Latin America: A Reflection

Since all the major tournaments in the Latin American region have concluded, I want to write something regarding the attendance differences from year-to-year in addition to a commentary on the function of the SPEs in the region.

Clearly, there were a lot more tournaments in LATAM this year. TPCi cut one Regionals but almost tripled the number of Special Events. This increase in Special Events didn't necessarily create more opportunities to play for people who previously already had tournaments, but brought Tier Two events to new areas.

Image result for chileChile

Chile saw incredible growth, and it’s worth pointing out here an interesting pattern in terms of allocation of events. Last year, it looked like TPCi was trying to spread out SPEs in terms of location (Mexico City and Queretaro in Mexico, Olivos and Buenos Aires in Argentina, Santiago and Serena in Chile) whereas this year they seemed to double down on locations with good attendance. For example, Mexico City got two SPEs this year. Nowhere else, however, was this more apparent than Chile. Santiago, Chile got four Special Events this season in addition to their Regionals. At both their SPEs and their Regionals, Chile really knocked it out of the park in terms of attendance. Their Regionals was comparable to the USA in size, and they took the honor of having the biggest SPE worldwide this season (excluding the Anaheim Open) with 181 Masters. They kept attendance high throughout the year so I wouldn’t be surprised if they gained more tournaments next year, as their player base can and will attend events.

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Mexico gained a Special Event from last year. Attendance-wise, the two Mexico City Special Events did much better than last year's Mexico City and Queretaro events. This is probably because TPCi allocated them sooner, and as a result, they were better-advertised. The Cancun event was a huge success in terms of attendance. On the other hand, Mexico City Regionals shrunk. The effect was relatively small in Masters TCG but larger when factoring in other divisions and VGC. The organizers were completely new as it was run by the distributor Devir, and the tournament had some hiccups. It remains to be seen what will happen next year, but I hope Pokemon does not get the impression that all Mexican tournaments are handled this way.

It is frustrating to look at these events and how they were not spread out. Chile had their four SPEs more spread out, and although there were some run in the fourth quarter, they had some “early” ones too by Latin American standards. This gave Chilean players a huge advantage over countries like Mexico when competing for stipends. For example, Mexican player Eder Jarillo got T8, 1st, T4, and 1st at the three Mexican Special Events and one Regionals. These points put him in T8 contention here at the end of the season. If  one of these events had been held in each quarter, he could have received stipends to the ICs. He could have had more points to possibly be in T4 contention, and he could have earned more money and played in more tournaments. Poor planning and scheduling of Mexican events caused him to miss out on this opportunity. This is the fault of TPCi, not the organizers, as this happened only because they allocated these events towards the end of the season, not at the beginning.


What happened in Argentina was a bit sad, as they were the only LATAM country to lose their Regionals this year. They did have the smallest LATAM Regionals last year, but not by a lot. I hope the player-base stays active and motivated despite having only a couple of Special Events.


Brazil had the same Tier Two events as they did last year, with the inclusion of an SPE in Rio de Janeiro. There were a couple of changes in terms of attendance. Two of the Regionals moved, which may be what Brazil is doing on purpose. Sao Paulo Regionals grew massively, but that’s because last year it was held right after the IC, which sucked momentum away from the Regionals. The SPE saw low attendance probably because of its high entry fee, which was controversial.
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Five new countries got SPEs. The following countries each got one SPE: Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia. In the recent past, no one from these countries had a feasible path to Worlds. International travel within Latin America is a bit pricey, so it would take a fair bit of cash and a big finish to get within striking range of Worlds. This year, TPCi used Special Events to try and close the gap and get local players their invites.


The Peruvian Special Event was the most successful at this. For one, the whole of Top Eight was Peruvian. One American master attended, but this Master is not in contention for Top 22 nor did he get points at the event. Five Peruvian Masters qualified for Worlds, with one still in striking range. I’m not exactly sure why more Latin Americans didn’t make the trip to Lima, but tickets from Brazil were expensive. My personal thought is that since this was the first Tier Two event in the area, players from other countries weren’t trying to finish invites, so they didn’t make the trip. There was also a Regionals in the U.S. on the same day, so no American Day Two chasers were in attendance in Lima.


