No. 11 Cinderella Run of All-Time: Jiano at Pound 2

Pound is one of Super Smash Bros. Melee’s most iconic tournament series. Although it’s not as big today, back in the post-MLG era, it was one of the East Coast’s premier majors, playing a huge role in shaping player legacies.

Held in 2007, about a year after its predecessor, a Maryland tourney won by ChuDat over NEO, Pound 2 had more than three times as many entrants and a $5,000 pot prize. There were also quite a few out-of-region attendees at Pound 2, with notable players from New England, the Midwest, Tri-State and Florida competing.

Among specific players in attendance at Pound 2 were the returning Mew2King, the MLG Las Vegas 2006 champion in PC Chris, Drephen, Cort, Tink, Taj, Forward, DaShizWiz and, save for Azen, all of MD/VA’s heavy hitters. The time was ripe for one of these players to rise above everyone else or at least break out in the next tier of play. Yet contrary to what most people expected, one name rose above everyone else.

Jiano was a solid, but nowhere near nationally notable Captain Falcon from Kentucky. Back then, the Midwest was the land of five rulers: Darkrain, Drephen, Tink, Vidjogamer and Dope. If you weren’t a member of these five, you were either past your prime – or worse, nobody.

In fact, to start 2007, Jiano was actually ranked No. 13 within the entire Midwest. Had Pound 2 used only one large bracket (instead of two waves of round robin pools), you could have easily argued that he wouldn’t have been worthy of being seeded in the top twenty, let alone top ten of the tournament. For reference, Jiano finished 25th at MLG Chicago 2006, the last significant major he entered.

Given that Jiano wasn’t even in the top ten of the Midwest, had no remarkable performances of note and how he was playing at a premier tournament in one of the world’s most stacked Melee regions, placing something like 25th or 33rd would have been impressive enough. Jiano, however, had other ideas.

After making it to top 64, he started the run of his life. Initially defeating the solid Florida Marth QDVS, Jiano then played an even better Marth in Husband: a longtime scene veteran.

Although he wasn’t among the H2YL elite, Husband was no slouch. He finished fifth at Cataclysm 3 and ninth at the similarly stacked MLG Long Island 2007, having the experience and nerves to do well at large tournaments. Even if Jiano outplaced him at the Midwest regional Show Me Your Moves 7, this time, Husband was the one with home region advantage.

Nonetheless, Jiano ended up in winners quarters, having already garnered a bit of attention for defeating Husband. His next opponent was one of New England’s best in Cort, a Connecticut Peach who boasted numerous placings and set wins in his career. Among the people he had wins over were DaShizWiz, Wife, Cactuar, ChuDat and PC Chris. Fresh off fourth place at EVO East, Cort would have been reasonably expected as the favorite.

In hindsight, Jiano winning wasn’t necessarily a surprise. He had experience against Peach players in his region, like Vidjogamer. Cort had little Captain Falcon experience, save for perhaps KoreanDJ or PC Chris’ secondary Falcons. Either way beating Cort gave Jiano his best out-of-region victory, along with an entry into Pound 2’s top eight.

Suddenly, Jiano, someone who might have just been known as “the Midwest Falcon that isn’t Darkrain,” was in the top eight of one of the biggest Melee tournaments ever. His next opponent was arguably his hardest one yet: Chillindude829, one of MD/VA’s most vocal players, its biggest leader and one of its elite three.

Although his quality of wins and losses were fairly up and down throughout his career, Chillin had lately been on an upwards trend, having even defeated Isai in the year. If he beat Jiano and played ChuDat in winners finals, as many might have predicted, Chillin could have been in grand finals, ready to win his first ever supermajor. Instead, Jiano played spoiler.

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For someone who was considered “darkrain junior,” Jiano had made it further than any of his Midwest contemporaries. Having defeated Chillin, Cort and Husband, Jiano was now in winners finals, ready to play against ChuDat, MD/VA’s last standing barrier between Jiano and grand finals. To quote an MLG article from back then, “the winners bracket final was so unexpected that when told Chillin had lost to Jiano, ChuDat had to ask whom he played.”

Although ChuDat ended up winning their set, anyone who considers themselves a “smash historian” should absolutely watch the set online. After getting four-stocked in its first game, Jiano took game two, lost game three and made a three stock comeback in game four to tie the set at 2-2. In game five, Jiano once again almost overcame a significant deficit, bringing the set to last stock. Had he not missed an otherwise easy knee after a confirmed stomp on Nana, he could have easily won the set and made it to grand finals.

Though Jiano ended up losing 3-1 to Mew2King in losers finals, he had already vastly exceeded expectations. After quietly finishing the year, “regressing” to his average level of play from before, Jiano began playing more Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii games. Today, he’s known for his history of speedrunning Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Looking back at Pound 2,  Jiano probably had the biggest disparity between his actual placing and how he was “expected” to do in bracket. It’s also interesting that in the post-Isai era of Captain Falcon mains, which included players like SilentSpectre and Darkrain, Jiano held the best supermajor placing by a Captain Falcon main. Until 2017’s Smash Rivalries, no Captain Falcon main had a better supermajor placing than Jiano’s third at Pound 2.

It’s easy to attribute much of Jiano’s success here to bracket luck, due to PC Chris, ChuDat and Mew2King being seeded on the same side of Top 64 bracket (due to ChuDat losing in pools, he gained a low seed). But either way,  getting third isn’t bad for a guy known more for speedrunning than smash.

 

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