Protector of Australia’s Skies: Interview with George “Afterdeath” Hu

Russia hasn’t seen this much love since Buranovskiye Babushki at Eurovision.

In the span of a month, Zangief has seen a dominating first/third place finish at sf25 Los Angeles, a top 5 at SBa, and on the local front, a first place finish at EB Expo Sydney, as well as a top 5 finish at Battle Arena Melbourne. The man responsible for the latter two results, George “Afterdeath” Hu, sits down to talk about Vodka Gorbalsky, Beijing arcades, and a technique so unique that it was named after him: The George.

Goodpart: Thanks for giving us your time! As I understand it, just before BAM, you arrived back in Australia after a brief trip to China. Did you get much time to play SF over there?

Afterdeath: I was in China for about 1 and a half months, in Beijing. The arcade there was called Xidan 77 — I usually went there about 2-3 days a week.

GP: What was the general level of players like from what you observed? Any killers?

AD: Guys like Xiaohai and Dakou are from Guangzhou — southern China. Generally, their level is quite a bit ahead of northern China (according to Yang). I know that Xidan 77 hosted a qualifier for a team to send to SBO, but I never got to find out who was on Team Beijing.

GP: Right… so if the general competition wasn’t as strong as say, Guangzhou, how’d you hold up?

AD: I won against most their players, but again, I never got to play the SBO team.

GP: So you beat up on scrubs all day? They must think Australians are godlike.

AD: Their level was still generally good. It’s way above Galaxy World level, though that’s not saying much. It’s mainly that the arcade was a bit limited, in that theres too many Fei Longs.

GP: So what you’re saying is that I should avoid you at all costs.

AD: Well, they are quite good, but lacking in diversity. Plus it is also as they say — there’s no Zangief in Beijing. A general description is that their style has really good yomi. They can pull off those Fuudo-style option selects but that’s really not the best way to go against Zangief.

GP: That matchup is really slow and plodding. If you can control his pokes you should be able to tee off pretty nicely.

AD: Yep. Their style is very option select oriented, so playing against Zangief is not using their strength. It’s not that they don’t go for rekka/poke games, but their option select game is where I’m really impressed. If I get pushed into a corner with a non-Zangief character, and there’s no way out.

GP: Who did you mess around with other than Gief?

AD: Fei Long, Ryu, Sagat. I did not win a single game, barely even rounds… It’s not that I’m that good with those other characters, but can really see their game in different matchups.

GP: Did you happen to catch SnakeEyez and Vangief going 1-3 at sf25?

AD: SnakeEyez and Vangief’s matches? Personally, even though I’m happy SnakeEyez won, Justin IS the better man. I have no doubts about that.

GP: Well there was something in particular that I saw that confused me a bit. See if you can clear it up. In the match against Justin, SnakeEyez didn’t favour st.MP like I’ve seen a lot of Giefs do. It’s kinda his bread and butter poke, right?

AD: Against Adon, definitely. But against Rufus? Zangief’s far MP does beat Rufus’ cr.HP, but the timing is a bit odd. Rufus’ cr.HP does more damage than Zangief’s far MP. Therefore if Justin reacts well, it’s not a good way to trade.

GP: Okay. Even with the life difference, it wouldn’t end well. So why the risky approaches, then? Green hand is super unsafe, and he was begging to be anti-aired with the jumping HP, surely?

AD: Well, this is my way to go against Rufus cr.HP: I stand at the range of cr.HP, then jump forward HP. But ONLY if I see Rufus’ cr.HP. If he doesn’t, I will only empty jump forward. At this distance, it could be anti aired, but Rufus must walk forward a bit. It’s all going down to what you do at the cr.HP range.

GP: It really seemed to bother Justin. I don’t recall many instances where he even tried to anti-air. He’d just block and back away.

AD: Well, if Zangief has U2, EX snake is risky and there are specific ways to beat Rufus’s normal anti-airs. If Rufus anti-airs with far HP, Zangief can beat it with a early j.MK but Rufus’ cr.MP beats Zangief’s j.MK. But if he throws cr.MP, you can short jump cr.LK, which sometimes causes cr.MP to miss!

GP: Funny you say that. SnakeEyez didn’t change to U2 until Justin reset the bracket.

AD: THAT WAS HIS BIGGEST MISTAKE! He should have went U2 immediately after one match! His first Rufus match was an obvious indication that there was no way he’d land U1.

GP: So with all that said — do you think it was a sort of “lucky” victory, in that Rufus-Gief is a pretty good matchup?

