Lost Strategy Series: Beginner’s Guide to Tournaments by Maj Lost Strategy Series: Beginner’s Guide to Tournaments by Maj
Buried deep within the SRK servers are lost strategy articles written by the likes of Valle, Choi and many other fighting game greats. We’ll... Lost Strategy Series: Beginner’s Guide to Tournaments by Maj

Buried deep within the SRK servers are lost strategy articles written by the likes of Valle, Choi and many other fighting game greats. We’ll be republishing these must-read gems as we find them.

View all Lost Strategy Series

Beginner’s Guide to Tournaments by Maj

Original published March 25, 2010 by Maj.

There’s a misconception among some newcomers that you have to be a fighting game “pro” to enter tournaments. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The success of SF4 has propelled the competitive fighting game community into the limelight, so a lot of top players are getting unprecedented media exposure which makes them seem special.

But at the end of the day, the only thing separating them from the rest of us is practice and experience. In fact, the whole concept of “pro” status didn’t even exist in this community until SF4. That term simply wasn’t used on SRK.

In reality, tournaments are open to everyone. At its heart, this community still operates under a “by the players, for the players” philosophy. If you’ve never been to a tournament and you live nearbly an area where they’re held, do yourself a favor and attend one. If you care about fighting games at all, i can guarantee you’ll have fun there.

There’s usually a minimal entry fee, but it’s more than worth it for the valuable experience of playing in a high-pressure situation with the whole crowd watching. Whether you win or lose, you can learn a lot about yourself as a player. And there’s certainly no shame in losing. If ask anyone about their first tournament experience, chances are they’ll tell you that they lost both of their matches. (In a double-elimination bracket, you have to lose to two people to be eliminated.)

If you decide to go, the most important thing is to keep an open mind and keep your expectations reasonable. Figure out what character you’re going to use ahead of time and practice only using that character for at least a few days beforehand. Try to predict which matchups you’ll see most often and if you can, try to practice against those characters.

You’re bound to experience a bit of a culture shock but it’s okay. Try to absorb as much information as possible. Watch as many live matches as you can, because right off the bat you’ll notice that people play very differently in tournaments than they do in casual matches. The natural instinct is to become noticeably more conservative and play more defensively. This isn’t always a good thing because most people start hesitating too much, but you have to account for it either way.

If you lose a match because your opponent played like a complete turtle, don’t worry. That happens to everyone. One of the things you learn from playing in tournaments is how important it is to develop solid fundamentals so that you can attack without putting yourself at extreme risk.

By all means, go in there fully intending to win every match and give it your best shot. But win or lose, try to remember how it was different than what you expected and learn something concrete from every match.

In closing, here are some wise words from oldschool dominator Seth Killian aka s-kill:

IMO the best tips are usually the simplest (though most people forget them!):

1) stay hydrated. Drink as much as you can–even more than you think you want. It really helps with the stress and maintaining a good physical balance. I’d suggest resting up, but that can be really hard, while you can always drink some more water. You should eat something, but keep it light. You don’t want to be lightheaded, but hungry > full.

2) practice your core stuff. You basically need your mechanics to be at the place where you don’t need to think about them, and they are automatic. If you haven’t done that, you create a huge amount of extra stress when you’re in the match, and it prevents you from playing the best mind-games you can if your attention is split. Being confident in your mechanics also really helps overall with motivation–I could always mentally deal with losing or being outplayed, but it was devastating to me to know that I could have won, or actually outplayed someone, but I beat myself by not playing to my ability.

3) stay in the moment. Practice ahead of the tournament, but be focused on your current match–don’t think about who you have to face next in the bracket before you’ve beaten your current opponent. Give them that respect and you won’t get caught sleeping.