Competitive Pokémon players usually forfeit matches with seemingly unbeatable odds. But the first day of the North American Pokémon International Championships is a perfect lesson in why never giving up can pay off.
Giovanni Costa, this season’s consummate Eevee player, found himself facing down one of the most talented players from Germany, Tobias Koschitzki, in the third round of the tournament. Koschitzki was using a team of Smeargle, Porygon Z, Arcanine, Tapu Bulu, Hariyama and Nihilego, which recently finished in the top four of the Japan National Championships. Costa had made some major updates to his previous Eevee team, with Incineroar, Tapu Koko, Whimsicott, Tapu Fini and Dragonite accompanying the Evolution Pokémon — and they helped him enough to secure the set’s first win.
However, things started looking grim for the Eevee player. He eventually lost game two and was forced into a final match to determine the round’s overall winner. Costa went for his typical Eevee strategy: trying to boost its stats before giving them to another Pokémon with Baton Pass. But on the second turn, Nihilego and Hariyama made it impossible for that plan to work. Costa’s entire strategy was shaken.
Despite Costa’s efforts, Koschitzki dismantled the rest of his team—except for one Dragonite. At the time, Dragonite’s demise seemed like a done deal: after all, it was four against one. Even the commentators, who generally try to never give up on a player’s chances of winning, seemed to have called it—you can hear this around 25:45 in the video embedded above.
But then Koschitzki made a mistake. After putting Dragonite to sleep the turn before, he switched out his Smeargle for a heavily damaged Hariyama. And then, instead of going for a safe Protect to ensure the win, he went for a Hidden Power Ice with his Nihilego. The move was four-times-super-effective and left Dragonite with only 13 HP — but it didn’t finish the job.
Then, despite it being only a 33 percent chance, Dragonite woke up. What’s more, Costa’s Dragonite was packing Earthquake, which could finish off the Hariyama and the Nihilego. The crowd exploded with excitement, which was audible even on stream—you can see this first-hand at the 27:50 mark in the video above. Costa was still in it.
After that, the whole game came down to whether Smeargle could deal 13 damage with a single use of its only attack, Fake Out (which only works on the first turn its user is on the field). It was either that or stall out the rest of the game by putting Dragonite back to sleep with Spore. Because the timer had run out and the players only had three turns left to decide a victor, Koschitzki could have won on a tie-breaker if his Smeargle kept its own HP above 13.
Koschitzki went for the first option and only did nine points of damage. Surviving with four HP, Dragonite finished the game off and granted Costa a win that seemed almost impossible. It was a match that proved persevering in Pokémon is possible, even when all seems lost.