The largest Melee-only tournament in Chicago history happened this past weekend.
On June 4th, over 200 gamers congregated in the O’Hare Marriot Hotel to play out singles and doubles in everyone’s favorite early-2000’s platform fighter. Players traveled from all over the Midwest, and in some cases further, to meet with Chicagoland Melee’s own significant crowd. With reigning champion Ginger dropping out of the bracket last minute, everyone felt that it was their chance to snatch the crown and stake their claim as best in the Midwest.
More than just a bracket
It would be a shame to pretend that Hold That L 7 was only about the top placers, however. This tournament let Midwest players come together to strengthen friendships and create new ones. Players brought family and lovers to show off their passion, and were able to personally meet friends who were before only online. Faces hidden behind usernames and avatars were now only covered by ubiquitous masks.
The OnlyNoobs tournament community had a meetup and picture taken together. Kadence’s tournament series has picked up notoriety for being one of the best attended online tournament series in all of Melee, despite (or, just as likely, because) of the outright banning of any strong players from entering. The picture shows a great turnout, but it doesn’t even show all the OnlyNoobs players that were in attendance. A whopping 44 OnlyNoobs players entered the 218-player bracket. This tournament series and its Discord has created a thriving sub-community and has greatly extended the appeal of competitive melee in the Slippi era. It’s a great thing to see a tournament aimed at newcomers bringing bodies into the good old-fashioned institution of a Melee regional, and Kadence expressed approval at the mutually beneficial relationship between OnlyNoobs and CLM.
Additionally, multiple P+ fanatics brought their setups to create an improvised bracket after most Melee entrants were eliminated. This wasn’t planned – they all brought the game independently. Project M was historically a great funnel into the Melee community, and it’s great to see such support for that game’s community still after its many run-ins with Nintendo. The TO’s of HTL graciously allowed 5 friendly setups to be used for this 23-entrant tournament run on Challonge by local P+ enthusiast Joey.
The P+ tournament ended up including PR players from Illinois, Wisconsin, and St Louis. CLM’s SoulOfficer and Arpy both surprised by making upsets on PR players, with Arpy even making the run all the way to 3rd after DQ’ing in winner’s round 1. The tournament was eventually won by IL PR honorable mention Evil Lesbian’s Zelda. In the process, Evil Lesbian defeated 3 PR players: Books, Flatline, and ORLY. TO Joey is proud of the work they did on the bracket, and encourages anyone interested in P+ to attend Tech Zone 2 on July 9th at Scrims.
Fittingly for the month of June, the LGBT community was quite prevalent at the tournament. This is more accidental and unofficial than the previous two groups, but I found it quite noteworthy having been in the scene for 8 years. As an openly bisexual smasher, I’ve never felt more welcomed for it than over the past few years, and the comradery I saw and felt from the community was truly heartwarming. After the tournament you could find the group hanging outside, and some eventually migrated to Dimo’s Pizza as pictured.
And before we get to results, I want to give a shoutout to head TO Unsure for putting on the event and for all the hard work he’s done over the years for the CLM community. Similarly, I want to mention streamrunner MattPopa for broadcasting the event on the new Chicago Melee Twitch channel. Matt has done more work for the scene than many know, creating tournament graphics, running streams, and leading the creation of this very website!
OK, but the bracket though
Let’s get into the story of the bracket though. The exact number depends on how you count it, but about half of the Top 64 placers were local CLM players. Notable upsets mostly came from the region’s mid tiers – the infamous NoFluxes sent Zamu into loser’s bracket in Round 1 of winner’s bracket, and Yoshi player Dz made an impressive run all the way to 13th place.
Instead of recapping the top 8, I’m going to recap the top 12 since I think the 9th place finishers deserve a shoutout too:
9th: Preeminent, Free Palestine, Prince Abu, Kuyashi
Minnesota’s #3 player Preeminent had a great tournament at this Hold That L, taking down two strong Ganons in NoFluxes and New Guy, and outmaneuvering top CLM Falco Ober. The Top 64 Winners set against Fluxes in particular was a nail biter. The two went back and forth in games after a strong start for Preeminent. With a passionate crowd on his side, the young but no longer underestimated Fox would go down one stock to two against the Ganondorf in the last game. Somehow, he powered through though, and took NoFluxes’ last two stocks to his region’s applause.
Preeminent was in striking distance of Top 8, but couldn’t clear the hurdles of TheRealThing and Drephen to make it to the finals. Still, this Fox saw a vast improvement from his 17th place at HTL6, and he won the doubles tournament with teammate Slowking to boot.
Debuting his shiny new rectangle out of region for the first time, Free Palestine put together a nice run. Reminiscent of Mew2King, he’s now triple maining Fox, Sheik, and Marth. On his way to 9th, FP took out Wisconsin Puff Lord English and top Iowan Slowking. Though his Fox was able to take a game off Ben, he fell short in that set and later in losers side against the Chicago great Shabo. Free Palestine’s box play should only become more powerful over time.
Emerging from hibernation as one of this tournament’s biggest question marks, Michigan-turned-Chicago Puff Prince Abu settled at a 9th place finish. After being taken to game 3 in pools by up-and-comer Dragoid, Abu 3-0’d Pleasantries and Reesch before losing in a reverse 3-0 courtesy of Jflex. Zamu ended the Puff’s run in losers, but it seems clear that Prince Abu hasn’t lost much of his skill in the hiatus.
