On the morning of Sunday July 17th, 2016, in the scorching hot city of Las Vegas, the EVO2016 finals were about to start. This year’s EVO represented a big step up for the event, specifically for the Sunday finals part of EVO as this year’s took place at the Mandalay Bay event center, a massive in-door stadium usually reserved for big name music band concerts. In addition to that, the Street Fighter V top 8 finals were for the first time ever broadcast on live TV on ESPN2. But the first top 8 tournament of that day, beginning in the early morning at 8AM, was the Mortal Kombat XL tournament, which was a bit of a bother for the MKXL players considering they only finished the MKXL Pools till top 8 the day before around close to midnight.
The MKXL EVO2016 Champsionship ended up going to SonicFox, who has yet again proved himself to be the top Mortal Kombat player, as he took last year’s MKX EVO championship, and the EVO championship a year before for Injustice, a fighting game series (as of now with the announcement of Injustice 2) made by the same developer, NetherRealm Studios. But it was far from an easy win for him as the Grand Finals set showed, struggling to get a win against Bahraini MKXL player Sayed “Tekken Master” Hashim, something which was certainly not eluded to when these same players just played each other a few minutes before for Winner’s Finals.
In Winner’s Finals, SonicFox won 3-0 against Tekken Master, not an easy win but certainly a confident & definitive one. But after Tekken Master met Scar in Loser’s Finals and won his way to a rematch with SonicFox at the closing Grand Finals set, something changed, as Tekken Master showcased incredible adaption with his playstyle, first resetting the brackets against SonicFox, and then being in the lead for sometime, prompting a somewhat nervous SonicFox to “take his hat off”. Then it was a back and forth between the two. With the score being 2-2, the Grand Finals had to be settled on the very last much in this long set, where SonicFox managed to finally clutch his win. SonicFox did manage to defend his reputation, but on that massive stage at Mandalay Bay, Tekken Master managed to built up his own reputation as one of the best Mortal Kombat X players in the world.
So of course, this was an opportunity I could not miss for Pretzel Motion, I got in touch with Tekken Master and he agreed to do an interview with me:
Tekken Master (left) and SonicFox (right) confirming to each other that they're both sticking with their respective characters after the brackets got reset
Pretzel Motion: Lets start with an introduction. Please introduce yourself with name, nickname, age, and where you are from:
Tekken Master: My name is Sayed Hashim. I’m 21 years old, and they call me PLG | Tekken_Master. I’m from Bahrain.
PM: When did you start playing fighting games? What are some of the fondest fighting games you remember in your youth?
TM: I started playing fighting games in 2001 with the release of Tekken Tag Tournament.
PM: Any other games you like outside the fighting genre? Whether old ones or ones you are currently playing?
TM: I do like playing PC games like Counter-Strike and Command And Conquer Red Alert. I also used to play Call of Duty but not anymore.
PM: When did fighting games become something MORE than just a hobby? what were some of the games that you first started to take more seriously? The games that may have lead you to start your path as a professional globetrotting fighting game player? I assume Tekken is a series you are fond of given your nickname.
TM: Since 2010. Tekken and Call of Duty were some of the first games I took seriously. And yes I was the best in Tekken in the Middle East with Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
PM: Were you particularly interested in the Mortal Kombat series before MKX? If not, what would you say are the things that MKX does that makes it a game you dedicate so much time and effort into? What are the things you like most about MKX/MKXL that makes it your game of choice?
TM: I started getting interested in Mortal Kombat with the release of Mortal Kombat Armageddon on PS2. I chose Mortal Kombat X as my main focus because I can see a big future in playing it, especially with the huge prizes they include in global tournaments.
PM: How would you describe the fighting game scene in Bahrain and the Arab gulf region around it? What about specifically for MKX? I noticed that you have a fellow Bahraini MKXL player who did attend at least one tournament with you. Azeez is his name I believe.
TM: The MKX community here in the region is not that good. You can barely find the motivation to even live in my country but I did find the motivation and encouragment I needed from Power League Gaming, one of the biggest gaming firms in the region. And yes Azeez is my old friend. I always keep practicing with him and we learn from each other. He is one of the best in the region actually.
PM: Last year, you attended Japanexpo in Paris and was 2nd place in the MKX tourney, then this year you attended Viennality in Vienna, Austria, reaching 2nd place, then you were 4th place at Hypespotting in Glasgow, Scotland, then you were in Austin, Texas for Dreamhack Summer 2016 for the MKXL International Finals, where you reached 2nd place just about a month before EVO. Obviously, all of that international tourney experience did help you improve as a player, but I wanted to know when did you become confident enough that you wanted to seek these international tournaments and make a name for yourself in the international MKXL scene?
TM: My brother Abdulla kept encouraging me to travel with him to different european tournaments. And yeah all of these tournaments have helped me improve the way I compete in tournaments.
