The year was 2014 and Justice 4, a New York regional tournament, had just finished. Adam “Armada” Lindgren, won the tournament without any surprise, as it had no other “Gods” of Super Smash Bros Melee present, and the top eight consisted of the regular faces you might see at a New York tournament.
But it was an important tournament for anyone who has watched Aziz “Hax$” Al-Yami’s career. The fact that Hax took the best Melee player in the world to Game 5, with Fox, was a great sign for the future Smash career of a player previously known for being the best Captain Falcon player in the world. Hax was beginning to be seen as the prime innovator for the Fox metagame, and though Hax was no “God” just yet, it seemed it was only a matter of time before his name was right next to Armada and the other elites.
For a few reasons, however, it simply hasn’t happened.
The year is 2008 and a young 13-year-old, up-and-coming Captain Falcon player named Hax had just placed ninth at Pound 3. A year later, Hax took fourth at Apex 2009, solidifying himself as a top player, and possibly the best Captain Falcon player in the world.
In 2012, at still just 17 years old, Hax placed seventh at Apex, placing much higher than any other Captain Falcon player, and sixth in MELEE-FC10R Legacy, beating David “Darkrain” John 3-2, solidifying Hax’s title as the best Captain Falcon player in the world.
At that point, however, Hax seemed to decide Captain Falcon was too limited and not strong enough to use if he would become a top player. It set the stage for a change that would elevate his career.
The defining tournament
The year is 2015, the largest all encompassing Super Smash Bros tournament, Apex 2015, has begun. Hax was coming off a great ending to 2014, closing off the year with first place finishes at Do You Fox Wit It? and KTAR XI. He had his highest spot in Melee It On Me’s yearly rankings that year, too, at eighth.
The unexpected happened at Apex: Hax dropped out of the tournament, placing 33rd with a DQ. Apex could have been the tournament of Hax’s life. There was the sentiment going in that this could have been the moment he ascended to the Pantheon, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Hax initially said that he dropped out because of wrist pain but later revealed other serious problems were affecting him. Ever since March 2014, Hax said that he has suffered from extreme insomnia, especially on days where he had to perform in tournaments.
“Not exaggerating when I say that I spent 72 hours awake in a row at MLG, EVO, and TBH4,”he wrote. “At CEO 2014 I stayed awake in bed the one night I was there so I just changed my ticket and flew home the next day. At Apex 2015, I played it off as though I didn’t enter because of my hand problems because I didn’t feel like explaining things.”
The crippling pursuit of perfection
The year is 20xx, where everyone plays Fox. The classic meme, created by Hax himself, became more than just a meme; it became a mindset. For the uninformed, 20xx is originally a phrase from the Mega Man franchise, where the world takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting. In the SSBM 20xx, everyone plays Fox to a TAS (tool assisted speedrun) level, where the game is decided by which player gets port priority, hence putting immense importance on the Rock Paper Sissors game to decide who gets port priority. In the year 20xx, no one even plays Melee anymore, and Rock Paper Scissors is now all the rage.
While the meme might be funny, to Hax, perfection was is the main goal. 20xx is perfection.
“I’m going for the perfect option. That is why you see me multishine grabbing, that is perfect Fox shield pressure,“ Hax said after Justice 4 in 2014. “2014 is about perfection.”
Trying to acquire perfection comes with its consequences. In his journey to become the perfect Fox, Hax has acquired insomnia to the point of where he had to take a long break from the game. The bright outlook for his future entering 2014 has dimmed. Significantly.
The stunted recovery
After Apex 2015, Hax took a hiatus and eventually had surgery on his hand. He made a short return in 2015 to play at Super Nebulous 3, and played in a few other tournaments throughout the year. But he was not the same.
Hax announced a second hiatus but would soon return to the game shortly afterward, explaining that his wrist pain would hopefully be cured after a second surgery. He still attends local New York tournaments. He recently he placed third at Shots Fired 2 and took third at Super Nebulous 4, notably placing over Weston “Westballz” Dennis and Ryan “The Moon” Coker-Welch.
But things didn’t seem bright for the immediate future for Hax, as he said in a recent interview at Super Nebulous 4, that his insomnia isn’t going away. He plans on taking a break from major tournaments to maintain his pride until his insomnia gets cured:
“It’s not worth the money. It’s worth my pride,” he said. “I don’t play this game for the money, I play it to be the best in the world. I know I can be the best in the world if I can get past this (insomnia).”
For now, however, his story is one of what could have been. At 21, his career is far from over, but every roadblock has surely been frustrating. Still, counting him out completely might be a mistake, and only time will tell what happens if and when his ailments are solved. After all, he’s still Hax F***ing Money.