I first met Spero Gineros, known better as ITS | Spero Gin, at Wizard World Austin in perhaps the worst way possible–as my opponent in the losers bracket. Having already seen many of his matches, I already could tell the level of play from him was of a completely different caliber. The experience I had playing with him, however, was wholly unlike anything from a normal tournament match, and had nothing to do with the gameplay.
It became very clear, very quickly that it was impossible to leave Spero’s sphere of influence without learning something about Tekken. Maybe it was just because of the setting–after all, most people in the room were trying out Tekken for the first time–but Spero openly volunteered information about his main character, Paul, to me. Right in the middle of the tournament match. Stance transitions, options the character has in different situations, frame data and more all came spilling out of Spero. There was nothing condescending about his tone, he clearly just loved Tekken information and wanted to share. And when I capitalized on that info, he would immediately point it out. He can’t seem to help himself. Tekken data has been building up in his brain for years, and all you have to do is put the game in front of him to see it burst out of his head.
I want to give you this insight on the man because I think it’s key to understanding what led to his victory over Echo Fox’s Choi “Saint” Jin Woo at Final Round 20. This is a long time tournament veteran (he placed 2nd at Evolution 2007 in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection) dedicated solely to one franchise.
Objectively, and I do mean this with all due respect, all odds were against the Paul Pugilist. Saint is the World Champion. Saint has access to a version of the game simply not present in Spero’s country. Saint is surrounded by the world’s most active Tekken scene filled to the brim with the strongest players of every character you can imagine. Spero really only had two things going for him: access to the outdated version of Tekken 7 at his local Round 1 Bowling, and his previous experience in Tekken.
Well, three. As you now know, he has one other considerable strength: His passion.
Spero Gin: I just love how high level these guys play. I study their videos, study all their different match-ups. I love how fast and intense they play. I was really looking forward to playing one of the international players… my goal wasn’t to win Final Round. I wanted to win, but my main goal was to play and beat a Korean. And I did! I was able to beat the best in the world. It makes me feel good. I wanted to beat both of them. (laughs) I almost didn’t even realize it was over because I was so into it. I learned from the team tournament when fighting JDCR to not give these guys an inch.
Crow Spaceboy: What did you focus on in the match with Saint?
Spero: I was thinking about playing fast. I was really trying to think about what I would do if I were playing Jack, and what I, as his opponent, should do to prevent all that. I just focused on defense and punishment.
Crow: The whole match was fantastic, but there’s one moment that really stood out to me. Tell me about the longest range d+1 that has ever happened.
Spero: D+1 has a really good hitbox. The hitbox increases if someone is doing a move, so the object is to do it at max range when you’re playing footsies. Paul’s d+1 has probably the biggest phantom range in all of Tekken. (laughs) You can do it from across the screen versus the right move. It was obviously a read on him coming in and pressing a button. It’s part of a wall you can do with Paul. Stuff like spaced Death Fist… Death Fist… D+1.
Crow: I understand you’re vegan. Can you talk to me about how that, and fitness as a whole, impacts your performance as a tournament player?
Spero: Mm. So, I think it’s very important for your physical activity and your nutrition to power your mind. I try to exercise as much as I can, do at least a little something every day. Honestly, that’s what makes these tournaments hard. These tournaments put you in a place where you really don’t have access to healthy food or water. I was pretty dehydrated the first day. Yeah… after the first day I just felt awful trying to adjust to not having access to the nutrition I’m used to.
Crow: It sounds like you have a lot of extra preparation for your game outside of the game itself.
Spero: Yeah. If you want to play your best, you have to make sure you keep yourself nutritionally and physically up to par. Otherwise it’ll hinder your game, and your reactions won’t be as fast.
Crow: Are you pleased overall with the pop Tekken 7 received here at Final Round? Atlanta is obviously a hot spot for Tekken, but it seemed like everyone in the room was really into it.
Spero: Yeah! Over 170 people entered. I love being apart of big tournaments like this, where everyone gets together from all over the globe. I feel like Tekken needs more recognition, in general. I think it deserves it! It’s getting the hype and the views right now. I’ve talked to lots of other players from other games and hear about them wanting to come try out Tekken. I’m super excited for Tekken 7’s future.
Crow: You see a bright future for Tekken 7?
Spero: I do.
Crow: Anything else you wanted to add about your experience here at Final Round 20?
Spero: Nah, man. I’m just really happy. I’m happy about the tournament, I’m happy I got to play the Koreans, and I look forward to playing them more and getting better.
Spero also runs a regular Tekken Podcast on his Twitch channel. With a game that has as much history and nuance as Tekken has, Spero proves to be a great (and entertaining) teacher on the subject. If you have any passing interest in Tekken, I highly recommend you check it out.
Overall, Spero (and really, all of the ITS sponsored players) did exceptionally well at Final Round. As Tekken’s profile rises and the release date draws nearer, I think it’s safe to say we’ll see Spero again. And if Echo Fox keeps bringing Saint and JDCR over, we’ll see if Spero gets his wish of beating them both.