OAKLAND, Calif. -- Super Smash Bros. Melee at Genesis 6 is wide open.
Since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in December, many of the long-tenured, top Melee players have shifted their focus to the new title, and in the first assemblage of those players in the Bay Area, have given their lower-ranked peers significant opportunity.
On Saturday, 2018 Evolution Championship Series winner William "Leffen" Hjelte dropped out from the Melee competition. Joseph "Mang0" Marquez fell to the losers bracket following a loss to fellow Falco main Sasha "Magi" Sullivan, ranked 98th in the world for Melee; the 13th-best player in the world, James "Swedish Delight" Liu, lost to unranked Rhodes "Joyboy" Sabangan in the winners bracket; and DaJuan "Shroomed" McDaniel, the 29th-ranked player in the world, who has also played Ultimate a significant amount more than Melee, was eliminated entirely.
Of the top eight players in Melee, few have focused on that title in the past month. Three -- Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma, Zain "Zain" Naghmi and Mang0 -- have put a significant amount of time into Melee since the release of Ultimate. And heading into Saturday night and Sunday morning, those three stand out as favorites in the bracket.
In September, Adam "Armada" Lindgren, a contender for the title of greatest Melee player of all time, retired from competing in Melee singles tournaments. He, however, competed in Ultimate at Genesis, although he was eliminated earlier in the tournament than Leffen, who remains in the winners side of the bracket for Ultimate.
The changes at the top of the field open up an opportunity in the top 64 for those dedicated to Melee. Names like Masaya "aMSa" Chikamoto, Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson, Johnny "S2J" Kim and James "Duck" Ma remain in the winners side of the tournament and will pose a real threat as the bracket shrinks through Saturday evening.
In contrast to when Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was released in late 2014, Melee players are engaging with Ultimate at a high clip. According to those players, that is in part because the game is more fun than the Wii U iteration.
The Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland will host on Sunday one of the most interesting top eights in the recent history of the game. As with Genesis in 2017, when Justin "Plup" McGrath defeated Hungrybox, the competition is sure to be filled with up-and-comers and upsets galore.