by Kim Eikefet
This weekend is a big Grand Prix weekend. While 268 players are currently finishing the last round in Grand Prix Sapporo in Japan, Grand Prix Porto has an attendance of 658 players. The Portuguese city lies towards the north of the country, about 45 minutes by plane from the capital of Lisbon. Being located in the southern part of Europe, the weather is nice enough for shorts, though it's not unpleasantly hot.
Palácio de Cristal is located in the middle of a park with flowerbeds and fountains and a lot of green grass. The round building is normally a basketball court, but this weekend, the physical activity will be exchanged for mental battles. Throughout two days, the players will fist play Masques Block Sealed Deck, then Rochester draft with a cut to top eight. Eight slots for 2001 Pro Tour Los Angeles will be handed out after the tournament is over.
More important though, there are money and Pro Points at stake. The winner walks away with a $2400 check, and half of the players who make day two will win money. In addition, the Pro Points make people attend Grand Prix events. With the introduction of the Masters Series, players with ambitions roam to the Grand Prix to try and collect some precious points to either get closer to the big money at the Masters or to secure their slot there.
So, it is no surprise that the player list of Grand Prix Porto holds a lot of familiar names. Several of the top European players are present, such as: From Germany, 1999 Pro Player of the Year and 1999 World Champion Kai Budde and 2000 Worlds top 8 finisher Dominik Hothow. From England, GP Birmingham Champion Craig Jones, U.K. 2000 National Champion Ben Ronaldson and 1999 Pro Tour Chicago top 8 finisher Tony Dobson. From the Netherlands, 2000 European Champion Noah Boeken. From Sweden, Pro Tour veteran Mattias Jorstedt, 2000 European Championship top 8 finisher Rickard Österberg and 2000 Pro Tour New York top 8 finisher Mattias Kettil. From France, 2000 European Championship Runner-up Raphaël Levy. From the United States, 2000 Worlds Runner-up and Pro Tour 2000 Player of the Year Bob Maher, Jr., 1998 Pro Tour Los Angeles Champion David Price, 2000 Grand Prix Copenhagen Runner-up Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz, and Pro Tour veterans Mike Pustilnik and David Williams. From Canada, 2000 Canadian National Champion Ryan Fuller.
Artist Mark Zug was on hand to sign cards for the fans. Meanwhile, European Alliance players Tony Dobson, Kai Budde, Ben Ronaldson and Mattias Jorstedt drew a crowd playing their Extended decks against each other. All in all, the overall atmosphere seems very nice. However, with 658 players fighting to make top 64 so that they will get to play the second day, expect the temperature to rise when the play starts...
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