Tak players PlutoTheBrave and NohatCoder shared the top podium this past Saturday at the close of the February 2021 Tak Blitz Tournament, hosted by the U.S. Tak Association (USTA). While NohatCoder’s victory (7-1) comes as no surprise, PlutoTheBrave’s performance (7-1) stunned participants and observers. While he has been a part of the Tak community for around a year, his name does not come up in conversation about potential tournament title contenders. This past weekend, that changed.
"Pluto was a machine. . . . He played fantastic,” veteran player Simmon commented after finishing his own games in a four-way tie for 3rd place. Long-time member of the community, ManaT, agreed: “Pluto's been on fire this tournament.” His performance was all the more impressive considering the “blitz” format of 3 minutes +5 second increment to best your opponent and +3 "komi" for black; the grueling nature of the tournament - 9 rounds compacted within a few hours - and the number of top players he competed against.
Pluto, also known as Caecilius, has only competed in one tournament before - the COVID-19 Cup in April/May 2020 - and finished fifth out of six in the group stage, far behind NohatCoder, ManaT, and Applemonkeyman. His skill level has skyrocketed since then, defeating both ManaT and Applemonkeyman in the blitz tournament. His only loss on Saturday came against NohatCoder in Round 3. He managed to tie NohatCoder for 1st place partly because he beat Applemonkeyman (who finished 2nd) shortly after Applemonkeyman had, in turn, beaten NohatCoder.
Not long after the immediate thrill of victory had waned, Pluto shared with the Tak Times that his win shocked him as well. “It feels quite bizarre. Before the tournament, I'd hoped to play strongly and finish in a decent position, but I definitely didn't see a first place coming.” He suggests he had a “considerable amount of luck” this past Saturday, but his nearly flawless performance suggests more than sheer luck was on his side. Following his surprise victory, he has been launched into the spotlight as a promising player who will not be underestimated in future tournaments.
Stay tuned for further reporting and analysis of the USTA February 2021 Blitz Tournament in upcoming Issue 3.