aMSa makes Melee history with The Big House 10 win - Upcomer
aMSa celebrates after winning The Big House 10
Photo by @RellFGC, provided by @TheBigHouseSSB via Twitter

aMSa makes Melee history with The Big House 10 win

New characters are winning majors 21 years after Melee’s release

Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto’s first-place finish in Super Smash Bros. Melee Singles at The Big House 10 was historic in more ways than one. The reality of his accomplishment hadn’t even sunk in by the time he sat down with Kris “Toph” Aldenderfer for a post-tournament interview.

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“I can’t believe it,” aMSa told Toph after grand finals. “I feel I still have some matches right now.”

At a glance, it’s already clear that aMSa’s run was impressive. He bested Kyle “Krudo” Krudo, John “KoDoRiN” Ko, Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, and Miles “Soonsay” Foster — along with double-eliminating Joseph “Mang0” Marquez, all without dropping a set.

Even so, the bracket doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Big House 10 marked aMSa’s first major victory and the first major victory of any Yoshi player. For the first 14 years of Melee’s existence, Yoshi ranked in the bottom half of all official Melee tier lists. Even now, the character is generally considered to be a mid-tier.

In addition, aMSa became the first Japanese player to win a Melee major since Ryota “CaptainJack” Hoshida won MLG San Francisco 2004. And, on top of all that, aMSa became the oldest player to ever win a Melee major at 30 years and 11 months old, surpassing the record Mang0 set one week prior at Lost Tech City 2022.

While aMSa’s journey in competitive Melee is far from over, this victory was the culmination of many years of hard work for the mid-tier hero.

“Finally, I got first place,” aMSa said in his post-tournament interview. “It took, like, 10 years. I actually [have played] only Yoshi since Melee [came out], so it actually took 20 years or something. But finally, Yoshi won [a] major. Yoshi’s good; finally, I proved [it].”

aMSa’s run at The Big House 10 begins

On his path to top 24, aMSa only dropped a single game to Matteo “Matteo” Caglioti. Although he was projected to defeat all of the opponents he fought, aMSa said he still had to keep his guard up due to how quickly lower-level players have been improving.

“Even under the top 10 players, it’s so scary,” aMSa said in his post-tournament interview.

In winners quarters, No. 8 seed aMSa faced the No. 1 seed of the tournament, Hungrybox. After attending Fête 2 in the United Kingdom in July, aMSa spent a couple of months in Japan, where there are few high-level Jigglypuff mains. As a result, aMSa felt unprepared for the match-up going into Lost Tech City, where he lost 3-1 to Hungrybox.

Going into The Big House 10, aMSa had better prepared for the match-up. Conversely, Hungrybox wasn’t warmed up at all since he misunderstood what time he was supposed to show up for top 24. As a result, aMSa reversed their set count from the week before, beating Hungrybox 3-1 to reach the winners side of top eight.

“He [was] not the 100% Hbox,” aMSa said in his post-tournament interview. “Next time, I want to play the [100%] Hbox.”

As the 37th seed, Soonsay was technically an easy draw for aMSa in winners semis. Still, Soonsay had earned his spot, upsetting William “Leffen” Hjelte, Johnny “S2J” Kim, and Linus “Pipsqueak” Nordin en route to top eight. In addition, he quickly proved to have an excellent game plan against aMSa, using Fox’s down-air to consistently open up extensive combos.

“Last time [I played] Soonsay, I beat him 3-0 at [Get On My Level 2022]. But his versus-Yoshi knowledge quickly [got] better,” aMSa said.

Despite Soonsay’s strong performance in the match-up, aMSa still came out on top 3-1. As a result, the Yoshi main secured himself a spot in winners finals of a major for only the second time in his Melee career.

The year of the red dino

All throughout this year, aMSa’s improvements have translated into stronger showings in tournaments. He reached his highest major placement to date at Pound 2022 in April, where he conquered the likes of Cody “iBDW” Schwab, Leffen and Arjun “lloD” Malhotra on his losers run to third place.

Then, he topped that by placing second at Double Down in July, earning a win over Zain “Zain” Naghmi in the process. That tournament marked his first time reaching winners finals at a major and his first time reaching grand finals on losers side.

At many prior tournaments, like Smash Summits 11 and 12, aMSa seemed to choke in the higher-pressure sets. However, gaining more experience in those kinds of sets helped aMSa hone a more composed and focused mentality.

