The Story of Eduardo Cunha

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In a game as unpredictable as Pokémon VGC, finding and maintaining success isn't easy, so when someone does it, it's a truly impressive feat. But for Eduardo, he's been able to gain some major success and has been able to ride it to some very impressive finishes. As one of the strongest players from Portugal who put his country on the map, this is the Story of Eduardo Cunha (EmbC)!

VGC Beginnings

Everyone finds their start in VGC in many different ways. For Eduardo, the idea of complex EV Spreads that are unique to VGC compared to the simple spreads of Smogon is what caught his attention. After navigating through the Smogon OU subforums in 2013 when he stumbled upon a post with calculated EVs which caught his attention.

"It fascinated me how moving a few numbers around could significantly improve a Pokémon’s performance. That magic with calculations got me looking up more details on EV spread optimization, which eventually led me to some Nugget Bridge articles. I was fascinated right away." The whole idea of playing under Pokémon's official ruleset was already appealing, but the dynamics of reading every article on Nugget Bridge and practicing for hours lit a competitive fire in Cunha that burns to this day.

The Early Years 

The early years for Eduardo weren't easy. Before his breakout 2016 Worlds performance, he had only attended 3 National Championships since 2014, one per year, but all were sadly extremely heartbreaking. Throughout the years, Cunha was steadily improving in the online world of VGC. From both top cutting and even winning various Nugget Bridge tournaments to climbing the Pokémon Showdown and Battle Spot ladders multiple times to impressive showings in NPA, he was starting to think he had it in him to at least top cut Nationals but failing to do so hurt his confidence.

The toughest blow to Eduardo was at Nationals in 2015 where a mix of 3DS malfunctions and unlucky incidents both in real life and in-game turned the event for Cunha into an overwhelmingly frustrating experience. Even with this in his life, the amazing friends Cunha made thanks to VGC and Pokémon, in general, being genuinely fun for him still haven't blown out the competitive fire that has been burning since 2013.

The 2016 Season

2016 started out slightly better for Eduardo with Madrid Regionals that in December which was still under the VGC 2015 ruleset. The event itself was plagued with various issues including Cunha having to replay a game he had already won due to a repairing announce towards the end of the round. He ended up losing the match and finished 6-2 and missing Top Cut due to his resistance. Fast forward to Nationals and with Eduardo already having his Day 1 Worlds invite locked up thanks to doing well at his local Premier Challenges and Midseason Showdowns as well as finishing Top 32 at a Regional, he wasn't sure he'd be able to attend Worlds without the paid trip.

Nationals started out rocky with Eduardo being wide awake the night before trying to get to the apartment. The lack of sleep showed itself during the tournament thanks to a terrible headache. His first loss was against a good player but every loss afterward was infuriating. Eduardo wanted to blame it on bad luck, but it was his 3rd failed Nationals run so, in a way, he knew most of what happened was out of his control, but still couldn't help but blame himself.

2016 World Championships

Top 8 vs. Baris Akcos (Billa)
Despite this, it was Eduardo's first-ever Worlds invite and thanks to some convincing from his mom, he used some of his savings as well as a lot of her help to go. His expectations were low with his only real goal was making Day 2. Needless to say, going 6-0 on Day 1 was very much of a shock. Eduardo thanks his mentality going in as a big part of his success saying, "I think my mentality was the key to my success. I never expected to do well and didn’t let myself feel too confident, so I never feared to lose, which allowed me to play without any kind of pressure. I just kept the same mentality for Day 2 and I found myself in the Top 4. It was such an overwhelming mix of feelings, that it took a while to really sink in. I was truly happy."

The 2017 and 2018 Season

After an impressive showing at the 2016 World Championships, Eduardo was looking towards the future. His biggest fear was that his finish would seem like a fluke, he wanted to prove that he deserved the success which led to a mentality shift. He was now playing like he had something to lose and was partially afraid. "Every local that I didn’t win hurt me on a personal level. Every loss felt differently. It took me a while to adapt, but, once I did, the results started coming." A win at the Madrid Special Event in 2017 and another successful run on Day 1 of 2017 Worlds proved to Eduardo that he could play among the best players and he only went up from there.

Despite only being able to attend one Regional per season in 2018, he managed to get his Day 2 Worlds invite in 2018. 2nd Place at the Bilbao Special Event and a Top 16 finish at both the European and Latin American Internationals netted Cunha a 5th place finish on the European CP leaderboard that season. Eduardo credits his big early finishes as well as strong local finishes as to why he was able to get the stipend to every International and the Day 2 invite. "This is an achievement I’m very proud of."

VGC 2019 So Far

Eduardo wasn't expecting much from 2019 given how his run at Frankfurt Regionals went. It was another 6-2 finish and like 3 years ago, he missed Top Cut on resistance, although it did include a very anti-climatic loss in round 2 thanks to missing Taunt on a Smeargle. Still, he had no one to blame but himself and set his sights and hopes on Latin American Internationals which he got the stipend to attend thanks to a strong enough finish at the end of 2018. Eduardo started off well with a 5-0 record but lost the last 2 rounds and missed top cut again on resistance. Despite this, he had a shot to earn the travel award to the Oceania International by doing well at side events. After losing in Top 8 at the Midseason Showdown where he needed a Top 4 finish, he managed to turn it around and win the first Premier Challenge after an exciting finals match against Gabriel Agati.

Just like that, he was back in the Day 2 race but wasn't able to find much time to prepare for Oceania due to chaos in his personal life. Thanks to some help from friends, he ended up with a solid team that worked well in theory and solid in practice. Eduardo was aiming for Top 16, maybe even Top 8 but didn't have any expectations. After multiple failed attempts to top cut an International, the thought of winning one, let alone top cutting one, was looking grim, especially after very little preparation. "Winning [was] a huge morale boost that I honestly really needed and it essentially locked me for Day 2 of Worlds. The people made the experience even better."

Fast forward to Berlin and the European International, Eduardo was aiming for a stipend to the North American International to meet up with some of his friends. He was enjoying Ultra Series and really wanted to do well. He made Day 2 and ended his run in Top 32 which was unfortunately not enough for the stipend. Eduardo was a bit sad mostly because he'll end up missing on the trip to Columbus to see his friends. With Worlds as Eduardo's next event, he's hoping for another solid result but if his VGC journey has taught him anything, it's that expectations can ruin his chances to succeed.

VGC and Friends

For many players, it's the friends we make playing that keep us playing and involved in VGC. For Eduardo, his time playing has allowed him to make friends that live all across the globe. Some have helped him immensely both in his day to day life and in tournament preparations. "Everyday, I’m extremely thankful to have met all of them and I hope they know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them. I don’t want to specify anyone and make it seem like some are more important to me than others."

Final Thoughts

If there's one thing Eduardo wants you to take away from learning about his story, it's that as long as you try to get and fight for what you want, the end result never ends in failure. Even if it feels like you're not getting the results you hope for, your time will come if you find the best way to achieve your goals in both your life and in Pokémon.

Photos courtesy of Doug Morisoli, ESL Australia, and Stephen Mea
Contra os Canhões Marchar! – Top 4 2016 World Championships Team Report

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