Hot on the heels of Out of the Blue, Chicago area players of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Guilty Gear Strive and countless other fighting games will soon be getting the big stage treatment.
Combo Breaker 2023 will be much, much more than a Smash event. Running from May 26-28 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, the Fighting Game convention will feature a 24 hour venue, vendors, an artist alley and dozens of officially affiliated and community-run tournaments with a focus on traditional fighting games. Most importantly, however, it will feature 29 big stage brackets for some of the world’s biggest fighting games, from Street Fighter V to Them’s Fightin’ Herds.
The size of the event at large, with over 3,000 competitors and spectators registered at the moment, is hard to even fathom. There will be 1,061 entrants at the event for Guilty Gear Strive alone, and while no other game has registration numbers nearing that title, 252 players have registered for Melee. Impressively, more players registered for Combo Breaker Melee this year than have registered for any Melee event in Chicagoland since 2016’s Smash N Splash 2.
While perhaps lacking the same amount of top ten talent as some major Melee events, Combo Breaker is set to showcase the return of Leffen to North American Melee. While Leffen’s main goal at the event will likely be to beat the best players in Guilty Gear, the sizable swede is currently also registered for the Melee event, marking his first notable SSBM tournament performance since Genesis 9 in January. Plenty of strong players outside of Melee’s top 10 will also be present to challenge the Swedish top seed.
Falco legend Magi, Aussie powerhouse Fox Joshman, Pittsburgh Peach Polish, and Midwest regional regulars Skerzo, Smash Papi and Ben will all be gunning for the $2,250 prize pool. Other known factors like the ascendant Samus Wevans and talented Marth Grab will also seek glory.
Plenty of Chicago talent will make an effort to defend the homeland, however. Beyond Skerzo; Mekk, Eggy, Ferocitii, Michael, Ober, Pleeba, GI0GOAT and more local players yet will be present in the bracket. Maybe we will even see a rematch of Leffen and Michael’s infamous 2018 Smash n Splash 4 match!
Chicagoland Melee players are looking forward to the event, not just as a way to flex their muscles in Melee, but also to explore the wider world of fighting games.
Influenza, a player commonly seen at Chicagoland Melee and Project + events, will be entering the main events of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Melee and Skullgirls, while entering the side brackets for Ultra Street Fighter IV and Melee Doubles.
“I’m going to see friends but also because I love traditional fighters,” they told CLM via Discord. “Marvel vs Capcom 3 is up there with Melee and PM as one of my favorite games ever and Skullgirls and Street Fighter 4 aren’t far behind.”
Pleeba, one of Chicago’s most venerated Sheik mains, has been mostly taking a break from Melee to play traditional fighting games this year, but will enter Melee at Combo Breaker this year alongside Guilty Gear Strive and Street Fighter V.
“I’ve only entered Strive at Melee Tournaments where it’s been a side event and done well against Smash players, but I’m sure a real tournament will be much more difficult,” he told CLM via Discord. “I’ll be happy with a set win or two in Strive and Street Fighter.”
Between the FGC presence and the high number of entrants, he added that this was the most excited he has been for a tournament in a long time.
A Chicagoland National
This year’s iteration of Combo Breaker will have significantly more Melee players than any previous installment. Combo Breaker 2018, where the game was also a main event, had only 97 entrants. Last year, where the game was a community event, only 64 entered the Melee bracket. Nobody is quite sure why Combo Breaker’s Melee contingent has grown so rapidly, but it’s a welcome occurrence nonetheless.
According to Tournament Organizers Jayde and Contra, expect the event to feel like something in between a regional and a major in terms of its scope, with a smaller bracket compared to the average Melee major held in a venue comparable in attendance to this year’s Smash Supermajor Genesis 9.
Combo Breaker’s Melee Singles bracket will run from Saturday through Sunday. Players will be divided into 16 pools and play Best of Three matches, with the best four of each pool making it out into Top 64, at which point all games played will be Best of Five. Everyone who makes it out in Top 64 will receive a complimentary Chipotle burrito as part of a Combo Breaker promotion that extends to all of its 29 official events.
The singles bracket will be streamed by Melee Everyday.
Side events are still open
While registration for main event competition has already expired, there is still time to enter some of Combo Breaker’s numerous “All-In Together” Community Tournaments, including but not limited to Super Smash Bros. Melee Doubles, Project + Singles, and of course, video golfing classic Neo Turf Masters.
Registration for these events will remain open until May 15, although in order to enter them players will need to also have Spectator Passes or Competitor Passes for the event. For those looking for some team-vs-team Melee action, Super Smash Bros. Melee Doubles will be run by CLM’s co-head TO Tenacity on Friday, May 26.
Combo Breaker may be a massive event, but that size means that help is needed to run pools across games. Volunteers are still able to register via a form hosted on the event’s website, and Volunteers will receive $30 per pool run or block worked as well as an exclusive COMBO BREAKER 2023 staff T-shirt.
Matthew “Dr. Hunk” Koester is a writer and content creator based in Chicagoland. They have a peculiar fascination with Donkey Kong.