In other circumstances, Ecuador would have been in the exact same position as Peru with five players with invites and one in striking range. Unfortunately, two of the players with invites have been banned. Even more unfortunately, Walter Cordova who is sitting at 251/250 points for Worlds has gained at least 20 of those points illegitimately. In his defense, from a brief discussion on Facebook, he did not seem to know what I was talking about and does not check his points on the Pokemon website, so I’m not sure if he would even be in attendance at Worlds. One player that was banned was in Day Two contention. He won about two local cups per quarter, won the local Special Event, and spent some $300 to travel to the Colombia SPE and get T4 there. Immediately before his ban, it looked like he would receive a stipend to attend the NAIC. To my knowledge, outside of 15 points from a League Challenge (allegedly), this player earned all of his points legitimately. However, it's still questionable whether his points are fair because of the quantity and general system of League Cups in Guayaquil. Around the city and around the country, leagues grew and qualified to hold League Cups. But at least two leagues failed, and “moved” their cups to a particular store in Guayaquil. So this player, through no fault of his own, was able to play in a League Cup in his local store about once a month. This makes it easier to win two cups per quarter and this is not how it's supposed to work. However, it’s still cool that a local SPE let this player make a run for a Day Two spot at Worlds. At the Ecuador Special Event there were no Americans in Top Eight, and only one foreigner present at all.

Ecuador's Special Event has been invalidated since I originally wrote this post. The point is now moot.


Because of its Special Event, Bolivia has two players qualified for Worlds with one in striking range. The SPE gave out points to Top Eight, but only five of those players were from Bolivia. 2nd place was taken by Nicolas Galaz, a Chilean player chasing Top Eight. Third place was a Chilean player who is not in contention for Day Two of Worlds, and there was also a Peruvian in Top Eight. I’m not sure what the Peruvian's goal was, as he doesn’t have any points outside of this tournament. He may be Peruvian but living in Bolivia, for example, and he wouldn’t really count as a foreign player taking local points if that were the case.


The Paraguay Special Event was absolutely swarming with foreigners who really seemed to do well compared to the locals. Players from Paraguay only took one of the Top Eight spots, and that player is the only one with an invite. No one else is even close. Paraguay was the biggest example, in my opinion, of players in contention for Day Two taking points from local players, perhaps more so than any other tournament in the region. Here were the standings:

1. Diego Cassiraga (2nd in Argentina with 965 CP)

2. Gustavo Wada (1st in Brazil with 1639 CP)

3. Otavio Gouveia (2nd in Brazil with 1435 CP)

4. Facundo Facio (8th in Argentina with 408 CP)

5. Gonzalo Martin Fernandez (6th in Argentina with 425 CP)

6. Vicente Canales (1st in Paraguay with an invite)

7. Emanuel Gauna (10th in Argentina with 319 CP)

8. Augusto Facio (13th in Argentina with 255 CP)

Argentina did very well at this tournament. In contrast, no one from Paraguay got points at either of Argentina’s two Special Events. In effect, this event became a third Argentinian Special Event. Because of this, there will only be one Paraguayan at Worlds.


Colombia was the Latin American event that put the spotlight on possible abuse of the SPE system. No one from Colombia has qualified for Worlds, and only one person is within striking range. However, I believe this is due to coincidence more than having their points “stolen” at the SPE. Players on the Play! Points Leaderboard in Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia appear to have similar amounts of Play! Points. Peru has an unusually large amount, and I believe that is due to their League Cups. There were three non-Colombian players in Top Eight at the SPE in Bogota. One was an American going for Day Two, one was an Ecuadorian going for Day Two (the aforementioned banned player), and one was an Ecuadorian going for Day One.

I believe that Pokemon chose to put on these Special Events to help local players to get invited to Worlds. The Day Two system has caused some people to travel to these local events and take away opportunities for locals to get to Worlds. Let’s examine Mexico in the same way:

At the first Mexico City Special Event, in Top Eight, there were three Americans going for a Day Two invite along with one Mexican who is going for a Day Two invite. That means that only half of the Top Eight spots went to players trying to get to Worlds with the other half going to the “void” in the stipend/Day Two race. At the Cancun SPE, in Top Eight, there was one American going for Day Two and at least one Mexican going for Day Two. At the second Mexico City Special Event, there were two Mexicans going for Day Two, two Americans going for Day Two, and two Americans who achieved their Day One invites with their finish. However, something to keep in mind for the initial CDMX and Cancun SPEs is that they paid out CP to the T16 and T32, respectively. This gave more points to local players, which helped achieve the goal of getting more local players qualified for Worlds.

Also, it goes both ways. It's good that Mexican players used this to catapult their Day Two runs. They need this. It's more negative in this case that Americans were present.

