Things have been heating up in Australia’s fighting game community all month, and it’s not just good spring weather.
Tournament registrations are up, prize pools have been raised, and even in embattled Victoria there are signs that coronavirus is slowly receding – giving us hope of holding CouchWarriors League events in person next season.
This excited atmosphere was heightened further in the Smash Ultimate scene, as the successful Cospendium Open series decided to merge its remaining event schedule with existing CWL monthlies. With the stakes having risen twice already since August, it’s no surprise that this weekend’s Ultimate tournament was even more hotly contested than the last one.
The quality of competition improved as well; there were plenty of ranked names among the 125 who entered. Yet again, we enjoyed seeing proven winners clash with the brigade of fierce, up-and-coming competitors who have made their own names during this year’s online tournament blitz. And quite often it was the latter who triumphed!
Got 5th/125 at Cospendium CW, beat kinaji and ghost lost to dd and seb. I still hate wifi but this tourney was pretty fun at least pic.twitter.com/6ltByPTs1t— chizzL (@chizzL_) September 26, 2020
Yes, you can consider this “home turf” for the wi-fi warriors, and no top smashers are losing respect or sleep over online results. But you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and a CWL top 8 is another feather in the caps of players like Chris “chizzL” Nguyen and Aiden “Dura” Scalza.
Going in, Dura’s impressive runner-up performance in August had me wondering whether this might finally be his month. But this month’s fairytale run came from an even less expected quarter.
Victorian Ness main Andrew “Khami” Mantineo has yet to make a splash outside his own scene, but have been promising signs about his future. His offline results are best described as “decent”, steadily improving over a year and change of recorded entries.
His background in CoD suggests a strong competitive attitude; a channel full of slickly-edited combo videos hints at serious lab hours put into mastering his chosen characters.
Hard work and ambition had established Khami as an “upset machine” at Melbourne locals, but he has stepped things up a notch in recent months. Taking advantage of the constant online events, his grinding had already yielded a couple of 1st place finishes in fields close to this size – but not this depth of quality. He was 17th at July’s CWL Online, and 97th at last month’s Cospendium Open. But on Saturday, he was flat out unstoppable.
Khami didn’t just win the tournament with hundreds of viewers watching on – he won through winner’s side, not even dropping a set.
There was no bracket magic involved for the unseeded champion – his last four sets ran a gauntlet of national-level talent, facing Sebastian “GZ|SebPro101” Poli-Tabone, Liam “M|Aluf” Aluf, and Bradley “DD” Kun twice. His Ness ran through them all. Even DD, whose scalp had eluded Khami in 4 prior tournament meetings, was unable to contain his bold and aggressive style.
To give credit to the internationally-ranked DD, he was putting on a show on his own this tournament, rotating through an endless array of pocket characters.
But Khami dismissed DD’s signature Wario just like the Ken before it, and after dropping a game to K.Rool he ran it back against the crocodile to avoid a Grand Finals reset.
That completed an extremely memorable dark horse run which will have significant implications for the CWL standings in Ultimate. Depending on how Khami and his fellow rising stars parlay their online momentum into results next year, the community may eventually look back on it with even more significance.
Stoked about this win! Ness is sick https://t.co/uR86AHYheH— Khami (@xKhami) September 27, 2020