The Baby-Faced Assassin

Most people know me as “Shakz”, which is the name I go by in Street Fighter. It’s not an especially creative name, just a take on my actual name, “Shakil”. Recently though I’ve managed to gain another name, one that perhaps describes me better:
“The Baby-Faced Assassin”

I think it was started by Logan or Shoryusengan in the first season of the Gfinity Elite Series. I can’t really complain about it because I do have a baby face. Sometimes I feel like people underestimate me because of it, but that never lasts long.

I grew up with fighting games; living with four brothers made sure that was the case. Even when I was five years old I was watching them play against each other every night. I can’t say I always knew that I was going to be a professional Street Fighter player, but I always knew it was going to be a big part of my life.

The first place I made a name for myself was the online ladder back in Street Fighter 4. People didn’t really know who I was but they knew I was a beast. I managed to get rank 1 with a bunch of different characters but I had to take it offline to prove that I was someone to be taken seriously.

Towards the end of SF4, I started going to a weekly tournament called “Bracket Reset”, hosted in Caledonian in London. All the top UK players were going there, people like Problem X, Packz, and Hurricane. I made sure to get there as often as I could, and it’s the defeats I suffered there that drove me to push for the next level.

I remember losing to Problem X a lot and it became quite annoying because I couldn’t figure out how to consistently beat him. I’d go home and think “Ok, my game plan was wrong, what do I need to do to make sure he doesn’t beat me again”. Obviously, you can never reach a point where you are unbeatable, but it drove me to improve, so I’m glad I took those beatings.

In 2015, I got the opportunity to attend my very first international event: Cannes Winter Clash. It was another level of competition, with players from America and Japan in attendance. I wasn’t really sure what to expect heading in, but I know I surprised quite a few people when I managed to finish 9th.

But that wasn’t good enough. I initially thought “top 10, that’s not bad”, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt the disappointment of not making the top eight at least. I had to do better.

In 2017, I was signed to my first organization. Team Infused brought me in ahead of the launch of the Gfinity Elite Series, to play alongside ImStillDaDaddy, Affi, and GunSlinga. Being picked up was pretty exciting because it doesn’t happen to everyone in the FGC, and it proved that I was clearly doing something right.

The first season of Gfinity went okay. But I think it was the 2nd season where I really started to show people what I could do. I think it’s because the field was a lot stronger in season 2. Players like Mister Crimson and Saltykid joined the league and forced everyone to up their game.

I was putting in the hours even on Laura, Cammy, and Nash just to make sure I had the tools to beat anyone I was put up against. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and once again we were knocked out in the semi-finals.

That was when Fnatic approached me. When my time with Infused ended I honestly wasn’t that worried, I knew I’d performed well enough to garner some interest. I just wasn’t expecting that interest to come from one of the biggest esports organizations in the world.

Just the name of Fnatic is probably the biggest change for me. Expectations are much higher at Fnatic, which makes sense because they have some of the best players and teams in the world in other games. On the other hand, they give me the opportunity to travel to tournaments, which is really what it’s all about.

Logan paid for my journey to the Last Chance Qualifier last year. It wasn’t a random act of charity towards me specifically, but he offered to pay for the player who won the most WSO’s (Winner Stays On – a monthly UK Street Fighter tournament hosted by commentator Logan Sama). Hurricane actually ended up winning, but we knew pretty early on that he wouldn’t be able to make the event.

I knew I couldn’t mess around with an opportunity like that on the line. Every time there was a tournament announced, I made sure that I was there and that I was prepared. It was a grind but in the end, it was all worth it because I was able to go to LCQ.

It’s weird to think about where I am now because I’m so much more comfortable with how things are going than I have been in the past. There was a time in my life where I was balancing Gfinity, CPT, and university at the same time and I didn’t know which one to focus on.

My family is very strict, especially when it comes to my education. Right now I’m in my third year of studying Computer Science, and I’m pretty good at balancing everything out, but it wasn’t always so easy. It’s because of my parents that I decided to make sure I never dropped the ball on my university studies. I sacrificed some practice time to get ahead on work.

They do support me trying to make a name for myself in Street Fighter to an extent, but I think they’ll be fully supportive when I finish my education. They know it’s something I want to try doing properly but I think they’re right, I will make sure I finish my education properly.

There’s sort of this feeling of trying to reach a level above just being a strong player in the UK scene. The UK scene has a few problems but really it’s just a communication thing. It’s hard to explain but we just don’t really talk to each other. When we play against other UK players we never take the time to talk after the game and give advice and tips to each other.

It’s very different from say the French or the Spanish scene. They always talk to each other. They improve as a region because they work as a team, not as individuals. Even at events, you’ll notice that if a French player is playing, every other French player at the tournament will be supporting them. That doesn’t happen with UK players unless they’re specifically friends.

It actually reminds me of one of my favourite matches of all time. I was up against Dr Ray at the Last Chance Qualifier, and it was a battle for top eight. He sat down at the set up with about 20 people behind him – he’s from the Dominican Republic – they’re crazy with their support. I had two people behind me, Shivryuken and Affi.

Dr Ray won the first game and the sound of all those cheers was deafening. It’s not easy to swing the momentum when there are only two guys in your corner, but I did it. I’ll never forget the feeling of shutting all those people up.

The Last Chance Qualifier is one of the hardest tournaments to prepare for. There are so many players from so many regions that it’s impossible to analyze every player. I actually prefer to prepare matchups and focus on my game. I have notes on every character in the game and I read those notes before every match when I’m at a tournament.

I’m 100% sure that I can make it to Capcom Cup this year, whether it be through the CPT or the Last Chance Qualifier. It’s not going to be easy either way but I’m ready to take on anyone. Of course, I’ll be nervous taking on the best players, but I never let it show, and it’s never an excuse for losing.

Image Credit: Joe Brady for Gfinity

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