15 Cyrille De Foucaud France
15 Ivan Garcia Gonzalez Spain
17 Antonio Barange Talanen Spain
18 Gonzalo Moreno Huerta Spain
19 Fernando Escribano Cantero Spain
20 Rafael Jimenez Bano Spain
21 David Menor Spain
22 Jérémie Bonte France
23 Jordi Soldevila Palau Spain
24 Jose Luis Lopez Huaman Spain
25 Matteo Rusconi Italy
26 Eduardo Morrisey Noyes Spain
27 Carlos Gomez Spain
28 Fabien Cazassus France
29 Guillermo Barro Calvo Spain
30 Alejandro Dominguez Ramos Spain
31 Sergio Alonso Gallego Spain
32 Enrique Pascual Alvaro Spain
33 Joaguin Gasa Thoma Spain
34 Jorge Mullor Spain
35 Juanjo Garrido Gomez Spain
36 Kristian Masson France
37 Nicolas Olivieri France
38 David Perez Fernandez  
39 David Vall Brillas Spain
40 Alberto Garcia Bona Spain
41 Francisco Fuente  
42 Luis Fajardo  
43 Philippe Jean France
44 Javier Briz Herrezuelo Spain
45 Jose Morales  
46 Jose Ignacio Ortiz  
47 Paulo Amaral Portugal
48 Eugenio Juan Rincon Spain
49 Santiago Pitarch Spain
50 Antonio Chaves Puente Spain
51 Alex Menal Coronado Spain
52 Franck Lauwers France
53 Daniel Diaz Risueno Spain
54 Jorge Palacios Sanchez Spain
55 Inigo Baztan Madoz Spain
56 Bruno Ortiz  
57 Fernando Valasco  
58 Laurent Raynaud France
59 Nacho Oliviera Spain
60 Gregory Tallon France
61 Marcelo Dos Santos Portugal
62 Frédéric Thays France
63 Carlos Barrado Lopez Spain
64 Nacho Fernandez