Japanese Super Smash Bros. player Sota “Zackray” Okada broke down in tears after his first-ever Premier tournament win at The Big House 9 on October 6.
The 17-year-old, who currently represents GameWith, has been competing in Smash since early 2017, getting his start on the Wii U edition of Super Smash Bros. He briefly switched to Melee in July 2018, but the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in December 2018 saw him transition to the Switch-exclusive title.
Smash Ultimate is where Zackray has seen most of his success thus far, with tournament wins and individual match victories against some of the most notorious Smash Ultimate players such as Team Liquid’s Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby and NRG Esports’ Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada.
The Big House 9 represented the last Premier tournament of 2019, the prestige of which is matched by very few others. For many player, it was the last chance to prove that they are one of the world’s best players before the year ends, and earn themselves a tasty prize payout in the process.
Zackray came out with the win after a grueling weekend in which he fought through the loser’s bracket, beating Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey twice in the earlier rounds – both in 3-2 scorelines – before taking down Nairo, Enrique “Maister” Hernández Solís and Dabuz to win the tournament.
Zackray looked comfortable throughout most of the tournament, even in his close matches against Tweek, and this showed through his diverse character pool. By the end of the tournament, he had added Wolf, Mr. Game and Watch, Corrin and Sonic to his usual R.O.B. and Joker picks.
Of the top 12 players, Zackray used more characters than any of the other players – altering his choices based on who he was playing, who he felt would be better at the time and who he felt more comfortable with. This isn’t commonly seen at the top level of Smash, but Zackray exhibited his pool of characters perfectly.
As soon as the word “GAME” appeared on screen, a look of pure elation crossed the face of Zackray, while opponent Dabuz stood in disbelief, unable to believe he had lost two consecutive match-ups to the 17-year-old. With relief on his face, Zackray turned to face the jubilant crowd, bursting into tears as the magnitude of his accomplishment, and the celebrations from the audience, swept over him.
Though Zackray has seen a lot of success in Smash Ultimate, it hasn’t been an easy run, and his first Premier win is unlikely to be one he will ever forget. In his tweets following the event, Zackray credited his training partners from home – Shuriton and Kirihara – rounding it off with a simple: “I won Big House!”
You can understand why Zackray was so emotional following his win. To fight at the top level for so long, and to finally get a win in one of the biggest tournaments of the year, must be an unparalleled feeling to competitors.