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Published December 12, 2022

What Makes Mogul Chessboxing Championship Good

Long-time readers may know that I typically write my columns a week in advance. Because I spent last week on previewing the Smash World Tour, only to update it when the news of Panda’s implosion reached the forefront of the scene, I didn’t have time to adequately preview the Melee show matches at the Mogul Chessboxing Championship. At the same time, how could I? The format basically had no precedent in the the history of the Smash scene. I know a lot about Melee results. Not so much boxing or chess. My word would have meant nothing.

This event a total success in every measurable metric, gaining over 300,000 live viewers. Fiction-KJH, per tafokints, became the most watched live set of Melee ever. There’s almost certainly going to be a large sum of people who get into the Melee community through watching Ludwig’s event. That is unambiguously incredible, even for Ludwig’s standards. It honestly feels routine, if not a little self-serving, to thank Ludwig for never forgetting his roots as a smasher and constantly including Melee as part of his brand, but in all seriousness, we should be grateful to him and his team. They were the ones to have the ambition to run an event like this, execute it really well, and bring the best out of everyone involved. No community is entitled to having one content creator so routinely carry it on their back, but something about this event in particular – even moreso than the Ludwig Smash Invitational – made it abundantly clear what kind of support the community needs and what kind of lessons we can take away to make the scene better.

More than anything else though, this event as a collection of great stories and amazing content. I really think the ability to think outside the box and balance niche ideas with universal appeal is so rare. Countless people, absolutely myself included, tend to mimic what we liked in the past, taking as much of what we think made the original idea special to us, and trying to recreate those things without any understanding of why people should care. We’re either totally lost in the details and fail to think about that very question or we over-think it and lose the identity of what we’re trying to accomplish. I’m really not trying to be mean here; I’m saying this from a constructive place and from the perspective of a “content creator” who could absolutely learn a lot from an event like the Mogul Chessboxing Championship.

Anyway, I don’t really have a good way of tying this up together, so if you’re looking for that, apologies for the disappointment. I really loved watching this event and actually ended up watching the whole thing instead of just the Smash-related matches. Big props to Ludwig.

10 Sleeper Picks for 2023

The end of 2022 is near. Though we have about one more major to go, as well as another potentially big event, things are starting to wrap up in 2022. By all accounts, it’s been one of the craziest years for Melee. In no order, we had the closest race for No. 1 ever, more back-to-back notable events than we’ve had in several other years, two circuits for most of the year, and then another annual edition of “Fuck Nintendo” where both circuits died and where one former community leader has now left the scene in total disgrace. I don’t know of a single adequate word that I’d use to describe Melee in 2022: maybe “overwhelming?” I have no idea.

However, in the turbulent times we’re in, I still see a light at the end of the tunnel. We all know 2023 will begin with another edition of Genesis, hopefully one that won’t be delayed. And while many planned events throughout the rest of the year will have to be cancelled, new ones will arise in their place, as will familiar names. On a similar note, I think we’ll find that new stars in the community have still yet to be found. Will 2023 have its own version of Jmook? Who are the sleeping and hidden giants of Melee right now?

In today’s column, I’m going to offer 10 sleeper picks for Melee players who could break out in 2023. For the purpose of creating parameters around whom I’m deciding to highlight, I am excluding anyone who has ever finished Top 100 of any year and anyone I deem “consistently obscure” or “underrated.” If your favorite player (or yourself) isn’t on this list, it’s probably not because I think they aren’t “good” and more because I think “enough” people know who they are or have properly assessed them as strong players.

10. Elliot

A few of you might remember that Elliot is part of a long list of people that defeated Hungrybox online. But that was back when everybody was beating him. Did you know that as recently as June, he took a set from null, a Top 25 player? Along with his own skill, part of why I’m so sure of Elliot lately is because his region, British Columbia, just gained a top five player. I assume that this will provide great practice for him, as well as give him an opportunity to take local sets over someone at the top level of play. No; before you ask, I would not “count” any losses to Elliot “against” aMSa any harsher than I’d “count” a random loss that Fiction has to someone at Verdugo. I’d sure as hell gas up Elliot though.

9. Kikoho

Kikoho became more known in the national eye when he upset Drephen at Shine 2019. Ever since, the young Marth has made his way from the bottom of Connecticut’s scene to the very top, where he now overwhelmingly beats down the rest of Connecticut. In spite of not traveling very much, he had a modest 49th place showing at Shine 2022, where he beat JJM, who is a lock for Top 100 in 2022. Generally speaking, Kikoho has done well vs. invading players, having also defeated Wally, Bbatts, and Kalvar. The next step would be to go out of region more.

8. Paladin

Not many people know of Paladin. Hailing from Tennessee, this Fox player’s become one of the state’s best players. He basically destroys everyone on his side of Tennessee and is second in all of it only to Grab, the ruler of the other half, as well as someone who unfortunately happened to eliminate Paladin from The Big House 10. Though Paladin doesn’t have any outstanding major performances, he’s been a menace for opponents online. He won The Playlist 8 over bobby big ballz and JSalt, and he did actually defeat Grab at the Southeast edition of the Mango Nation tour. Add in stray Netplay sets he has over JJM and Bbatts, and it’s clear that Paladin is someone to watch in 2023.

