StarCraft II returned to Katowice, Poland for three whole days to hold the World Championships for IEM Season VIII. This time around, there was a lot more at stake.
The winner of the whole tournament stood to take the entire $100,000 prize pool home, which meant that there was bound to be more cutthroat StarCraft II action to end this season for IEM.
Sixteen players have qualified for this event, and sixteen more were set to fight for spots through the open bracket. There was no room for mercy this time around, it was winner takes all.
The day before the event itself saw some good action and even some heroics through the double-elimination open bracket. It had 11 European players, with 9 Polish players, against 5 Korean players to see who gets a chance to compete in the main bracket in the event itself.
The standout in the open bracket was definitely mouz.HasuObs, who defeated three straight Zergs, namely Acer.ParanOid, yoeFW.Leenock, and EG.Jaedong, with smart and strategic play. Many would think that the battle of attrition would be against Protoss when Swarm Hosts come out to play, but HasuObs showed both patience and exemplary use of air units to win out in the end. But then again, the long games did show once again the effect of Swarm Hosts in any ZvP.
HasuObs would later be defeated by Roccat.HyuN and his teammate mouz.Dear, both of whom qualified for the main tournament. HyuN was able to qualify without dropping a single map, while Dear came back from the lower bracket after losing to HyuN in the semifinal.
Main Elimination Bracket (Ro16)
The first Ro16 match was between CJ.herO and HyuN to start off the second day of the event. After a much contested PvZ, which included some heated exchanges between the two, it came down to the last map on Frost where herO was able to pull through with a stunning finish and take out his Zerg opponent in a 3-2 series.
It was then a mirror match between PvP strongman San and the Boss Toss MC, wherein both players traded games with aggressive builds in the first two games. San was able to take the third game in Polar Night, then was able to hold a blink stalker assault by MC with an immortal-backed defense to mount a counterattack in the fourth game that sealed the deal and gave San the win with a 3-1 score.
The third match was met with a good bit of anticipation as it was CMStorm.Polt versus Alliance.NaNiwa, the latter of which has been sending some mixed signals with his recent dismal performance in WCS Europe and his hints on retirement. The fans’ fears were confirmed as NaNiwa entered the stage rather awkwardly, went for an unsuccessful proxy gate on the first game, then forfeited the rest of the match, letting Polt take the easy win after just a single game. After being booed off stage, the Swede would later blame it on bad soundproofing throwing him off, but IEM admin would later respond with the contrary.
Once that disappointment was past, there was another PvP between Liquid`HerO against mouz.Dear, and they did put up a show. The first two games were mostly evenly matched, and both players took a point each. But by the third game though, Dear started to get his bearings and beat HerO to the punch, letting him take two straight games to move on with a 3-1 win.
Then it was a TvP between Liquid`TaeJa and mYi.StarDust, in which the Protoss took the early 2-0 before the Liquid ace pulled off a complete reversal to take the series 3-2. After that was Oz and JinAir.sOs in yet another PvP, which saw the WCS 2013 World Champion master his opponent, who is known to be quite strong in this mirror matchup.
Former GSL champion mYi.jjakji battled against CMStorm.Revival in a hard-fought TvZ, including a long Mech versus SH/Muta game in Heavy Rain. After that meatgrinder, it went down to the last map on Daedalus Point, wherein Revival would gain a lead, but then lose it to have jjakji rally back and take the win in a 3-2 series.
Day 2 began with the last Ro16 match, which was a ZvZ between JinAir.Rogue and StarTale.Life, which the former GSL Royal Roader was able to win convincingly in a 3-1 series.
After Ro16 was officially concluded, the quarterfinals commenced with a hot PvP between CJ.herO and San, both of whom showed just how exciting this mirror match could get.
First up was a PvP between herO and San that seemed like a reversal of fortune for the latter, who had crushed MC the day before in a 3-1 series. This time though, it was herO who would 3-1 him by making less mistakes and capitalizing on key opportunities. In the final game, San took a lead but he then overextended, which let herO rally back to end the series then and there.
Polt versus Dear was yet another crowd-pleasing TvP, with the WCS America representative taking the fight to Dear up to the very last game. The mousesports Protoss took the first game with blink stalker timing, then Polt took the second with methodical bio-mine play and the third with a good early reaper harass into a well-timed drop in the Protoss main. The famed Protoss killer would then put Dear out for good in the final game with his standard yet effective TvP play.