AD: Zangief vs Rufus is definitely in Zangiefs favour. Zangief still has too many bad matchups. Sagat, Seth, Akuma, Ryu, Chun, etc. Unfortunately, these are ALL very popular tournament characters.

GP: None of those guys were in the Top 8, fortunately for Gief. So you don’t think this latest result is something we’ll see often, just because of the matchups?

AD: Yeah. The thing with bad matchups is that against a bad matchup, the character with the advantage is effective mainly because all he needs to win is make minor adjustments. It forces the character with the bad matchup to make big (and often risky) changes to the way they play. I’ve played Toxy twice in recent tournaments, and a friendly best-of-3 with Heavy Weapons at BAM. All ended the same way. I won the 1st, then lost the 2nd and 3rd. So for counterpicking, you need to pre-empt it somewhat… so you can get more time to make those adaptations.

GP: Did you see PR Rog counterpick Vangief at SBA with T.Hawk?

AD: No, I didn’t.

GP: You should check it out. It’s pretty epic. Just on a personal note, can you attribute the improvement in your play to anything in particular? You’ve always been “up there” but your recent results have been really impressive.

AD: A few things from China, and a few things since I got back. The first big thing is, I’ve officially given up SF4 online. I know the whole online versus offline thing sparked a lot of debate — here are my thoughts on it. Online helps you in the sense that it opens your knowledge to matchups, setups, and your opponent’s style of play. I at least to some extent have knowledge of all matchups, and personally know all the top players in Australia, so I don’t gain as much from playing a lot of games online. There are certainly things that limit your play online — or at least, online with Australian internet.

GP: Mostly a latency thing, or is it the general quality of play as well?

AD: Latency. It makes certain situations unwinnable. In China, for the first week or so, I was going 5-5 or 6-4 with most of them. By the second week, it suddenly went up to about 7-3, 8-2. That’s when I realised I’ve thrown out the online style. That was the first big change for me. I tried playing online again: there are a lot of little things that get limited, but they’re noticeable.

GP: I think a lot of people are starting to wean off for the same reason.

AD: Yeah. I still play online to learn, but pre-tournament, I think it’s best to get at least a few hours of offline play.

GP: Right.

AD: The second thing is, when I was in China, I got to play a lot of people with a different mindset to Zangief. The mindgame is ultimately rock-paper-scissors, but in a different situation the thought process behind it changes. So this kinda makes you ask: what is the rock? What is the scissors? What is the paper? It changes as the thought process changes.

GP: Are you aware of “The George”?

AD: The George? I guess I’m known for that because I have a lot of gimmicky tricks. Even in the early days. I don’t practice by genuinely “training” as such, so I just think about, and plan setups. I test them on people, and record their reaction to it.

GP: I remember we played once and you caught me with a near-instant Siberian Blizzard while I was backdashing. You didn’t even jump in — you just went for it. I remember thinking you were the only guy in the country that would even dare try that.

AD: Ah!

GP: I think you apologised after the match but I was too busy laughing to care.

AD: It’s not nearly as bad as [Furyblitz]. I once jumped in and did a Siberian Blizzard. He started a focus attack, and then backdashed. He was like, “wait, why did I do that?”

GP: Oh damn. Shots fired. Did you happen to read what Dieminion posted about his trip to Japan?

AD: Yep. China is similar, though not as good.

GP: I thought it sounded a lot like you. I think he said something about “bold, heartful plays”, or something like that.

AD: It shapes your mindset. You just know what to do under different situations. The downside is, of course, I haven’t really leveled up because China is so much lower in ability than Japan is.

GP: It doesn’t help that what we do here is legitimately scrubby, rather than pretend-scrubby.

AD: Yeah. I think I’ve perfected my existing play, but that’s as far as it goes. I know what Dieminion meant. That’s what you don’t get in videos. You don’t get WHY a player did this or that from one or two matches.

GP: I think there’s an “expected” way of playing given a particular situation and you totally throw it out the window when you do “The George”. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

AD: Yep. To quote the Monk passive [from Diablo 3]: Only when you know the limit, can you break it.

GP: I’m honestly surprised you remember anything from D3. How’s the new PC, by the way?

AD: It’s good. Makes me want to practice Starcraft again. Might give the Blizzard DOTAlike a try soon.

GP: Last thing. How’d it feel to beat up on an injured six-year-old in VF5 at EB Expo?

AD: How did it feel? You’ll be surprised to know that it went down to the last round of the last game, and the last few pixels! So it was more like… “how did it feel to barely avoid the shame of losing to a six-year-old with an injured hand?”

GP: He’s gonna come looking for you in a few years to kick your ass, I bet.

AD: Looking forward to that.