Live Interview: “LeeSsang Blues” by Jaedong and Flash
“LeeSsang” is not a term that is reserved just for show business; it is a term that is used in the world of E-sports also. Jaedong and Flash are in many ways just as famous as Gil, one of more noticeable faces of Korean television and a member of the noted Korean hip-hop group “LeeSsang”. Followers of the Starcraft pro-gaming scene have grouped Jaedong and Flash together as “LeeSsang” due to their identical surnames, and have christened their showdowns against one another as the “LeeSsang-rok”.
How do we do justice to their rivalry? Perhaps it can be compared to the rivalry between Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Mardid. Or the one that exists in the world of boxing between Emmanuel Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Followers of K-pop may draw comparisons with the rivalry that exists between SNSD and WonderGirls, whereas movie-goers might do the same for the Korean heart-throbs Jang Dong Gun and Lee Byung Hun; as if anyone needed a reminder that the rivalry between Jaedong and Flash is one of epic proportions.
“Taek-Beng-LeeSsang” is a term that was created fairly recently by the fans of E-Sports also. “LeeSsang”, for Jaedong and Flash. “Taek-Beng” for Bisu and Stork. These four players have superseded the original Four Kings (Boxer, Yellow, Nada and Reach) of the pro-gaming world, as the pinnacle of the scene thanks to their talents and popularity amongst the fans. “LeeSsang” have been outshining the “Taek-Beng” duo in various competitions for quite some time now, and their never-ending struggle for power as the representatives of their respective race is reminiscent to most hyped conflict in the history of the scene; the “Lim-Jin-rok”.
Let us remind ourselves of how great these two players are; Jaedong has three OGN Starleague titles and two MSL titles to his name. In the Proleague, he has started off his career by gaining the “Rookie of the Season” award, and has finished off last season as the “Player with the Most Number of Victories”. Flash is no different in this respect, sharing the very same award with Jaedong that season, and is no stranger to individual league success by any means with two OGN Starleague titles under his belt. Jaedong has a tendency to rewrite history with mind-boggling records such as being the first player to have won more than one hundred Kespa-sanctioned matches in a single year, and being the youngest winner of the Golden Mouse. Flash has his fair share of records that are likely to be never broken such as being the youngest winner of an individual league and being the youngest player to have won one hundred Proleague matches.
It was not an easy task getting these two players together. There have been multiple attempts to interview them in a casual setting, but the schedule demands for these two were far too overwhelming. The perfect opportunity arose on the 20th of this very month due to the day being devoid of any Proleague schedule. We decided to do the interview on the basis that both players had no matches to prepare for that day apart from the MSL finals, from which we were taking an equal amount of practice time.
The MSL finals took place on the 23rd with Jaedong claiming a 3:1 victory. It would have nice for this interview to have been done after the finals had taken place, but we can’t ask for it all. We were more than satisfied to have heard from these two about their thoughts on various subjects. We would like to stress again that this interview had taken place three days before the NATE MSL finals.
Jaedong-Flash: We just met
This interview took place in a family restaurant in the Gangnam, Seoul. Flash was in his casual clothing, whereas Jaedong wore his uniform to the interview. Jaedong changed into his more casual clothing in order to match the overall relaxed atmosphere of the interview. We felt that we had our priorities right when we decided to fill out stomachs before anything. Everyone was busy filling up their dishes, recommending each other their favourite dishes available in the buffet.
Things were no different back in the table. Flash recommended several menus of his choice to Jaedong, commenting how delicious they were, which Jaedong readily accepted. The rumours of the two being on friendly terms with one another were not false. For that moment, at least, they were just two kids of similar age, not fierce rivals for the throne of the top dog. There were no signs or hints of the deathly stares the two were prone to making when they play on the stage. This interview started off on a very light note with everyone content with full stomachs.
Q: Is this the first time the two of you met in such a setting? How does it feel?
Jaedong: Is this the first time?
