The latest tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee, hosted by the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo in Toronto, has drawn to a close. Despite all attempts at an upset by top players such as Cloud 9’s Joseph “mang0” Marquez, Tempo Storm’s Jeffrey “Axe” Williamson, and COG MVG’s Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, Liquid’s Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, the famed Jigglypuff main, emerged victorious. Dropping only three games the entire tournament, one to Tempo Storm’s Dennis “Westballz” Weston and the other two to Mew2King, Hungrybox ended strongly with a crushing 3-0 victory over mang0. Having placed first in both the PAX Arena tournament in January, and in Pound VI the first week of April, Hungrybox now has three championship titles under his belt for 2016.
While Hungrybox continues to outperform the rest of the Five Gods, the player who many refer to as the Sixth God, TSM’s William “Leffen” Hjelte, fell short of both his own expectations and those of his fans. He climbed to Top 8, after being knocked into the Losers’ bracket by Axe in a close 3-2 series. However, he met his match in James “Duck” Ma, a Samus main; Duck took advantage of Leffen’s weakness in a Samus-Fox matchup, sending Leffen home in a 3-1 series. His defeat against Duck earned him a tie for 7th place. Though this is surely a disappointing finish for the top player whom many consider to be the “villain” of the Melee scene, it is not entirely unexpected.
Late last year, Leffen’s ability to compete was restricted due to his visa being denied, preventing him from entering the United States. A recent application for a worker’s visa has also been denied, prompting the Twitter movement #FreeLeffen and a petition, which is being pushed by his sponsor, Red Bull. It is not clear whether this will have any sort of impact on a reversal of this decision by the U.S. government, but the hashtag has spread like wildfire throughout the Melee side of twitter. A video of Leffen reading his rejection letter from the Citizenship and Immigration Services was also uploaded on the Red Bull eSports channel. Since this visa issue emerged, Leffen has only competed in a small handful of tournaments in Europe.
With not much competition besides fellow Swede and Smash God Adam “Armada” Lindgren for the past six months, it makes sense for Leffen’s performance to be less than optimal. The majority of the Melee scene resides in the States, and training in Netplay and with Armada can only bring about so much improvement in the matchups Leffen struggles against the most, particularly Samus. There are not many prominent Samus players in the EU, leaving Leffen with few options for improving his Samus-Fox matchup. The lack of preparation clearly showed in his series against Duck, which culminated in a frustrated Leffen giving up his final stock with a side-B self-destruct off Pokemon Stadium.
Soon after being eliminated, Leffen took to twitter to vent.
Gah, I can't concentrate at all.
— leffen (@TSM_Leffen) May 1, 2016
Gotta get used to the tournament feeling again asap
— leffen (@TSM_Leffen) May 1, 2016
Many more posts, all very melodramatic, have since been deleted, with Leffen claiming he needs to learn to control himself after a loss. They suggested Leffen was questioning his own self-worth after such a demoralizing defeat. However, he reached the conclusion that he will “come back from all this…no, I’ll make myself a way back.”
With the petition for Leffen reaching 20,000 signatures in a mere two days, the Melee scene will hopefully see him returning to the States. As of late, the scene has become dominated by Hungrybox and Armada, and needs another player like Leffen to return to the level of play he had reached around September of 2015. His last event in the States, HTC Throwdown, saw him defeat Hungrybox in the Grand Finals 3-0. Had Leffen been able to continue competing, it is highly possible he could’ve reached official God status.
Despite this seven month setback, Leffen still has the potential and drive to reach new heights. If his visa issue manages to be resolved, we could very well see him competing this July at EVO, which he has pledged to win.