July 17, 2024

The inaugural Red Bull Kumite for Street Fighter 6 proved to be an extraordinary event, showcasing the immense talent and skill that the game has to offer. The tournament, which was held in Pretoria, South Africa, from July 1–2, witnessed an awe-inspiring victory by Algerian-born Emirati gamer Adel “Big Bird” Anouche, one of the favourites, who emerged triumphant in a dominant 5-1 set against Frenchman Christ “Akainu” Onema. Big Bird’s masterful utilisation of Marisa proved too much for Akainu’s Guile, leading to an exhilarating display of power and strategy.

With Street Fighter 6 only a month old, players are still honing their skills and discovering new strategies. Although the top players are yet to find their rhythm, the Red Bull Kumite served as an excellent platform to witness the game’s progress. Additionally, as the first major fighting game community (FGC) tournament held in Africa, it shed light on a region that previously remained relatively unknown in the competitive gaming scene.

This year, the tournament format deviated slightly from the previous editions. The traditional two-group, round-robin format was replaced by a single elimination bracket, where players competed against each other once. The stakes were high, as the winner advanced further while the loser faced elimination. Each game followed a best-of-nine, or first-to-five, structure, guaranteeing decisive outcomes and an abundance of exciting matches. Notably, the tournament witnessed several dramatic moments, including a surprising upset by hometown hero Jabhi “JabhiM” Mabuza, who triumphed over the formidable Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi. JabhiM’s victory secured his spot in the quarterfinals, leaving spectators in awe.

Amidst the intense battles, Big Bird’s victory stood out as one of the most emotional and thrilling moments of the tournament. Fate had him face his best friend and training partner, Amjad “AngryBird” Alshalabi, in the opening round. The set between these two competitors was a classic, showcasing their deep understanding of the game and their unyielding determination. However, before this showdown, the tournament commenced with a stunning upset, as Derek “iDom” Ruffin, having just arrived from the United States, suffered a crushing 5-0 defeat against Benjamin “Problem X” Simon, who showcased his mastery with the low-tier hero, Lily. While iDom’s jet lag and a tumultuous week may have contributed to his subpar performance, Problem X’s remarkable skill ultimately secured him the victory, dispatching the Capcom Cup 2019 champion swiftly.

The most captivating Kumite game of the day featured an epic showdown between Tokido and JabhiM. JabhiM, renowned for his outstanding performance at the Capcom Cup and his remarkable contributions to the community last year, faced off against the formidable Tokido. Despite Tokido’s dominance, effortlessly defeating numerous opponents, including JabhiM, during the Saturday, July 1 team match between Team Logan and Team Rob, few would have anticipated JabhiM’s chances.

As Tokido secured the first game, it seemed like victory was inevitable. However, JabhiM refused to surrender and fought back round after round against the legendary fighting game master. With each victory for Jabhi, the crowd’s enthusiasm intensified. Undoubtedly, JabhiM benefited from the overwhelming support and home advantage.

The atmosphere crackled with excitement as JabhiM delivered an extraordinary performance. He flawlessly punished Tokido’s mistakes, expertly countered his fireballs, and utilised Drive Impact with remarkable precision, catching Tokido off guard multiple times.

However, JabhiM’s over-reliance on Drive Impact and inability to effectively anti-air became determining factors in his quarterfinal defeat to the talented Lin “Oil King” Li-Wei. The Taiwanese gamer capitalised on these weaknesses, repeatedly jumping in without any consequences or punishment. Over time, Oil King adapted, reacting to JabhiM’s Drive Impacts and effectively countering them.

However, despite the defeat, JabhiM can proudly hold his head high, as his impressive performance managed to capture the attention of the fighting game community. Through his skill and determination, JabhiM put South Africa on the global map of competitive gaming, ensuring that people sat up and took notice of the emerging talent from his home country.

In a stunning display of skill, the eventual Kumite finalist, Akainu, got past the highly rated William “Leffen” Hjelte. With strategic precision, he emerged triumphant against Ricardo “Mono” Roman and Oil King. What made his achievements even more remarkable was the controller setback he faced earlier in the day. The French gamer encountered issues with his customary PS4 controller, compelling him to purchase a PS5 controller at the last minute. He was apprehensive, fearing that he wouldn’t adapt well to the new pad.

It is also worth noting that Akainu was a late substitute for Justin Wong, who unfortunately couldn’t participate in the tournament. Despite having limited time for preparation before flying to South Africa, Akainu delivered stellar performances, making it all the way to the Final. However, Akainu’s exceptional run came to an end when he encountered a formidable opponent in Big Bird—a force that proved unstoppable.

The first Red Bull Kumite for Street Fighter 6 captivated audiences with its intense battles and displays of skill. Big Bird’s dominant triumph, despite the emotional hurdles faced along the way, showcased the true potential of a talented player in the competitive Street Fighter scene. Moreover, the tournament provided a platform for Africa’s fighting game community to shine, unveiling a region that previously remained unexplored in the realm of competitive gaming. As Street Fighter 6 continues to evolve, future tournaments hold the promise of even greater spectacles, drawing in enthusiasts from around the world to witness the ever-growing world of competitive fighting games.