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For German Pokémon GO player DancingRob, placing first in the game’s debut appearance at the Pokémon World Championships was an emotional experience. It was also an exhausting one.

DancingRob had fallen into the losers bracket before top 16. However, he won seven straight sets to make it to grand finals against South Korea’s godanhada. After a 10-game pair of grand finals sets, DancingRob emerged as the first world champion in Pokémon GO.

“I really can’t believe it right now,” DancingRob said in a post-tournament interview with host Anna Prosser. “I’m still stressed, nervous. All of these emotions are just coming out.”

Though Pokémon GO has long been popular among a casual audience, this year’s circuit leading up to the 2022 Pokémon World Championships proved the game has a place among Pokémon’s other competitive titles. Going forward, DancingRob will be the player to watch as more people begin to explore this mobile game’s esports potential.

The road to the top

DancingRob was surprisingly late to the Pokémon GO craze. The game was most popular shortly after its launch in July of 2016. However, DancingRob did not start playing the game at all until 2019.

“I still managed to get here,” DancingRob said in his post-tournament interview. “That’s crazy. It’s never too late to start. You can all be the next champion if you try.”

DancingRob qualified for the Pokémon GO World Championships by placing third at the Europe International Championships. He started top eight at the International Championships in the losers bracket. However, his run at that tournament was cut short in losers finals at the hands of his German countryman, fr43ka.

At Worlds, DancingRob was one of only two Europeans who made it to top eight, along with Ireland’s LurganRocket, who had defeated him in top 32. As he once again found himself on the losers side of the bracket, DancingRob could tell that the odds were stacked against him.

“My chances of winning felt like zero,” DancingRob said in his post-tournament interview.

And yet, he just kept winning. Despite a few close calls, DancingRob eliminated hsineerg 2-1, buhtti 2-0, ValiantVish 2-1, JBYang4 2-1, Zarddy 2-0, LurganRocket 2-1 and CresentAngels 3-1. This run set up for his grand finals slog against godanhada.

The Pokémon GO World Championships winning team

DancingRob shared a handful Pokémon with his fellow grand finalist, including a Lickitung and a Medicham. He also made strong use of a Shadow Venusaur and a Shadow Swampert. However, the stars of DancingRob’s team were his Galarian Stunfisk and his Alolan Ninetales.

The Galarian Stunfisk was both a defensive and an offensive threat. The Ground/Steel-type resisted STAB moves from godanhada’s Lickitung, Altaria and Registeel. It could also threaten super-effective damage on godanhada’s Altaria, Shadow Ninetales, Registeel and Walrein with Earthquake and Rock Slide.

Meanwhile, DancingRob’s Alolan Ninetales excelled at racking up large amounts of damage quickly through its Fast Attack, Charm. In addition, its Ice-type Weather Ball enabled it to keep godanhada’s Altaria in check.

The pivotal moment of the tournament came toward the end of Game 5 of the second set of grand finals. DancingRob’s Galarian Stunfisk burned godanhada’s final Protect Shield with a Rock Slide, then did massive damage to godanhada’s Shadow Ninetales with another Rock Slide immediately afterward.

“That was when the stress started to go down, but it’s not gone yet,” DancingRob said in his post-tournament interview.

From there, DancingRob switched in his Alolan Ninetales. Despite the type disadvantage, his Ninetales did plenty of damage with Charm. And, with both of his Protect Shields remaining, DancingRob was able to outpace his opponent’s remaining Pokémon to win the set.

At the International Championships, DancingRob failed to cement his status as even the best player in Europe. Yet, after an unexpected Cinderella run through the losers bracket, he emerged as the best player in the world at the Pokémon GO World Championships. DancingRob will undoubtedly be on every Pokémon GO player’s radar as the 2023 season kicks off later this year.

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