Zain "Zain" Naghmi conquered his demons when it mattered most and finally overcame Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma to capture his first major title at Shine 2018 on Sunday at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.
As Zain has climbed up the Super Smash Bros. Melee rankings this year, he's shown that he's more than capable of defeating the game's elite. However, at five separate tournaments, he's run up against the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of Hungrybox, the world No. 1 infamous for his oppressive Jigglypuff play. Seven times in a row, Zain tried to outmaneuver Hungrybox, and seven times, he failed.
But Zain, who is sponsored by Panda Global, managed to double-eliminate Team Liquid's marquee Melee player on Sunday.
In a rematch of their winners quarterfinals match at the preceding weekend's Super Smash Con, Zain consistently had Hungrybox on the back foot. The Virginia native controlled space with impeccably timed forward aerials and closed out stocks with perfectly executed pivot forward smashes.
Zain's victories in winners semifinals and grand final were reminiscent of Kevin "PewPewU" Toy's win over Hungrybox at Apex 2015 -- the Floridian's last loss to a Marth main -- but Zain took PewPewU's innovations to an unprecedented level and showed the Smash community just how Marth was meant to approach the Jigglypuff matchup.
Hungrybox wasn't the only member of Smash's "Five Gods" who Zain dispatched on his way to victory. Although Joseph "Mang0" Marquez made a valiant effort to secure the $50,000 pot bonus promised by Fortnite streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins in the event of his victory and defeated Justin "Plup" McGrath in winners semifinals, he fell to Zain in a 3-2 winners finals set before losing 3-0 to a fired-up Hungrybox in losers finals.
Plup also fell victim to Hungrybox's losers run and finished at a respectable fourth place after primarily using Samus in bracket. Plup and Hungrybox were joined in the top eight by another Floridian: Jason "Gahtzu" Diehl, a Captain Falcon main more famous prior to the event for his contributions to his character's metagame than his exploits as a competitor.
In Boston, Gahtzu rode a wave of particularly inspired play to make it into his first-ever major top eight. He finished fifth thanks to a 3-2 victory over Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni in the losers bracket.
Hungrybox, Plup and Gahtzu were all members of the stacked Floridian squad that topped Shine's crew battle bracket. However, their team featured another member whose glaring absence from the final eight was one of Shine's more unexpected results: Justin "Wizzrobe" Hallett. After entering Shine as the event's fourth seed, Wizzrobe lost mirror matches to both Edgard "n0ne" Sheleby and Johnny "S2J" Kim to finish at a disappointing ninth.
Wizzrobe's absence from the top eight surely allowed Zain to breathe more easily while on his path to victory. The two "demigods" have cultivated an electrifying rivalry this year, with Wizzrobe defeating Zain in three consecutive, grippingly close sets.
Although Shine was a disappointing tournament for Wizzrobe, it was a success for his fellow top-level Captain Falcon, S2J. After taking Hungrybox to the limit in winners bracket, S2J qualified for losers side of the top eight, where he defeated his doubles partner, Dajuan "Shroomed" McDaniel, before losing to Plup in an entertaining set that involved S2J spiking Plup through the floor of a glitched Pokémon Stadium to finish off the second game.
Shroomed's seventh-place finish was a return to form for the Sheik main, who tied with his former Northern California comrade SFAT after clutching out four consecutive Game 5 victories in a losers bracket run that featured wins over such talent as PewPewU, n0ne and Kalindi "KJH" Jabari Henderson.
Shine marks the end of a long and packed summer Smash season. For now, Melee's best and brightest will go home to lick their wounds and celebrate their victories. In a couple of months, they will reconvene once more for The Big House 8, the third and final Melee supermajor of the year.
And thanks to Zain's stunning achievement in Boston, there will be not six, but seven names in contention for the championship.