The Real Problem: Not the American Bogeyman

My belief is that it is not a problem of American Players “stealing” points from locals. Instead, I believe that it is a problem of “Day Two Players” taking points from locals at Special Events that TPCi intends for local players. I believe that this issue is unique to Special Events. The issue exists with Brazilians earning points designated for Argentinians. The issue exists with Chileans taking points intended for Bolivians. The issue exists with Brits taking points from Emiratis and South Africans and it exists with Argentinians taking points from Paraguayans. The fact is that TPCi wants to give out invites through Special Events and the way that the Day One and Two system is at odds with itself here is not ideal.

This issue is all about incentive. I don't think anyone mentioned here is a bad person, they are simply using the system how it is set up. This is not due to bad or malicious people, but a flawed system.

At League Cups, the stakes are low enough and best finish limits exist so that it doesn’t really matter who wins. The purpose of League Cups isn't to directly get local players invites, it’s to provide points that create a path to Worlds. Because of this, there are no issues equivalent to those with SPEs. At Regionals and ICs, cash is a good enough equalizer that “pay to win” isn’t as much as a factor. Sure, the best players will fly around and travel to a bunch of tournaments and get the most points. But if those players are breaking even or profiting off of their success, then that isn’t pay-to-win, it’s simply professional Pokemon. There are foreign Regionals that U.S. players can theoretically attend. In theory, some might call it unfair that an American going for Day Two can fly to Indonesia or England and play a Regionals there. However, that can fall under the umbrella of risk versus reward. A player who wins Indonesia Regionals has not lost money, and therefore the system is not pay-to-play.

(A slight digression: if the complaint is number of weekends necessary to stay in Day Two contention, simply scheduling the Regionals on the same day as an American one can solve that issue as I wrote about here.)

Special Events are pay-to-play. Winning (with the exception of Cancun, or to a much lesser extent, Colombia) a Special Event does not get you cash. There is no way to profit off the trip, except in the form of stipends. In this way, Special Events are pay-to-play unless they are local. Then, they are simply a great opportunity to get points.


This is where we get into solution-creating territory and this is really tricky. I can think of a solution that does not affect the Day Two race for outside players and already has precedent: National Championships. This season, South Africa and Russia had National Championships. To my knowledge, the top four received Worlds invites, and the winners received paid trips. This was without consequences, because both South African and Russian players are not in regions in which they can compete for Day Two. Because of this, it was totally fair to region-lock the tournaments.

If Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia held National Championships that did not give out CP but gave out invitations to Worlds, this could solve almost everything. Without CP given out, it’s safe and fair to region-lock the tournaments. This is an improvement over what we had before this season, because before this season, players in these countries basically had no path to Worlds. There don’t even have to be paid trips involved, so it wouldn’t cost TPCi extra.

The flaw in this plan is that it takes away a path to Day Two for a player from one of these countries. While he had some extra, possibly unfair, help, there was very briefly an Ecuadorian in contention for Day Two without excessive travel, all because his local SPE gave him a 200 CP bump. That is very cool and inspirational, and would not be possible if these tournaments did not give out CP.

“Region-locking” ie. making it so that only players in the Latin American region can access the tournament removes the American component, but not the Brazilian one, which is arguably just as potent and problematic. Region-locking the current system with no other changes gives an unfair advantage to local players in the Day Two race, and we saw the problems that created in the 2015-2016 season with region-locked National Championships. Brazilians had to fight through a 300+ person tournament to get the same reward as a Chilean fighting through a 70 person tournament, with no choice in the matter.

Here is my proposed solution: make regions more granular. Instead of four to six regions like we have now (US & Canada, LATAM, APAC, and Europe), separate Day Two invites by country. Have there be 14 US Day Two invites and two Canadian ones. Have there by four Brazilian Day Two invites, two Chilean ones, and one from each of the other LATAM countries. That way, there could even be a path to Worlds for a country without more than League Challenges! In this way, it’s safer to region-lock a lot more tournaments. This system lets you be very flexible whether you want players to travel or not. You wouldn’t have to balance the Day One and Day Two systems because it would be a lot harder to make the Day Two system unfair or mess up a balance.


I began by simply comparing the attendance from last year to this year in the Latin American region, but this became so much more. The Day Two system needs to be improved, the Day One system needs to be improved, and those improvements can’t affect the other negatively. It’s a difficult balance, and I hope that TPCi can navigate it.


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