The third match had some really entertaining matches as sOs showed his world champion caliber against jjakji in a PvT tilt. The series showed different ways to dismantle Terran, right down to the late game with mass Carriers. The Jin Air Green Wings Protoss won sensationally with a 3-0 over his opponent.
Finally, it was TaeJa against Life in an eventful TvZ tilt. Life would use his signature ling-bane-muta into ultra style to some effect, but could not connect with banelings and do lasting damage with mutas. Even his higher tier units wouldn’t be able to break past the Terran bio. He would also make mistakes like exploding all of his banelings accidentally in the first game that lost him an opportunity to do massive damage.
After that really good TvZ series, TaeJa was able to pull through and the last Zerg of the tournament has been eliminated.
It has now boiled down to two Terran versus Protoss match-ups, so the finals will either be another TvP or a mirror match.
The first match between CJ.herO and Polt was an excellent PvT with each player going back and forth, with herO winning the first and third games, while Polt won the second and fourth. It then boiled down to Daedalus Point in the final game, and herO made sure to tie up loose ends this time around to move on to the grand finals after a tough 3-2 series.
The second semifinal match was between the most consistent Terran of HotS against the unorthodox Protoss. TaeJa versus sOs saw the first two games go to each of them. Then in the third game at Daedalus Point, sOs took precedence and went in with a blink build that TaeJa prepared for, but still couldn’t defend against. After that, sOs was able to put up the exclamation point in Frost to be the second grand finalist.
Almost every Protoss versus Terran series in this event has involved blink all-ins, averaging at 67% effectiveness (click here for more data). Liquid`HerO himself exclaimed in Twitter just how much blink timings were too effective against Terran. Whether this is a game balance issue or a map balance issue is still hotly debated.
After being eliminated, TaeJa hinted on retirement on Twitter, most likely due to the worsening condition of his wrists.
The final day for StarCraft II kicked off with the spotlight on the two Protoss players. CJ Entus stalwart herO has won two IEM tournaments this season and could go for a hat trick, while Jin Air Green Wings ace sOs could take another world title.
It had all boiled down to a PvP final, which has had a history of cheese and psych-outs in premiere tournaments over the years. This was no exception as it was actually a very quick series, with sOs knowing perfectly well what he had to do to beat CJ.herO in this Bo7.
The first game in Yeonsu saw sOs go for a gambit by covertly sending a probe into his opponent’s main base, then building a pylon and two gateways. It was such a risky move, but it paid off big time as herO neglected to scout his own base. The zealots then came in and made all hell break loose. While herO did his best to hold, he couldn’t stem the tide of zealots and stalkers coming from sOs.
Now that sOs had his quick win, perhaps it was time for a steady macro game that could show herO’s caliber this time around. However, sOs showed that he was an even bigger gambler than most would have thought, or he knew exactly how to play mind games in such an important series. It was another 2-player map in Heavy Rain, and he did the same thing as the first game, which herO wasn’t able to find out in time yet again. Perhaps it was a scientific way to play a PvP final as the result proved to be repeatable.
With herO now paranoid, he probe scouted early to not get caught again, then went for an early twilight council into dark shrine. Once sOs saw dark templars right at his doorstep, he wasted little time in moving on as he knew that he was caught flatfooted. The series was then 2-1, with herO having a shot at coming back from a deficit.
In Game 4, the map was the 4-player Alterzim Stronghold, so some macro play could be expected. This time, sOs goes for a Nexus first to kickstart his economy double time. CJ.herO went for an early twilight council for blink timing. CJ.herO went in for the attack, but sOs had an immortal out and was able to hold before mounting a counterattack. Despite having sentries to defend his ramp, CJ.herO soon had a warp prism dropping enemy units in his base and he soon tapped out. This got sOs to match point with the series at 3-1.
With one win away and the fifth map being in Habitation Station, things were going to happen really fast. herO tried his hand at a cheese to salvage his winning chances with a one-gate proxy at his opponent’s natural. When sOs was able to scout it, the gateway was already making a zealot. But since it wasn’t as much of an all-in as a 2-gate proxy, he was unsuccessful at dealing major damage. That’s when sOs immediately went for a counterattack with stalkers and was able to break through. herO gg’d out. The series ended at 4-1.
Having secured his victory, sOs rushed out of his booth and grabbed the trophy in jubilation. He was then given the $100,000 check and another world championship.
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