What caused PG | Zain's Smash Summit level-up to be the biggest of all time?

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Zain “Zain” Naghmi was no slouch before entering Smash Summit 6 Spring 2018 power rankings on the strength of a series of top-level wins. Only a few weeks ago, Melee Stats placed the edge-cancelling Marth main at 13th on their Winter 2017. However, Zain underperformed at the tournament immediately proceeding Smash Summit, finishing 7th at Flatiron 3 with losses to James “Swedish Delight” Liu and Kevin “PewPewU” Toy.  Despite his national-level success, Zain still struggled with top players such as Arjun “lloD” Malhotra in his home region of MD/VA.

At last weekend’s Pound Underground, the Panda Global-sponsored Zain showed that the Summit fires had forged him into an even stronger competitor than before. Where previously he had struggled, Zain excelled, taking the entire MD/VA major without losing a set and handing his local rival lloD two '3-0's in Winner’s Finals and Grand Finals. While past MD/VA luminaries like Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez faltered, Zain emerged from Pound Underground as his region’s clear No. 1.

 Zain is far from the only player to receive an infusion of skill after attending the invitational; notably, Swedish Delight became a top-20 player after competing in the first Smash Summit. However, many players have seen a decline after Smash Summit—such as Alex “Alex19” Ruvalcaba or Eric “ESAM” Lew—and others have faded out of competition entirely, like Jason “Infinite Numbers” Gauthier (who has since returned to competition with a different main and tag).

What about Zain made the Summit experience was so valuable for him? My answer is simple: his rock-solid fundamentals. While other players might benefit from the Summit meat-grinder as a way to shore up fundamentals such as spacing, punishes, and advanced techs, Zain already had those parts of his game down pat going into the Summit. As commentator Bobby Scar said on the Summit couch, “he’s beating the best players in the world with fundamentals.”

Since he didn't need to develop his fundamentals any further, I posit that Zain was able to use his time in the Summit house to push into the more unexplored areas of his game, learning matchup-specific techniques that helped bring him to the next level. Notably, Zain played copious friendlies with Adam “Armada” Lindgren, the best Peach main in the world; it only makes sense that such an experience would help him deliver such a dominant victory over lloD at Pound Underground. While other competitors have benefited from the Summit in the past, none had been equipped to do so quite as well as Zain.