10. Chu Dat
No. of years ranking in the Top 10 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 6 (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012)
No. of years ranking in the Top 5 of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 4 (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 0
No. of titles: 1 (Pound 2)
If I told you there was a non-god player that managed to end a year as Top 10 in RetroSSBMRank six times, who else would you think of? Chu Dat and fellow HY2L member Azen are the only non-god players that have done this. Moreover, Chu is the only Melee player in the game’s history to go from being Top 10 in 2008 to returning to the same status in 2012, four non-consecutive years later, per RetroSSBMRank.
Fun fact about a man that basically everyone unquestionably holds as the godfather of the Ice Climbers meta: one of his first impressive set victories came while playing Fox, in his victory over Azen at a local in late 2002-early 2003. While this victory is somewhat ironic, given Azen’s later dominance in the head to head over his Ice Climbers counterpart (Chu went 5-13 vs. Azen from 2002 to 2008, per Smash History databases for each year) it also shows that for his time, Chu had enough base fundamentals to compete with several characters. Check out this clip of him playing with one hand – and going close with an up and coming Samus main of his time (albeit around when he started playing). You might have heard of him before.
Training with the likes of Azen and Chillin in MD/VA for a while, Chu quickly showed that his skill level wasn’t something to scoff at. At DC Super Smash #2, notably the first tournament to feature the best members of the New York City crew Deadly Alliance, Chu finished fourth – but only after a controversial sudden death loss to Wes, when despite holding a percent advantage over the DA Samus legend, TO M3D made the two to play out the Sudden Death, which Wes won. Nonetheless, out of 42 entrants, Chu Dat’s fourth place made the H2YL stand out as a contender for No. 2 in his region behind Azen.
2004, however, was Chu’s national breakout year. After starting the year with an alright ninth place at Game Over, what many people consider to be one of the first premier tournaments ever, Chu destroyed the West Coast at Tournament Go 6, finishing third place at what was the biggest tournament ever at the time. Were it not for Captain Jack, who double eliminated him, Chu might have had one of the most remarkable major runs of his era, defeating Wes, Isai (twice) and even the PNW Peach legend Sastopher: in a matchup that people considered impossible. While other Ice Climbers players certainly existed at the time (shout out to Azn Lep), Chu’s performance at TG6 singlehandedly brought the once-unremarkable duo to the forefront of tier list reconsideration.
If 2004 was Chu’s breakout, 2005 was likely his prime. Finishing off the previous year with a three-way tie for first at Gettin’ Schooled (with Azen and Mike G), Chu finished fourth or higher at every tournament he entered until December (MLG Chicago 2005), winning BOMB 3, MLG Nashville 2005 and BOMB 4. With Azen not competing as seriously any more and Chillin getting inconsistent placings relative to his perceived skill level, Chu was the clear top dog on the East Coast now, finishing as high as No. 2 in 2005’s RetroSSBMRank. Say what you want about his odd personality, but the results don’t lie.
For the next two and a half years, Chu remained a threat at every national he entered, placing in the top eight of each one he went to. During this period of time, Chu never got back to the same level of being a contender for being the best player in the world, but he was always a threat to beat anyone. For example, along with winning Pound 2, from the start of 2006 to the end of 2007, Chu held a combined 19-6 record against Mew2King (12-4) and KoreanDJ (7-2), going undefeated (11-0) against the two rising stars of the East Coast in 2006 before still holding a positive record against the two in 2007. For reference, Mango over the last two years holds a slightly worse spread against Westballz and Plup (19-8).
To begin the post-Brawl era, Chu finished fifth at the year’s sole national in Pound 3, defeating players like Hax, Forward, Wobbles, Silent Wolf and Darkrain – a plethora of opponents from different regions and generations that still couldn’t topple the longtime ICs god. Though Chu occasionally lost locally, partially due to the game not being taken as seriously after its sequel came out, he still had a stellar performance at The Greatest Tourney Since Brawl Came Out, where he beat players like Cactuar, Hungrybox, Jman and Eggm, before splitting first place with Mew2King.
The next year, in 2009, Chu beat Hungrybox two more times, also placing fifth at Revival of Melee (along with beating Cort and DaShizWiz), third at Apex 2009 and fifth at HERB2, before taking a long break from playing Melee seriously. For the most part, Chu stayed quiet, playing locally (but not too seriously), occasionally showing up to majors, making Top 32 in Melee, and playing a lot of Brawl. At Apex 2012, Chu suddenly finished a lowly 33rd – but suddenly the legend had a rebirth.
Chu ran a train through his opponents at Zenith 2012, defeating Chops, Jman and Hungrybox yet again, only losing to Mew2King and Dr. PeePee. This might sound like a one tourney fluke, but it wasn’t – at Aposl’s Birthday Bash, reportedly beat Mew2King so badly that he forfeited his losers match to Cactuar. Chu was the only non-god player of 2012 to defeat two gods in the year, cementing his status as No. 9 in 2012’s RetroSSBMRank, even if he occasionally had local losses to Chillin and others.
Even in the post-EVO, post-documentary era of Melee, Chu still holds a moderate level of success. Along with holding another set over Mew2King and having an impressive seventh-place underdog run at EVO 2015, Chu has been ranked 22nd, 32nd and 35th over the last three years in SSBMRank – and he could be Top 25 in 2016. He’s no longer the national dark horse threat he was when younger, but consider that Chu is the only Ice Climbers in Melee history to ever take a game off Armada’s Peach in tournament, since Armada’s rise to godhood. Is it proof on its own that Chu is a Top Ten player ever? Certainly not, but it also illustrates perhaps Chu’s biggest strength as a player: his portability and levels of sustained relevance throughout a decade’s worth of playing.
What stops Chu from being any higher on my list? It’s a slightly unfair answer, given how there were still less overall nationals back in his prime, but Pound 2 is the only tournament that Chu Dat won that fits my title criteria. For a player who was top five for long, winning only one title arguably hurts his legacy in comparison to his peers.
This is like if there was a tennis player that consistently got to the semifinals or finals of a Grand Slam over four years, but ended up with one title. In a weird way, Chu’s status as a gatekeeper to the top echelon of players shows consistency, but also highlights that he never was considered unquestionably the best player in the world at a given time, though he was considered No. 2 by the Smash Panel Power Rankings at some point in 2006.
Will Chu ever win another national? Probably not, but as the forefather of a character’s meta, a member of the “gods” of his own era and as a dangerous player to look out for even a decade after he started playing, Chu truly has an irreplaceable legacy and is my pick for No. 10 of all time.
Let me know what you think on Twitter (@ssbmjecht) and give a follow, if you’d like to support Smash History! Did Chu get snubbed? Is he ranked too high? Who do you think will be next on the list? Tune in later this week to find out!