ESAM: 'We just wanted to focus on winning one game at a time'

When this year's Melee rankings roll around, Kalindi "KJH" Henderson's numbers are sure to be boosted. Provided by Chris Bahn/DreamHack

Combo Breaker 2016 just finished, and although the tournament provided some interesting matchups, both Super Smash Bros. games were dominated by the biggest names in attendance.

Super Smash Bros. Melee had an interesting top eight, with a lot of character variety, much more than other major tournaments. There were two top level Samus players and even a Kirby, which is often regarded as one of the worst characters in the game. But as the tournament neared its end, the top three came down to James "Duck" Ma, Drew "Drephen" Scoles, and Kelly "Kels" Smith.

"Kels and Drephen both actually had me worried," said Ma. "I rarely get to play against Sheik and it's been a while since I've played one in a tournament."

Luckily for Ma, he was able to get some Sheik practice prior to the grand finals. "I actually warmed up with Kels's Sheik for Drephen for like two hours," he said.

Apparently that was what gave him the winning edge for the tournament. With Smash'N'Splash 2 just two weeks away in Gurnee, Illinois, Ma hopes to keep the fire burning from the Combo Breaker win.

In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U or Smash 4, both singles and doubles were dominated by Panda Global. Eric "ESAM" Lew and Jestise "MVD" Negron turned up the heat for an impressive losers run. Winning a tournament from the losers side of the bracket can be very difficult since players must be able to play very consistently at a top level in an attempt to "reset" the bracket. This means having to beat the team on the winners' side twice to take the tournament.

For Lew and Negron, getting dropped into losers didn't hurt their mindset. "We just got outplayed and we knew it," Lew explained. "We just wanted to focus on winning one game at a time."

And that's exactly what they did. After making it to the grand finals, Negron suggested that Lew pick up Corrin. It turned out to be a solid strategy against NiTe and Dan's Rosalina and Mario. "We wanted to be able to outrange both Mario and Rosa," said Lew.

"We just got outplayed and we knew it. We just wanted to focus on winning one game at a time." Eric "ESAM" Lew

Surprisingly, Lew and Negron didn't get much practice time prior to the tournament.

"Since I live in South Carolina now, we don't get a chance to practice," said Lew. "We kind of can only play in tournaments, so we never really did Cloud [and] Corrin before outside of maybe three to five friendlies."

Even with such little practice, it seemed like their skill and game knowledge was more than enough to outplay their opponents. With Smash 4 singles, Lew absolutely tore through the tournament. To a spectator, it may have seemed dominant but it was actually more difficult than he let on. According to Lew, he had difficulty with "pretty much everyone but Dekillsage."

Lew's match against Benjamin "JJROCKETS" Row proved incredibly challenging. Row was up three games to two, but Lew brought it back with a quick lead in game five. Even then, victory was narrow.

Going into grand finals, Lew kept his composure. He explained, "Tyroy was difficult as well. It was game five and he had a ridiculous comeback [in] games two and four. I played solid and won the last game with confidence [with] only one scary moment."

June will be dominated by two massive tournaments: Smash'N'Splash 2 and Community Effort Orlando (CEO). Many of the biggest names in Super Smash Bros. will show up; but with incredibly impressive performances from Ma, Lew, and Negron, their fights to become the best just got a lot more interesting.