Reynor: “I was calm while becoming world champion”
Riccardo Romiti tells us what it’s like to be the best Starcraft 2 player in the world.
The Intel Extreme Masters is among the most prestigious esport tournaments in the West and probably the most important for those who follow a discipline like Starcraft 2. Katowice is a Polish city where every year the elite players of Blizzard Entertainment’s RTS meet to face each other in a tournament with an important prize money (250.000$) and not only in Korea. We write this because usually the professional tournaments organized by the giant of Irvine have precise rules not to participate in each stage of the world circuit called WCS cyber athletes from South Korea. Otherwise they would always win, as they have always won in Katowice since the event has existed.
Last Sunday the Spodek Arena, where the finals of the tournament are usually held, was shut down due to the Covid-19 outbreak but the hearts of esport fans could still burn with joy to see their favorites compete online. This is the eleventh edition of the Intel Extreme Masters of Stacraft 2 and, after ten victories of South Korea from 2011 to 2020, this year there was a different flag on the top step of the podium, as noted by the organizer and historical figure of the movement, Michal Blicharz. So we couldn’t miss the chance to interview 18-year-old Riccardo “Reynor” Romiti, winner of the most important and most difficult world tournament in his discipline, Starcraft 2.
Ten times South Korea and once Italy: this is the medal list of the Intel Extreme Masters. Your victory represents a historical moment for all the non-Korean esport. How do you feel today, with a cold mind, after this result?
I feel even happier than on Sunday. You realize the victory afterwards: there and then, after the decisive game, you ask yourself “did I really win?”. Then you have to do the interview with the presenter and you don’t have time to realize, it’s all too fast… you are happy, for sure, but the next day is better!
You are only 18 years old and with this victory, your seventh in your career, you have now written your name in the history of Italian and international esport. You are the first non-Korean to win the IEM title and the hope is that thanks to you other Europeans can follow your example. Is being an inspiration for others complicated?
When I was little I always had the right priorities: school, friends, then with training I conquered my dream. I realize that I could actually be an example for other kids and that makes me very happy. But I don’t pay too much attention to it, it doesn’t create pressure for me, I’m not the kind of guy who pays too much attention to it.
Your opponents during the tournament (Stats, Dark and Maru) were the best players in the world, all already winners of major titles, yet you beat them all. How did you prepare for this tournament?
I prepared well. The particular technique I used was training against the Terrans in 3-on-1, even 4-on-1, to study the matchup since that race is capable of attacks on multiple fronts. Typically my training is a mix between ranked ladder and custom matches with my friends and sparring partners, depending on the races I’m facing. I’ve been able to train with pros like Harstem, Lambo, Elazer, and even Serral; not too much against him though, because then I didn’t know if I would meet him during the tournament.
How much has the Qlash team helped you? How important is it for a player in a solo competition to have a gaming house behind him?
I haven’t experienced the gaming house much these days, unfortunately, but my team in general has been essential! Knowing that I would have their support, however things went, gave me a huge security.
During the rounds of the tournament you lost against Zest, the Korean against whom you had never won (you were 5 to 0 for him in official competitions). When you found him again in the final did you get worried?
I must say that when I saw that Parting was beating him 2 to 0, I thought I had to play against him; then when Zest won instead I was still calm: in the round I lost to him but I had understood his style of play, I just had to change my perspective to the match. I knew I could win, I could feel it! In fact, after beating Maru I was confident about winning the whole tournament.
After losing the first match of the series (best of 7 matches) you won the next three, then you left the first match point on the road going 3 to 2, and you closed the match with a spectacular 4 to 2. What was the turning point?
The first map was Build Order Lost; I couldn’t help it, Zest implemented the opposite strategy to what I would have expected. So instead of using reckless tactics I told myself to play more solid, and the approach worked. He’s very aggressive, he likes to attack, so I adapted and played defensively, even though it’s not usually my style. I expected to win and I was calm; but when I realized I was going to raise that trophy, I got excited during the game. It showed in the camera too, it was a beautiful moment!
Your path in the tournament was difficult: you had to play every single map against Stats; the same situation occurred against Dark and with Maru you won after a 3 to 2. Weren’t you tired before facing the final? What allowed you to regain your lucidity?
Against Dark there was a desire for revenge, I wanted to beat him at all costs after Blizzcon, since then I did not play at my best. Finally, I would say, I took my revenge. Now that you make me think about it, before the final I was actually a bit tired; with Maru it was a long task, fortunately I left home to take a walk, so I recovered my strength before the final.
The Intel Exterme Masters in Katowice, due to anti-covid restrictions, was not played live: do you think this gave you an advantage? Was playing from home more comfortable for you?
I don’t feel pressure anywhere. Of course, the world is full of players who feel it on the big stages. So for me it was actually a disadvantage to play from home, I really missed the crowd. Winning with all the fans cheering is a lot of stuff, definitely a unique feeling!
I imagine that you and your parents are over the moon: besides the 65000$ prize there is the knowledge of having written a beautiful story. How important has family been in your career?
Without my parents’ support, I wouldn’t be here. They were watching me, cheering me on like crazy, cheering at every win: they were at home with me, me upstairs playing in my room, them downstairs watching me on TV. I could hear them screaming with joy after every game, 3 minutes late though, heheh.
Last question: what advice would you give to someone who wants to become the next Reynor?
Definitely it takes perseverance, the right mentality and the right priorities! For me, for example, school is the most important thing. Also, it’s always good to have goals, but you have to start with what’s right for you. Not being afraid to lose is fundamental; many people don’t compete because they are afraid of the strongest, but this is wrong because if you lose you improve. And then you need the mentality of a champion: even if you’re down 2-0 you have to keep going, never believe you’ve lost until it’s over.
And on this last point, Reynor really proved to be a champion.