“Every time, when I feel good — like I’m moving well, my tech skill is better — then I feel that [I’m] having fun,” aMSa said in his post-tournament interview. “This spirit is completely important, I learned.”

In winners finals, aMSa challenged No. 7 seed Mang0, another somewhat favorable draw. He had defeated Mang0 in their previous two sets at Smash Summits 11 and 12, and boasted a 5-3 lifetime record against Mang0.

However, despite undergoing an unexpected slump at the beginning of the year, Mang0 had since risen to an impressive level of consistency. Going into The Big House 10, Mang0 had won two of his past six tournaments. At the other four tournaments, he didn’t drop sets to anyone ranked outside of the top four on the Summer 2022 MPGR.

In addition, Mang0 made it to winners finals by beating Zain and iBDW, the two highest-ranked players in the world. As a result, the sixth-ranked aMSa had reason to be nervous heading into their winners finals set.

“Sometimes I hear, ‘Oh, Mang0 is so good,’ but I can do it,” aMSa said.

Versus the GOAT

Throughout the day, aMSa had warmed up with Fox mains like Dawud “Aklo” Rahman and Kurtis “moky” Pratt. Still, he said he had to constantly remind himself about Mang0’s hyper-offensive playstyle so that Mang0 wouldn’t catch him off-guard with his aggression.

After a tense last stock, aMSa ended up winning the set 3-1, securing himself a spot on the winners side of grand finals for the first time in his career. Then, Mang0 earned yet another victory over iBDW, setting up for a rematch against aMSa in grand finals.

At the start of the set, aMSa looked nigh unstoppable. He two-stocked Mang0 in the first two games and held a healthy stock lead toward the end of the third. However, Mang0 managed to claw back and win Game 3. During Game 4, commentator Bobby “Scar” Scarnewman speculated that the pressure of the moment was getting to aMSa. For his own part, aMSa disagreed.

“[I was] not nervous,” aMSa admitted. “I [kept] believing in myself.”

And yet, Game 4 looked bad for aMSa. Mang0 took the first two stocks of the game and maintained that lead for the duration of the game. Afterward, aMSa considered he might need a change of pace from Dream Land’s large tri-platform layout going into Game 5.

“I think the Dream Land counterpick was not bad, but his punish game especially gets better,” aMSa said. “I thought the platform movement [was] not good to me and I needed punish game at the time, so that’s why [I chose Final Destination] at Game 5. Actually, I was thinking about Yoshi’s Story at the time just a little bit, but Mang0’s movement [got] better and better over our matches, so I just focused on FD and then just focused on the neutral [game].”

Although Mang0 took an early lead, the impact of aMSa’s combos were still apparent on Final Destination. It came down to the final stock, with both players at 0%. A “Mang0” chant emerged from the crowd as the long-time fan favorite racked up a quick 50% against aMSa.

However, it was quickly drowned out by an “aMSa” chant from audience members who wished to see another fan favorite make Melee history. Then, aMSa parried an up-special from Mang0 and comboed him from 20% to death in order to win the tournament.

The Big House 10 is just the beginning for aMSa

Going forward, aMSa doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels. Despite recently moving from Japan to Canada, aMSa only spent two days in Vancouver before heading to the United States for Lost Tech City. This should be a recurring trend for him for the rest of this year. There are 10 more weekends between now and Christmas; aMSa has tournaments booked for seven of them.

In an interview for PGstats after Double Down, aMSa told Toph that he wasn’t concerned about his rank on the Summer 2022 MPGR. His only priority was to win a major for the first time. Now that he’s accomplished that goal, his greatest priority has flipped on its head.

“Definitely my next goal will be trying to get the No. 1 ranking,” aMSa said in his interview after grand finals at The Big House 10.

He doesn’t expect it to be an easy feat. As aMSa continues to excel more, other top players will get even more match-up experience against his mid-tier. This will enable them to develop the potentially underdeveloped counter-play with their top-tier mains.

But that doesn’t scare aMSa. He invites the challenge as he looks to climb to the top of competitive Melee one major at a time. After all, the better his opponents are at the match-up, the more impressive his next victory will be.

“People will be ready for the Yoshis,” aMSa said in his post-tournament interview. “This is just the beginning. After people run into Yoshi, then winning the major is kind of sick.”

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Dylan Tate
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.