How two teenagers became Chicagoland’s Top TO’s

After several years under the steady hand of Unsure, Chicagoland’s largest Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament series are changing hands. Chicago’s head tournament organizer is looking to make his name known as a Top 100 Melee player. As a result, he will no longer be running events.

With the CLM Fox main now retired from TOing, CLM’s biggest events will now be in the hands of two people younger than Melee itself. 

19 year old TOs Tenacity and Oval have a short but strong history in tournament organizing. The two share a history in fighting games and Esports and have a love for Melee both as a spectator sport and as a game. 

Most recently, they have co-run the SSBM portion of the Slam Dunk monthly tournament series and weekly brackets through their college, DePaul University. They also worked as pool captains at Hold That L earlier this year. 

Being Chicago-based and making their way through a four year institution in the city, the two hope to carry on Unsure’s legacy in the area.

Oval and Tenacity , seen here in the front of the OnlyNoobs Group Photo at Hold That L, are the new co-head TOs of CLM’s Midlane weeklies and other upcoming events.

But who are these kids anyway? 

Tenacity has been a fan of Melee since EVO 2016. After seeing S2J’s iconic game winning stomp on Westballz in Losers Top 8, he was sold on following the game’s scene. However, Without any locals near him, he only played the game occasionally. 

In high school, Tenacity made more forays into organizing events through a Smash Bros. centered gaming club, where the Super Smash Bros. on Wii U was the game of choice. He would co-run events and get involved with Call of Duty as a competitor as well. When he started at DePaul, his esports experience led to him running events for Depaul’s larger esports program. Soon, he would find himself running DePaul’s Melee events.

Oval’s story is similar. Growing up on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, he was a fan of the modern Smash titles before the pandemic pushed him to try Melee. With Project Slippi boasting a superior online experience, it made sense to give Melee a try. At the very least, it could be a fun game to do some combos in.

“I didn’t realize how hard it is,” Oval said. 

Starting his Freshman year in 2021, Oval began attending the Melee tournaments where he would meet Tenacity and other DePaul organizers, by early 2022, he would join DePaul’s smash board, working to co-plan events.

At this point, Oval says that DePaul Melee was more or less dead. With DePaul Smash’s Melee TO’s having graduated years ago, the weekly tournaments had seen dwindling attention and attendance. Meanwhile, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had blossomed in college scenes. DePaul’s scene was no exception.

The popularity of Ultimate has given Melee space to grow, however. Every time Depaul hosts an Ultimate tournament, there is still enough room in the college’s esports center to have at least a little Melee on the side. Starting in March, DePaul Smash started the Slam Dunk series, with Tenacity and Oval as head TOs. This tournament would combine Ultimate, Melee and a novelty game every month at DePaul’s esports center. 

These events brought out over 100 attendees for Ultimate alone. With this in place, the event could bring out top Chicago talent as well for Melee. Tenacity and Oval co-ran these events, and the younger college-aged players at DePaul were soon sharing setups with CLM’s finest. 

DePaul’s Smash Fests brought more players out for Ultimate, but Melee remained a focus this year at the school under Tenacity and Oval’s helm.

From college kids to Head TO’s

Besides attracting PR players like Pleeba, Ober and GIOGOAT, the monthly would also bring out Unsure and CLM streamrunner Matt Popa. The two liked what they saw. When the young TO’s were asked to help out at Hold That L #7, they took the opportunity. Soon, they would be given much more. 

The two still remember when they were told they would be taking on the head TO role. Chatting on a Discord call with Unsure about their role on Hold That L, they were both excited to become pool captains. At the end of the call, Unsure dropped the bomb. 

“Andrew was like, I want to compete more and am stepping down from Midlane, and would like you to (run it),” Tenacity recalled.

After the call with Unsure ended, the two immediately called each other, laughing. 

The DePaul allum Unsure saw a bit of himself in the two. Just as importantly, he saw the competence and compatibility of Tenacity and Oval as an asset that could be used not only in DePaul, but at Chicagoland events at large.

“Oval and Tenacity both have incredible qualities that make them fit for not only TOing but also leadership,” Unsure told CLM. “It’s more apparent when you can see them in action but you can see their compatibility to work as a team almost immediately.” 

One example of this compatibility could be seen at Hold That L. Running doubles, one of the two would be running with a laptop to report matches, and the other would call for players for the matches. While Tenacity interfaced with the players, Oval would help with the stream and setups. This division of power may help reduce the burnout that is commonly seen in TOs, who work a famously thankless job.

“Oval is way better at seeding. I do a lot of the setup stuff and technical stuff with the Wiis themselves,” Tenacity said.

Unsure told CLM that the two were hungry to improve and quick to ask for advice and listen. These are qualities that Unsure sought to embody in his tenure as Chicago’s head TO as well. 

“It’s a bit of a leap of faith to hand off anything that you’ve worked so hard on, but I am confident that with them behind the wheel we are in big hands.” 

Unsure’s last Midlane as TO was June 29, although Tenacity and Oval had already begun the transition between head TOs in previous weeks, working on setting up weekly at Midlane. 

For now, expect Chicago’s premier weekly to continue as before, including the pools and top cut bracket format that has made the event fairly unique among Melee weeklies. Once the school year continues, expect to see the two at DePaul as well continuing to run weeklies and monthlies.

“Just for now we’re gonna get our foot in the door, get a grip on how to run things as efficiently as possible and I think we’ll take it from there,” Tenacity said regarding Midlane.

Dashing forward

Tenacity, on the right, takes a selfie while Oval embraces Lightning McQueen

Plenty more can be expected on the horizon. The two TOs are planning a larger event for the fall, of which details remain under wraps. In the longer term, the two hope to also help realize a goal that was once Unsure’s, to bring a true major event to Chicago.

“We have seen a distinct lack of Chicago majors in the last couple of years,” Oval said. 

It would take a lot of people to do the job, but Chicago is now in a place where new players are on the rise and CLM is taking solid wins in and out of the region. 

Oval says one in four of the players who attend Hold That L this June were also attendees of Kadence’s OnlyNoobs tournament series, which targets new players. Meanwhile, players like Skerzo, Mekk and Shabo have made strong showings for Chicago at majors this year.

While they dream of a major, the two TO’s will be getting their footing hosting locals and regionals, and practicing their own craft as Melee players. 

Tenacity recently dropped Falco for Fox, something he said he was inspired to do after watching a dominant GIOGOAT run at one of the Slam Dunk monthlies. 

“I don’t think there’s another character (where) you can take the exact thought of what you want to do and do it instantly,” he says of the space animal. 

As for Oval, he’s another space animal player, but he’s recently been supplementing his play with a certain electric rat.

After playing Pikachu for a few months this year, Oval has settled into mostly playing Fox since February, and yet his Pikachu made a strong showing at a recent Midlane, meaning he might focus on playing both characters for the time being. 

The two playing as the space animal might be fitting. Fox players like Skerzo and Shabo dominate Midlane regularly, and the CLM TO’s’ bracket running predecessor is a fox main himself. As for that fox main, Unsure will not be totally out of the fold.

The former Chicago head TO may now be focusing on wave shines and edge guards more than on venue setup and bracket seeding, but he now will play a new role, the wise sage who offers counsel when needed.

Oval likened Unsure to Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Uncle Iroh.

“He’s not a main character, but everyone goes to him for advice,” he said.

To see how Tenacity and Oval take on one of Melee’s greatest weekly tournaments, be sure to register for Midlane Melee, every Wednesday at Midlane Esports in Logan Square and watch live every Wednesday on the CLM Twitch channel.

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