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Published May 4, 2020

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The Most Dominant Primes of All Time: 2005 Ken

Like any other form of competition with decades of history, Melee is rife with community debates about the greatest players of all time. In today’s column, I’m going to write about something a little bit different: the most dominant individual primes in Melee history, starting from the middle of the MLG era.

Rather than putting them in order of most impressive to least impressive primes, the way I’m choosing to do this is going to be akin to a timeline of who at different points in Melee history could be argued as the game’s No. 1 player.

2005 Ken

There were question marks in Ken’s original “reign” from Tournament Go 3 to Tournament Go 6. The Melee community lacked a consistent rule set and after TG 6, a variety of different players won events, from CaptainJack winning MLG San Francisco 2004 to Ken winning MLG New York 2004 and Isai stunning Ken at MOAST 3.

Those question marks disappeared in the MLG 2005 season, when Ken started to stand out from the pack (January 2005 to February 2006; you read that correctly). Within this stretch of time, Ken won eight out of nine major tournaments he competed in, with the one dropped tournament he had coming to Isai at MLG Los Angeles 2005, when he finished in second place. Here are the majors he won:

  • MLG DC 2005
  • MLG San Francisco 2005
  • Gettin’ Schooled 2
  • MELEE-FC3
  • Jack Garden Tournament
  • MLG Atlanta 2005
  • MLG Chicago 2005
  • MLG New York 2005

NOTE: Technically within Pikachu942’s All-Time Major Database, MLG Chicago 2005 is not counted as a “major” because only two top five players were in attendance: Ken (its first place champion) and ChuDat (who finished in 13th place). For the sake of this article, I am choosing to count it as a major due to its prominence at the time, although it more or less operated in practice like a top-heavy regional.

Within this time span, Ken finished with dominant a cumulative 15-4 record against the Top 5. He was 7-0 against ChuDat, either 3-2 or 4-2 against Isai (I can’t confirm if Ken faced Isai in loser’s bracket or KrazyJones at GS2; if he did, this is 4-2), 3-1 against Azen and 2-1 against Sastopher, with the loss coming in FC3 pools, where Ken chose to play Samus against him to hide his upcoming bracket Fox.

The only other dropped sets in the year for Ken were a sandbagged Roy ditto against NEO at MLG DC 2005 and a Fox ditto against Chillin at GS2 in winner’s bracket. He beat both those players in the sets they played afterward.

In hindsight, some of Ken’s dominance during this time deserves an asterisk. Many of his sets against Isai and ChuDat came in dubious circumstances where one of the latter two – or Ken himself – would sandbag or offer to split the prize pot. The rest of Ken’s head-to-heads remain impressive, but nonetheless the asterisk remains.

However, even a skeptic can’t ignore the sheer magnitude of Ken’s dominant Jack Garden Tournament victory. By all means, this was a legendary showing – it came at a time when Japan was considered a vastly superior Melee region.

When Ken initially trained with the Japanese players before the tournament as part of his trip to Japan, he took note of how even the people near the bottom-end of skill were pushing his Marth to the brink in friendlies, sometimes even taking games. In America, Ken could win events over players while playing Fox. In Japan, his friend Isai didn’t even qualify for final bracket.

Ken was already familiar with CaptainJack, who had beaten him in the United States before 2005 and had even won MLG San Francisco 2005 over Isai. He was less familiar with Masashi, someone whom CaptainJack had claimed was better than himself. Ken also became acquainted with Aniki, Masashi’s brother and someone who was the best Link player in the world. Even Thunders, the namesake behind the Thunders combo, was a potential contender before the event, as was Mikael, the top Peach main in Japan.

Beating Masashi and Bombsoldier was as impressive, if not more noteworthy than winning against any of his American peers. Even though there were doubts about if ChuDat and Isai were giving their all against Ken, Ken’s triumph at Jack Garden Tournament pretty much silenced any bit of doubt that even his biggest haters in the community had about his skill.

Following 2005, Ken continued to be a top player in the Melee scene, though he did not succeed in winning the MLG championship at Las Vegas in 2006. But in 2007, another Marth player rose to the top; one which I’ll cover in detail for next week for the next installment of this short series.

 

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