PM: As a MKXL player, you proved to be proficient in quite a lot of characters, Kotal Kahn and D'Vorah being the most prominent ones, but you are also more than capable with Mileena, Shinnok, Ferra/Torr, Tremor, and Predator. And those are just the ones I saw from your recent streamed tourneys. I'm casually familiar with MKX myself but from watching high level tournaments, it seems MKXL can get very match-up dependent, and that you do need to be good at several characters (or at least variations) in order to perform well, and not just rely on one main and one sub character. I find this to be uncommon for a 1v1 fighting game, especially a modern one. This is also what I think helps SonicFox be such a dominant player in the scene since he plays so many characters. But I just wanted to know what determines the set of characters that you use in MKXL? Do you like certain characters just by their design (whether visual or based on their moveset)? Or do you work on having a set of characters that can compliment each other if one faces a bad match-up, so they can work as back-up for each other? or both?
TM: Yes I do pick many characters just to back each other as you have said. And unfortunately MKXL is very match-up dependent. For example, you can’t face Grand Master Subzero with Kotal Khan, but there is a back-up with D’vorah an an anti-pick for Subzero. Personally, I like pressure style characters. I prefer them because I can see how they put the fear in the hearts of my opponents, which gives me an advantage I can use to control the game.
PM: Was this your first EVO? How did you enjoy the event (and Las Vegas since we are at it)? Anything from the MKXL tournament, or from the other games that were at EVO that you thought was cool and you might wanna share here?
TM: Yes, it was my first EVO tournament. The atmosphere there was incredible, especially when most of the crowd were unexpectedly cheering for me! I really have lived my best moments there on the stage.
PM: You had an incredible run at EVO. You stayed at winner's side right untill Winner's Finals when SonicFox knocked you to losers. What do you say was a key factor in enabling you to have such an impressive win streak, winning against so many players using so many characters?
TM: I focused on not getting eliminated from the winner’s side because I believe that loser’s bracket is sometimes harder to deal with then winners. This is because most of the good players eliminate each other, so yeah. The key factor was that I have studies all the players' styles before I went there to compete, just to be ready and not be shocked by any counter picks or something like that.
PM: After you lost against SonicFox and was sent to losers, you persisted and managed to get back to him for Grand Finals. And despite being mostly the same match-up you had in Winners Finals, with SonicFox as Gunslinger Erron Black and you as War God/Blood God Kotal Kahn, tides turned and things seem to have been going your way for most of that long set, until at the very last match when SonicFox took Acidic Alien. What do you think changed when you got back to SonicFox during Grand Finals that made you win a set against him and almost steal the championship from him? And what was going through you mind when you did reset the brackets against Sonicfox?
TM: I lost to SonicFox because I just did not play well enough to beat him and I wasn’t lucky enough with D’Vorah. Missing a few sensitive reads have cost me my matches. After the run back at Grand Finals I put my mind to correct my mistakes, And I have overcame the critical ones. I focused on trying to make SonicFox uncomfortable with his own gameplay. After I reset the bracket I was only focusing on the match with him, noting besides that. Alien is considered to be the best character in the game, so in the last game SonicFox risked it all, and it worked out for him. Sometimes you gotta risk it to get the biscuit (which is the EVO championship trophy 😛 ). A well deserved win by SonicFox.
Winner's Finals with SonicFox vs Tekken Master
PM: You were so close to winning EVO, just one match away. What do you think were the things you could have done differently that could have lead you to win EVO? not to take away anything from SonicFox, who is obviously a great player.
TM: I wasn’t patient and I dropped a few combos and didn’t punish his overhead flip kick. That kick was the match changer in that game.
Grand Finals with SonicFox vs Tekken Master
PM: Looking into the future, I expect that you'll still be sticking with MKXL. But are there any other upcoming fighting games you think you might start playing? NetherRealm Studios are working to release Injustice 2 next year, and Bandai Namco are planing to release Tekken 7 in 2017 as well. Do you see yourself getting into any of these fighting games, or others?
TM: Ed Boon (co-creater of the Mortal Kombat franchise and director of Mortal Kombat XL) said that there will be big announcements for MKXL. Lets hope something big happens. As for future games, I’m only looking forward to playing Injustice 2. Unfortunately with Tekken 7, the game is over for me. Tekken 7 has been out already in Japanese and Asian arcades for nearly 2 years. It is impossible for me to compete with Japanese and Asian players who’ve had the game for so long.
PM: Finally, any last comments you wanna say to your fans? Any upcoming events or tournaments you plan to attend?
TM: Whoever the opponent is, you can always win against them If you train hard and have faith and trust in yourself.
Many thanks to Sayed “Tekken Master” Hashim for agreeing to do this interview with me. For more updates on Tekken Master and which tournaments he will be joining next, you can follow him on the following social media sites:-