Several players have made quite a trek to Shizuoka. Amongst them are a number of players who finished in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Manila last weekend: Martin Jůza from the Czech Republic, Christian Calcano from the U.S., Tzu Ching Kuo from Chinese Taipei, Lee Shi Tian from Hong Kong, and Joseph Sclauzero from Australia.
Players from the APAC region often attend Grand Prix tournaments in Japan, so it’s not a surprise to see them here. No. 9 Lee Shi Tian, for example, told me that he is planning to attend every Grand Prix in Asia this year in a quest for pro points. As he hails from Hong Kong, the flights are manageable enough.
The real globetrotters, at least to me, are the players who came all the way from Europe or the U.S. I sat down with Grand Prix Manila Top 8 competitors Martin Jůza and Christian Calcano to learn what inspired them to book the trip to the Philippines and Japan.
“In 2012, I essentially did the same thing: I went to Manila and Yokohama on consecutive weekends, and together with Shuhei Nakamura and Ben Swartz I visited Angor Watt in between,” Martin Jůza explained. "It was great trip, so I wanted to do something like that again.”
And so the 20-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor from the Czech Republic did. He convinced his friends Ivan Floch and David Berka to book a ticket as well, and off they went.
Martin Jůza (left), David Berka (middle), and No. 2 Ivan Floch (right)
In Manila, they met up with Christian Calcano, who had flown in from the opposite direction. “I have a friend in Manila where I could stay for several days, and I really like Japan: the people, the food, the culture, everything,” Calcano explained. “I probably wouldn’t be here if it was just one tournament, and back-to-back Asian GPs don’t happen all that often, but these tournaments allowed me to combine the two events in one trip. I am also playing my hundredth Grand Prix this weekend, so being able to do that at an awesome location was cool, too.”
A globetrotting Christian Calcano.
The Europeans and the American had a great New Year’s Eve celebration together in a bar in Manila with firework right in front of them, and then it was time for the Grand Prix. For Jůza and Calcano in particular, it worked out great, as both of them posted a Top 8 finish. But their finish wasn’t the only thing that stuck in their minds.
“Grand Prix Manila was so cool,” Jůza said. “The local people were very nice and since they don’t get to play GPs very often, they looked genuinely happy to see the pros. They were ecstatic to take a picture with Ivan Floch, who must’ve done over 100 photos and signed 200 playmats.”
After the Grand Prix, Calcano stayed for several days in Manila and visited a beautiful volcano before flying on to Japan. The European group, meanwhile, flew out to a different island. “After the GP, we left for Boracay, one of the Phillipine islands,” Martin continued. “It was really nice, with a beautiful beach. We stayed at a beach resort for three days. The weather was insane, too. I’m glad we did go.”
Boracay (picture credit Martin Jůza)
All of these locations sound great, but most of these players made the trip in a quest for pro points as well. Ivan Floch locked up Platinum for the next season with his money finish in Manila, while Calcano and Jůza increased their pro point totals in the hope of retaining their level in the pro player club: after Manila, Calcano went up to 19 points and Jůza hit 13 points.
But not everyone was on the hunt for points. David Berka, unlike his friends Jůza and Floch, is far from a Platinum level pro, but you don’t need to be a pro to attend a GP on the other side of the world. “A nice trip with friends,” is how he described it to me. And how could that not be enough?