Face to face with a Pokémon champion: the interview with Leonardo Bonanomi
“The sky is blue above Galar”. This is how we could have entitled this piece, taking up a quote that has become iconic for the world of sport, to celebrate another great Italian victory in this year of triumphs. In fact, yesterday evening Leonardo Bonanomi took home the first place in the Pokémon Global Exhibition, one of the most important world championships of the year for this video game series. Let’s celebrate together then and let’s find out more about his extraordinary success, in a hot interview.
Pokémon Global Exhibition, world athletes for the 25th anniversary
This special tournament comes to celebrate the 25 years of the brand, born in 1996 precisely. This is one of the many initiatives developed to pay homage to the cute pocket monsters that have quickly become a worldwide phenomenon, capable of crossing not only the media (passing between video games, manga, anime, merchandise and much more) but also generations.
It was therefore a really important competition that could only be accessed by invitation. The participants were in fact chosen among the players with the best placing in the world finals of the Pokémon Players Cup IV. The strongest from each of the regions involved (Europe, North America, Latin America and Oceania) joined as many promising coaches from the rest of the world, including Japan.
An exciting two days, which saw clashes of the highest level. After all, there were only the most skilled players in the world to participate, ready to battle for the coveted first place. And as you well know by now, ‘ours’ triumphed over everyone Leonardo Bonanomiwhich he defeated in the final Wonseok Jung with an extraordinary strategy.
Face to face with a Pokémon champion: the interview with Leonardo Bonanomi
But how do you become a Pokémon champion?
The triumph of Leonardo Bonanomi is certainly significant for the competitive Pokémon, not only in Italy. The curiosity to talk to a champion is undoubtedly very high and so we immediately wanted interview him to let us tell everything. Here’s what she revealed to us …
When did you first fall in love with Pokémon?
As a child I fell in love with the Pokèmon brand. Starting from the animated series, passing through the cards and finally remaining bewitched by the video game.
Do you remember what your first starter Pokémon was?
Cyndaquil, its final evolution, Typhlosion, is one of my favorite Pokemon.
Do you always choose the same type of starter or do you change it for each new Pokémon title?
Generally I prefer the fire type starters, I think they are the ones with the best design.
When did you decide to switch to competitions and tournaments?
I started to get passionate about the competitive at the end of the VGC2016 season. After a few years of disinterest in the world of Pokèmon, in August 2016 I discovered by chance the additions they had made over the years such as the Mega Evolutions and the new generation in Pokèmon X and Y that I had missed. Later I discovered the existence of the competitive circuit with the world championship that would take place from 19th to 21st August. Interested I followed all 3 days of streaming and was very impressed.
I also felt the atmosphere of the event a lot from home, seeing the joy of the best players in the world who won the games in stream and continued their race towards the dream of becoming world champions fascinated me. Also thanks to the excellent commentators who created hype with their emphasis on technical commentary. I still remember Aaron Zheng’s gleeful screams when Wolfe Glick’s Kyogre used the Gush which allowed him to win the title.
All these emotions made me want to get involved with the dream of being able to participate in a world championship sooner or later. In September 2016 I started competing in Milan, a year later thanks to good placings in the various tournaments in which I participated, I managed to fulfill my dream by participating in the 2017 Nashville World Championships.
Can you tell us the steps that led you to the Pokémon Global Exhibition?
To obtain an invitation to the Global Exhibition, it was necessary to qualify for the final phase of the Players Cup IV. The Players Cups are official online tournaments with several preliminary rounds in which players from Europe, Oceania, North America and South America could participate. After an initial elimination phase I qualified in the top 256 European players.
The second phase consists of a tournament with the Swiss 9-round system, X-2 cut. The 16 players left after the ‘Swiss’ face off in a double elimination bracket. At the end of the second phase, 4 players remain (2 from Winners Bracket and 2 from Losers Bracket) who will go to play the final phase with the other 12 qualified players from the other 3 continents.
The invitation to the Global Exhibition was given to the player with the highest placement, one invitation available per continent, 4 total. I qualified for the final stage, I finished the tournament in second place, losing in the final against Renzo Navarro, a South American player. With this placement I was the best European player of the 4 in the competition, earning me an invitation to the Global Exhibition.
How do you prepare for a competition?
I prepare myself by looking at the metagame, I try the best teams trying to understand which are the best performing archetypes. When I manage to find the team that convinces me, the testing phase begins in which I become familiar with the team, prepare strategies against the other archetypes most present in the format and optimize the details to try to have a solid gameplan against the probable teams that I expect to face.
In these phases I also collaborate with other experienced players, having an exchange of opinions helps a lot and allows you to optimize even the smallest details. It is no coincidence that behind the teams with which I have made excellent placings, in addition to good individual work there is also a great team work.
How do you choose the Pokémon that will be part of your team?
The best Pokèmon in the metagame have unique characteristics (stats, skills, moves, type combination) that make them better than others and allow you to combine them with other Pokèmon available.
An example is the team I used at the Global Exhibition. It is a team based on Groudon, Charizard and Venusaur. Groudon with his Drought ability sets the sun for 5 turns. With the sun, Charizard’s Solar Power ability is activated which allows it to do greater damage, or Venusaur’s Cloforilla ability that doubles its speed allowing it to attack before opposing Pokèmon. Other Pokèmon have these 2 abilities, but Charizard and Venusaur possess unique characteristics such as their Gigantamax form that make them the best.
Incineroar, Regieleki and Umbreon are the other 3 team members who help cover the weaknesses of the main strategy.
What is the best memory you have of your experience as a professional Pokémon player?
The best memory I have was my run at the Players Cup III which I attended in April. During the lockdown I lost the desire to compete in various online tournaments and I had taken a few months’ break from competitive. With the announcement of the Players Cup III I decided to get back into the game, with the main goal of having fun without many pretensions about the final result.
In the European qualification phase I used the same sun team that I used at the Exhibition built with the help of Davide Carrer, Vincenzo Ciliberto and Francesco Pero. Just Francesco and I finished the European qualification unbeaten, 7-0 and we qualified for the final phase. It was satisfying to get back to doing well in a major tournament one year after the last time and to share the same result with a friend using the same team we worked on together. In the final phase I went better, I finished in second place and the satisfaction became even greater.
What’s your advice for our readers who would like to start participating in Pokémon tournaments?
I believe that at the base of any competitive game there is the passion and the desire to get involved, this also applies to Pokèmon. If you are passionate, get involved, play, have fun, improve and above all get to know other people who share your same passion.
I have made some wonderful friendships over the years, cultivated both in the competitive environment and outside. Knowing people with the same passion as you, a healthy rivalry, cooperation for a common goal are all stimuli that help to improve, I believe that this is the basis for becoming an excellent player.
When the pandemic ends and the live events start again, I recommend that you participate regardless of what level you feel. Playing live is very different from playing online, get involved without fear of going bad. It is normal not to do well in the first few tournaments, but with the passage of time and the experience gained, things will improve.
In short, a great chat with lots of ideas and lots of advice. Have you already started studying for the upcoming Pokémon world tournaments?