Grand Prix San Francisco 1997 Results
December 6-7, 1997
1) Robert Swarowski
2) Ryan Fuller
3) Steven Shears
4) Brett Quorn
5) Daniel Clegg
6) Steven Aldrich
7) Casey McCarrel
8) Ernest Alexander
While many top players slugged it out in Germany, nine time zones to the west the San Jose Convention Center played host to Grand Prix-San Francisco. Over two hundred players packed up their Extended decks and descended on the Bay Area December 6 and 7 to compete for invitations to 1998's Pro Tour-Los Angeles, as well as $10,000 in cash and prizes.
In addition to the Grand Prix, organizers from the Match Play Game and Computer Center ran several side tournaments during the course of the weekend, including a Super Series Challenge and Pro Tour-Los Angeles Qualifier tournament. All events were handled by some of the top judges in the world: Dan Gray, Scott Larabee, Andrea Kunstt, and Peter Constandinitis. All players interviewed considered the weekend's competition the best-run in recent memory.
Though the event had an unmistakable West Coast flavor, many players came from far away to compete. Steve Edney of Australia was in town for a college conference and decided to take in the event. Fellow Aussie Sam Ward, on a walkabout from Perth, also dropped by on his way up to Vancouver, Canada. Both cited the size of the tournament field as well as the Pro Tour spots as being paramount to their entering the event. Both made the Top 64 with Edney finishing 34th and Ward 41st. Other travelers hailed from such far-off lands as Michigan, New York, and Canada.
After twelve rounds of Swiss competition over the course of two days, local heavyweight Daniel Clegg emerged as the number-one seed, piloting his red-white Land's Edge weenie deck to an amazing 11-0-1 record, five points ahead of second-seeded Ryan Fuller of Burnaby, British Columbia. During the quarterfinals, Clegg ran into Rob "Scrubowski" Swarowski's burn deck, losing 2-1 in a heartbreaker. In other quarterfinal matches, Ryan Fuller won over Santa Barbara's Ernest Alexander, Brett Quorn defeated Steve Aldrich, and Steve Shears edged out San Francisco's Casey McCarrel.
Semifinal action pitted Ryan Fuller against fifteen-year-old Steve Shears of Riverside, California, while Portland, Oregon native Brett Quorn was paired against Rob Swarowski. Fuller, playing a red-black "Necro-Burn" deck, managed to Drain Life Shears before his opponent could get his unique and powerful Eladamri's Vineyard deck going. Shears took the loss in stride, happy with his finish (and winnings) as well as the knowledge that his friend Justin Baker won the Pro Tour Qualifier that day using a nearly identical copy of his deck.
The final game of the Quorn-Swarowski matchup was one of the more dramatic contests of the tournament. Quorn, with 7 life remaining, was poised to win on his next turn with a White Knight and Mishra's Factory in play and several cards in hand. Rob, however, pulled a Fireblast on his draw phase to go with his other Fireblast in hand and four mountains in play. Fearing an Honorable Passage from Quorn, Swarowski suffered several minutes of indecision before deciding it was "do or die" time and launched the two Fireblasts at Quorn. With no defense against the 'blasts, Quorn was toast, advancing Swarowski into the Grand Prix finals.
During the finals, Swarowski's "Super Scrub Sligh" came to play while Fuller's Necrodeck failed to bring up the cards needed to beat the burn. The first game featured lots of fire, turning Ryan several shades of burnt. In the second, despite Swarowski having no more than two lands in play at any one time, Fuller couldn't pull the Hymn of Tourachs and Drain Lifes necessary to take advantage of the situation. Thus, Rob "Scrubowski" Swarowski took home the title and $3,000. When asked about his victory, Rob commented, "Anyone who works hard and puts in the time can win a big tourney. Don't ever give up."