7. Q?

For basically all of 2022, everybody from the Midwest gassed up Q? in the Melee Stats Discord. You couldn’t go a minute watching him play without seeing Blue or Ober chime in and talk about how Q? has a better punish game than Franz. It was enough to make s-f, a SoCal native, randomly vent to me at The Big House 10, saying things like “JESUS CHRIST I’VE HAD IT WITH THESE PEOPLE; YOU THINK Q? IS BETTER THAN FRANZ? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?” and other obscenities. For what it’s worth though, Q? has done more than enough to prove himself. In addition to beating Ben, he’s also taken sets from Sharp, Eggy, shabo, Reeve, Morsecode762, Ober, and Skerzo. He’s been remarkable since the pandemic, and I expect him to continue getting more wins – maybe enough to make the Top 100 in 2023. I do have to admit that getting to Franz will be difficult though.

6. Blue

It feels strange to include a guy who was voted into Smash Summit here, doesn’t it? But I’m willing to bet that some of you reading this column either forgot that Blue existed or haven’t thought about him in the last week. It’s a shame, because months after being invited, he took a set from TheSWOOPER at The Big House 10, coming within a hair of also defeating Krudo at the same event. Regionally, Blue remains of the Midwest’s strongest players, usually beating the rest of Indiana and also having wins over Michael, Eggy, and Joey Donuts. Online, he’s taken sets from Salt, Preeminent, and Mad Tyro. It wasn’t in the cards for 2022, but in 2023, I think Blue makes it.

5. Steech

Despite receiving a joint Melee Stats and Frame 1 sponsorship, I’d argue that Steech still qualifies for this spot. One of the best players within SoCal, he basically destroys everyone below him on the PR. In fact, when salami beat him at Mainstage, it was far closer to being an outlier instead of the norm. More or less, Steech is one of the top dogs of San Diego, and I specifically remember when he won a local over Suf, who by all means is still a Top 75 player. In two recent online events, Steech also beat Kurv, bobby big ballz, Eddy Mexico, and Far!. Though neither of his majors attended this year ended up standing out, Steech probably will make it next year, given his trajectory of improvement in SoCal.

4. Guava

Guava first caught my attention when he finished second at a Nightclub where he took sets from Rishi, Jflex, and Captain Smuckers. At the next local he went to, he took sets from Wally, DrLobster, and 2saint. Curiously, it happened the same week as Apex, which he didn’t attend. This is all to say that if you hid his name, showed some of his results to someone and asked them who it was, they’d probably guess it was Bbatts or Aura randomly traveling to Tristate for a week. I would honestly go as far to say that if he were more active, he’d be top five in New York City, which may sound ridiculous to anyone who hasn’t seen him play.

3. Alex

Anyone remember Alex? The teen Jigglypuff player, also known as “the Puff Jmook” from Missouri made waves at Double Down, beating Nickemwit, Chango, and Casper in spite of nobody outside of his state ever hearing about him, since he rarely attends anything. Speaking of which, at the two events he did attend shortly afterward, beating Bobby Frizz, Travioli, Shinobi, and Reesch without dropping a set, and then taking sets from Zamu and Slowking at his next tournament. He even beat Nickemwit in the runback from Double Down at Sunshined 2. I honestly think he’d cream most of the bottom quarter of the 2022 Top 100 ballot. No; I am not naming more people here.

2. Kingu

To be clear, Kingu’s already established in Europe as one of the continent’s rising talents, let alone an unambiguous top five player within the United Kingdom. But most smashers don’t know their face from their ass about Europe, so I’m including the former Jigglypuff-turned-Fox player here. By all accounts, he’s one of the best players of the continent’s new generation. He’s taken sets off both Professor Pro and Frenzy – a rarity for UK players – and came within a hair of winning an entire tournament over both, which has basically been impossible for anyone in that region since the Stone Age. Although that was with Jigglypuff, who he now is trying to move away from, I still think Kingu’s potential overall is insane. I always joke with Ambi and Wheat about how Genesis 14’s grand finals are going to involve Kingu vs. the guy I have above him on this list.

1. Inngenn

Is it cheating to count someone who became an international darling of the whole community and rose to the top of Japan? If you think about it, probably. Is it totally unfair of me to include Inngenn here when he was invited to compete at the Scuffed World Tour? Almost certainly yes. But you know what? It’s my column, so I don’t care. There’s few things cooler in the scene than a Marth player from the land of Melee’s origins – someone around the same age as the game itself, as well as a “Slippi kid” – who still remains a massive question mark in the scene today.

The only thing we know about him is that when he came to America, he was near the top of Japan and almost beat Magi. What we know now that’s different is that he beats Japan harder. Much harder. How will it translate in a typical major field? Nobody could tell you. I probably still won’t have an idea how he’ll perform after the Scuffed World Tour since the event is so ungodly stacked. He’s a fun No. 1 breakout pick though. I’m going with him.

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