PG Zain ends Liquid's Hungrybox nine-event streak

The winning streak of Team Liquid’s Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma finally came to an end last night as Panda Global’s Zain "Zain" Naghmi took the title, in even more dominant fashion than his Shine 2018 victory over the Jigglypuff main. After defeating HBox in winners finals 3-2, Zain continued his good work in Grand Finals, winning 3-1 and making the world’s best player not only struggle in-game, but also visibly tilt during the set.

Zain’s signature low-risk, high-punish Marth play was the perfect answer to HBox’s turtle style when they met at Shine, and on this occasion the effectiveness of it was plain to see. The constant wall of hitboxes whenever HBox’s Puff tried to approach meant the neutral was a nightmare for the world number one, who may have come into the tournament with more on his mind than usual. The loss ends a run of nine consecutive tournament wins, stretching back into last year.

The key to the victory, according to Zain, was scouting out HBox’s use of Pound around the side platforms, although the fact he was willing to reveal that in interviews suggests it is far from the secret to his success. As stated earlier, the neutral exchanges between the two went heavily in the younger player’s favour, with the Puff player seemingly unable to get in for long periods and taking heavy damage as a result of his efforts.

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This is of course fairly ironic, given HBox’s penchant for tactical play and gamesmanship, but Zain even managed to play ‘lame’ in a more interesting fashion than HBox, springing into attack at a moment’s notice and executing some seemingly airtight throw combo punishes, as well as his usual array of stylish edge-cancels and pivot tippers.

Stream numbers were not as impressive as they might otherwise have been, due to the decision to relegate the Grand Finals of Melee to the Polarity stream while VGBootCamp ran top 64 of Ultimate on their main channel. Anyone who remembers Project M will know VGBC are never shy of emulating Zain and pivoting to a more profitable position at a moment’s notice, but it was disappointing to see such paltry support after Melee’s long hiatus.

The loss comes on the back of the incident at Melee Major Pound, where HBox defeated Cloud9’s Joseph ‘Mango’ Marquez in Grand Finals, and a crab was thrown at him in the immediate aftermath. According to reports, the thrower has been banned from all future Smash events, but the aftermath appears to have taken a toll on the embattled world number one, who will no doubt want to bounce back as soon as possible, as he always does.