Winter has passed.. | The Irish Duelist

Winter has passed..

So it's late January and the Irish Yu-Gi-Oh! Winter season has finally concluded. All that is left for the remainder of the format are some locals and possibly a National Qualifier or two. It's certainly been an eventful season for me (mind you, any season with a major tournament or two is going to be eventful, given the type of player that I am) and one that will live on in the memory of others aswell, given some of the things that have involved me in some way.

Back in September The Irish Open was announced, and the Irish players really got behind it and tried to make it one of the best events in Irish history. It was also another major event in the Winter calendar, which is usually dominated by the Pharaoh/Fortune Tour. Soon after The Irish Open was announced, it was made public that Ireland will be hosting its own Fortune Tour Finals aswell, another historic moment in Ireland's Yu-Gi-Oh! history. Those events were months away yet, and we had an entire format to get through first.

The start of the format was still dominated by Gladiator Beasts but by the end of November, and Dublin's Fortune Tour Stop, TeleDaD was the number one deck to beat. Anticipation for The Irish Open were beginning to step up aswell as many British players had expressed an interest in the event. Because of my position on UkayPro.co.uk (The UK's 'main' Yu-Gi-Oh! forum) and my high ranking, some players on the forum believed that I was the best that Ireland has to offer, falling into the hype machine (partly of my own creation) that has surrounded me since I 'exploded' on to the Irish Yu-Gi-Oh! scene in 2007.

I'll make it clear now; I am not Ireland's best player. Given where I usually play and the inherent lack of testing against the 'big decks' (although one of my locals has improved rapidly in that respect recently) I cannot even be considered to be in the 'top tier' of Irish players at the moment. I'm good, I know that for a fact, but I'm not there just yet, despite the fact that I have over 3400 ranking points and have been made out to be some sort of 'Irish God of Yu-Gi-Oh!'.

Anyways, back to what I was on about before I trailed off. People were (wrongly) assuming that I was the benchmark for the rest of Ireland and basing the difficulty of The Irish Open off of that. That gave me some sort of purpose when I headed up to Dublin for the Stop. I had already qualified so I didn't 'need' to top the event, but I wanted to prove to the Brits that Ireland is not an easy place to play in and that if I'm Ireland's best, I might as well show them that I am a player to be feared. While I won the event (biggest event I've actually won too), going undefeated along the way, I didn't hit the (ambitious) goals that I set out to prove. I had won with my fair share of luck, people made fatal misplays against me, I topped my way out of unbelievable situations more than once, and the finals wasn't quite the epic struggle between '#1' and '#2' that it could have been. Reagrdless, I was happy with my performance, both in terms of actual gameplay and my 'never say die' attitude.

About a week later things started to go awry, not for me perticularly, but the game in general. The whole Konami vs Upper Deck thing went public, and the future of the game has been uncertain ever since. Initially, all major events that had to do with Upper Deck were cancelled, the secondary market didn't have a clue what to do and people were behaving as if the sky were falling. Even so, The Irish Open was going ahead so there was no time to worry about things, as I (and the rest of Ireland's playerbase) had to prepare for the event.

After the Stop, I hit a mini-slump in form up until Christmas. Cork locals had finished the week after the Stop, so I had no competitive testing against TeleDaD for a month which, given my limited testing facilities as it is (I live 20-30 miles away from the nearest player and don't have Internet access at home to play YVD), was a major blow. The only real way I could prepare for such a big event was through theory and online discussion (in college, where I can't download YVD and am meant to be busy all the time anyways) and play out the event in my head. I wrote pages and pages of notes on my deck, how I would build it, what the potential weaknesses were, what I can take from recent Shonen Jump Championships, and so on. It was a good experience, but as I was essentially alone in this endeavour, I would eventually become biased in my opinion, believeing that 'x card' played in 'y way' against 'z deck' was better than it actually was.

After Christmas, I was back on form though, even if I was still 'self-fooled' by my research. I was playing quite well up until the day before The Irish Open. I was staying with the Brits that had decided to come over and was finally able to test against 'Tier 1' decks and opposition. From the 2-3 hours that I was able to get in (the rest of the time we were just chilling out and having a laugh) the results were inconclusive. I had already written out my decklist the day beforehand and was too stubborn to change it, as I believed that I was doing everything right, and didn't want to (in my head) 're-learn' everything about any alterations I could make to the deck. The deck felt quite smooth and reliable, so I went with it.

At The Open... well, I didn't do as well as I had intended. People were predicting that I would top, putting my name beside Stephen Lynam, James Kinsella, Jamie Stafford etc. and everybody, was surprised at how I was doing throughout the day. While I didn't play badly per-se, the combination of bad luck (8 rolls with Snipe Hunter all day, and I missed 6 of them, a single shot, a 2-in-a-row and a 3-in-a-row) and the format that we were in (where some games are just unwinnable because your opponent drew a slightly better hand) meant I ended up 3-4, my worst result since I started playing competitively towards the end of 2006.

I beat myself up over it, started doubting myself and wondering where I went wrong, even if it was plainly obvious to see at times. With a lot of encouragement from the Irish players (I'd like to thank you all right now for your support, you know who you are) I got back into the competitive mindset and felt refreshed going into the Irish Fortune Tour Finals. Outside of a (regrettable) incident that I would rather not talk about, I played pretty well. The deck was the best I had ever run and I was playing to the best of my ability. I still went 0-2 to start things off though, losing a very tight game in the first round and not drawing anything of use in the second. In a tournament scene, I never give up though, and I fought my way back up until my competitive edge took things a bit too far in the final round.

Despite impressive displays from many of Ireland's players (congratulations to Barry Moran for winning the event, and Seamus Allen for winning the Dragon Duel Finals held on the same day) everybody was going on about me, and not in a good way. I was seen as the enemy, the bad guy, the one who stole a victory against the fan-favourite, the one who has always been a little bit too sneaky for his own good, the 'rule-shark', the player who, while good enough in terms of skill, is far too competitive to be a good player personality-wise. One user asked 2 very short, but very good questions that summed up the entire incident perfectly:

Did PJ make the right move as a player? (Yes, I did)
Did PJ make the right move as a person, as a friend? (No, I did not)

Now that the dust has settled and (most) people have moved on I've come to realise that if you 'play to win' in the most literal sense, you will not be the hero, you will not be the guy that everybody loves. You will succeed if you're dedicated enough, but you will not be universally praised for your efforts. I could see for a long time that certain people didn't like my attitude towards the game, and after the Fortune Tour, that number grew a little. To be honest, I don't care too much about what they think anymore. People are either going to like you or they're not, it's as simple as that and while I may regret some of the things I have done in the 'heat of battle', I do not regret what I have become.

I'm a competitive player, a competitive person, I play to win and go all-out to do so. I may occasionally take it too far (legally, I'm not mad enough to cheat/stack/bribe my way to the top) and make a few new 'enemies' every format, but so be it, I am not going to change who I am. Here's hoping I'll at least finish higher up the table at Nationals.

-PJ

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