Last weekend, Super Smash Bros. Melee's top talent traveled to Salt Lake City's Vivint Smart Home Arena for three days of high-level competition. Although Game Tyrant Expo (GT-X) had a bracket chock-full of potential winners, nobody could have predicted the extreme upsets that rocked Utah's first major.
It's only fitting that a tournament defined by upsets would finish with one. At the end of the day, Adam "Armada" Lindgren, undoubtedly the favorite to win, was not the player standing atop the podium. Instead, Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma slugged his way through a grueling 10-game grand finals to claim the largest share of the event's unprecedented $30,000 prize pool.
By capturing back-to-back major titles, Hungrybox has definitively set himself apart from the group of contenders trying to take the number one ranking from Armada. But while the thought of playing further probably didn't cross Hungrybox's mind as he celebrated with a sea of fans, the season is far from over. In less than a week, Melee's pros will pick up their controllers once more to see who can fight their way to the top at The Big House 7. And despite his recent losses, Armada will still be the bookkeeper's pick for first.
The tournament began with a stacked doubles bracket. The top seeds, Alliance's Armada and Andreas "Android" Lindgren, seemed to be on shaky ground, barely clutching out a 3-2 set against Team Liquid's Daniel "ChuDat" Rodriguez and Hungrybox before losing to CLG's Kevin "PewPewU" Toy and Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni in winner's finals. However, the Swedish brothers powered up in loser's bracket, steaming through grand finals to win the tournament in two convincing 3-1 sets.
Perhaps the most heartwarming story of GT-X was the Cinderella run of Masaya "aMSa" Chikamoto, Japan's sole representative in the Top 48 bracket. In his first stateside appearance since the Evolution Championship Series 2017, aMSa scored astonishing victories over two SSBMRank Top 10 players, sweeping No. 6 Justin "Plup" McGrath 2-0 in pools before eliminating the No. 7 ChuDat in a 3-1 nailbiter. Unfortunately, aMSa's run ended just short of Top 8, but the Red Yoshi's strong results and exuberant personality are sure to bolster his already-popular Smash Summit 5 campaign.
Unfortunately, the Japanese fan favorite was unable to clinch his spot at this season's Smash Summit this weekend; that honor went to Dajuan "Shroomed" McDaniel, who clawed his way to a 5th place finish ahead of every other competitor who didn't automatically qualify for the prestigious invitational.
aMSa's placement was far from the only surprising result. Popular commentator and elite player of yesteryear Oscar "Lovage" Nilsson came out of the woodwork to deliver William "Leffen" Hjelte one of this season's most unexpected upsets. Although he eventually ended his tournament at 17th, Lovage's high level of play proved that it's important for even the gods of the game to respect their elders. Leffen was unable to find his stride in loser's bracket, falling to Plup to end his tournament at a disappointing 13th. Plup's victory over Leffen -- his third consecutive win against the Swede -- gives him a strong case for a Top 5 spot in 2017's year-end rankings.
GT-X also gave a chance at redemption for the Universal Controller Fix, the controversial game code modification intended to reduce the variance associated with GameCube controllers. At Shine 2017, a staff oversight caused UCF to be turned off at the beginning of Top 8, resulting in ChuDat's upset over Leffen to be replayed in Leffen's favor. However, GT-X went off without a hitch, giving credibility to the arguments of the community's pro-UCF contingent.