Despite defeating two of the eventual top 8 placers, Michigan Marth Kuyashi ended up just outside at 9th. In a very impressive run, Kuyashi took out Seal, Shabo and finally Drephen in back-to-back game 5 sets. This marks the first time that they were ever able to defeat the perennial Sheik, who acts as a sort of gatekeeper to the top level of Midwest Melee. Though they couldn’t defeat the Fox duo of Skerzo and Smashdaddy, this is one of the strongest 9th places you could ask for.
7th: Shabo and Drephen
Recent Chicago transplant Shabo tore through loser’s after falling from round 1 winners to Kuyashi. In a nearly flawless series of sets, Shabo eliminated Gaz, DannyPhantom, Reesch, Latin, and Free Palestine while only dropping a single game to Wisconsinite Danny. In a back-and-forth top 8 set vs another CLM newcomer, Shabo’s fire was eventually doused, but his presence in top 8 is a show of Chicago’s increased strength as a region. Depending on how you count it, Chicago had two or three placers in top 8 as opposed to just one at the previous HTL.
Legendary Ohio Sheik Drephen also had to make a bit of a run after his loss to Kuyashi. In the loser’s bracket he disposed of the popular Falcon Mekk, CLM’s Yoshi Dz and Preeminent before finally falling to Zamu off-stream in top 8. The eternal Drephen remains, still, difficult to stop by any but the most elite players.
5th: TheRealThing and Skerzo
The other Ohioan placing in top 8, Falco main TheRealThing made it there through Winner’s side. After successfully taking out Spacie’s Worst Nightmare Q?, TheRealThing won a game 5 set versus Smashdaddy and defeated a hot Preeminent before falling to Jflex in winner’s semis. He then lost the runback to SmashDaddy in loser’s quarter’s in another tight game 5 set.
Local hero Skerzo topped out at 5th. The longtime Chicagoan and current PR #1 had the hopes and dreams of the city on his back and he delivered; defeating Gameboyjr, 3HUNA, and Kuyashi on his way to winner’s semis. However, the Fox didn’t have enough juice to take out Ben, but was willing to give us one last show before exiting. Skerzo’s set against Zamu is a tournament highlight, including taunts, randall shenanigans, and high level execution throughout. Skerzo ended up losing 3-1, but hugged it out with his fellow Fox. If there’s one set you should go back and watch, it’s this.
A recent regular at Chicago’s Midlane events, SoCal Fox Smashdaddy further proved his worth getting 4th place at HTL. Fresh off a win at the Midlane Invitational, Smashdaddy once again placed the highest of any Chicago entrant at this event. That is, if we’re willing to claim him yet. He had an impressive loser’s run, eliminating Lord English, NoFluxes, Kuyashi, and Shabo, topping it off with revenge on TheRealThing, who had sent him to loser’s in the first place. Though he fell to Zamu 3-0 in Losers’ Semis, Smashdaddy is a powerful force who is sure to terrorize Chicago whenever he’s in attendance.
The young Champaign-turned-Arkansas Fox main is the highest placing player that can call Illinois their home state. After the aforementioned game 5 loss to NoFluxes, he tore through a gauntlet of CLM talent: Ober, Eggy, Skerzo, Prince Abu, and yours truly could not stop the menace. Slowking, Smashdaddy, and Drephen fell victim to Zamu’s run as well. Carrying Skerzo’s CLM tag into Loser’s Finals, Zamu’s fire could only be stopped by the eventual winner, Ben. And even then, only barely – Ben’s win over Zamu was his shakiest the whole bracket. After trading the first two games, Zamu gained a crucial advantage by winning on Ben’s counterpick in game 3. In a game 5 on the Fox-favored Final Destination, Ben had the lead the whole game, but a last minute effort by Zamu pushed him to the absolute brink. Though it wasn’t enough for victory, the set shook Ben enough to have to take a break before heading into grand finals.
Jflex has CLM player Casual to thank for this run. The local Samus main generously offered to fly out top players willing to attend HTL, and Jflex answered the call. The New Jersey Sheik main delivered on the investment, reverse 3-0’ing Prince Abu, handily beating TheRealThing, and narrowly defeating Ben (sustaining a near 4-stock loss in game 3) to wind up in winner’s side of Grand Finals. However, it wasn’t meant to be. After 11 total games of Sheik dittos between the two, Jflex wound up being runner-up to the eventual champion.
The Minnesota Sheik main has looked unstoppable in-region as of late. He’s won every non-arcadian iteration so far of the Minnesota Melee Monthly over the likes of Slowking, Wally, Zamu, and even Ginger. He admitted to a lack of confidence prior to HTL, but proved those feelings unfounded. Ben defeated the best Foxes Illinois could throw at him in Zamu and Skerzo, and his only defeat could come at the hands of another Sheik player, Jflex. Not only did Ben mop up the Midwest as a region, but he defended it from an east coast invader. His vocal supporters in the crowd couldn’t be happier.
2022 so far has been a year of Sheiks, with top level talent like Jmook and Plup showing the character at her strongest in years. Just below them are players like Ben ruling their regions. This very top 8 had three Sheiks, losing in representation only to the perennial Fox. The Melee community may not be used to such dominance from the character, since she’s historically been strong but not the character that gets first. Perhaps that’s going to be something that changes this year.
Ben, with this win, is staking his claim as King of the Midwest. With his strongest regional rival, Ginger, absent from this event, I eagerly look forward to their next meeting to settle this matter. At Hold That L 8, perhaps?