As the sun rose over Las Vegas for the final day of competition in Evo 2018, only eight players remained in contention for the most prestigious trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Of those, there was only one who could take home the gold and outclass every opponent for a long-deserved victory.
That man was Team SoloMid's William "Leffen" Hjelte.
Kicking things off was Leffen's first and most imposing matchup of the day against Team Liquid's Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, who is the only player to hold a winning record against Leffen on the year. The first game of the set, played on Fountain of Dreams, looked all too familiar for Leffen fans, as Hungrybox took only 18 percent damage while knocking three stocks from Leffen to win Game 1. It looked like it could be curtains for Leffen's winners bracket run; instead, it was the last and only game Leffen lost all tournament.
Starting in Game 2 against Hungrybox on Pokemon Stadium, Leffen's play ramped up and lasted throughout the remainder of top-8. After narrowly winning Game 2, Leffen came alive in Game 3 on Battlefield, taking the first two stocks in just over a minute-and-a-half. Hungrybox's play was marked by an uncharacteristic lack of discipline and patience, and he gave up the set to a breezy three-stock by Leffen.
Next up was winner's finals against Panda Global's Justin "Plup" McGrath, coming off a 2-0 victory over Cloud9's Joseph "Mang0" Marquez. Despite the break since his last set, Leffen didn't look iced at all, moving faster than ever. Even Plup, known for his unique speed on Sheik, was unable to keep up, and his early self-destruct in Game 1 on Yoshi's Story set the tone. Plup countered with a Battlefield pick in Game 2, and while he was able to briefly slow down Leffen with tech chases, he wasn't consistent enough to clutch it out. Winners finals meant best-of-five, giving Plup one more chance to take it, but he looked deflated, and met a painful end when Leffen narrowly beat him to the ledge twice in a row, taking his final two stocks at low percent.
Leffen's final challenge was fellow Swede Adam "Armada" Lindgren, playing under the Alliance banner. Armada had made it through a desperate losers run, falling early in bracket before going on to echo Leffen's wins over Hungrybox and Plup, with Mang0 thrown in for good measure. However, Leffen was on another level on Sunday. Armada's Fox was fast as ever, but Leffen's was at mach speed, landing huge punishes off of neutral wins. Down 0-2, Armada took the risk of switching to Peach, a character he rarely dares to play against Leffen due to the latter's skill in the matchup. Taking Leffen to Final Destination, Armada managed to get the first stock with a chaingrab, but Leffen quickly retook the lead and never looked back, landing an up-throw to up-air combo to take his first Evo championship 3-0 from winners side.
This victory has been a long time coming for Leffen, whose goal has long been nothing less than becoming the world's best Melee player. He was certainly that on Sunday, tearing through the best players in the world in one of the quickest top-8's in recent memory. A player like Leffen, however, won't ever be satisfied with the one trophy, and you can expect to see him pushing himself even harder as August's packed Melee schedule continues.
-- Brendan Hickey