Flash: We’ve met recently. What with the interviews and the filming for the MSL finals.
Jaedong: We’ve met before, not counting our encounters on stage of course, and it feels pretty much the same.
Flash: Yeah, it’s pretty much the same.
Q: You two are known for being close, but Jaedong looks uncomfortable.
Jaedong: I usually talk a lot. (to Flash) I do, don’t I? I just find it difficult situations like these, I’m too conscious of it all.
Q: How are things going for you recently?
Flash: I had a match yesterday, and before that I’ve been occupied with OGN Starleague, MSL and Proleague schedules. How long will this interview take? OGN is filming something and I need to be there by four.
Jaedong: (laughing) Have fun filming.
Flash: (after hearing Jaedong has to go to the hospital in the afternoon) Well, that’s okay then (laughs).
Q: Flash has been very busy lately, does this make you envious?
Jaedong: Not really. I’ve been there before and it’s nice to be able to focus on one thing for a change.
Q: Flash has recently won the EVER Starleague 2009.
Flash: It hasn’t quite sunk into me yet. It doesn’t make much difference having played one more finals. I’m just glad that I’ve won. I don’t feel the added pressure of having reached both finals, nor do I feel the fatigue of preparing for both.
Q: In a few days, you’ll be facing each other in the MSL finals. How does it feel?
Jaedong: The semi-finals and the finals of an individual league feel a little different in that the stage is bigger.
Flash: Yes, the difference is there.
Jaedong: You feel differently about it too. The stage is bigger and there is more at stake, so you feel obliged to prepare more for it. It is a slight burden on the shoulders.
Flash: It’s like you can’t prepare for it enough no matter how hard you try. It’s never going to be enough; it’s only natural for that kind of stuff to be in your head constantly.
Q: You also encountered one another in EVER Starleague 2009 quarter-finals.
Flash: I’ve heard that my team manager phoned Yellow saying that my bunker rush reeked of Boxer-esque cheese.
Jaedong: (after being told that Yellow was sympathetic) Heh (laughs).
The origins of “LeeSsang”: their first encounter
It wasn’t always like this. Jaedong and Flash weren’t always the dominant figure for their respective races. However, the two of them recognized each other for what they were from the very start. This was especially true for Jaedong, who felt that Flash had the potential to become a serious contender. He was dead on as both these players soon became a regular guest in the individual leagues, oddly getting in each other’s way in their quest to make themselves known. The “LeeSsang-rok” was born.
Q: When were you first aware of each other’s existence?
Flash: I’m not sure on the exact date. I think we’ve met not so long after my debut. Before that, I saw him when I was trying to pass Courage. I had yet to get a license, but was already a practice partner back then. After I got knocked out that day, I watched some of the players that had yet to be knocked out. It was back when he lost to Luxury, and everybody was saying how he was the best Zerg player around these days.
Jaedong: I’ve heard much about him back when Flash had just started out. I remember the day he passed the qualifying stages by defeating Backho. We didn’t expect him to get knocked out by some rookie, but Backho said that his opponent was “way too good”. Backho seemed almost traumatized by the whole thing. All our team members were predicting Backho to go through because his group seemed easy at first glance. We never heard of Flash before. I remember the score being 2:1. Backho kept saying how the games seemed to be going in his favour before Flash managed to turn the tables by brute force.
Flash: I remember starting the series by losing the first game. The following two games started out badly for me as well, but I managed to make a comeback in both games. I remember the Hwaseung coach scolding Backho, saying “you shouldn’t be doing this” (laughs). I didn’t get my hopes up too high for the qualification rounds back then, to be honest.
Q: What were your first impressions of each other?
Jaedong: He was young, but I noticed right away that he had a talent for the game. You just know these things. My opinions on him were nothing more than vague first impressions back then. Later on, as we began to come across one another in tournaments, I started to take a closer look at him.
Flash: I felt it when we first played one another. I wasn’t the one to pay attention to others, but there was a time when we met in the quarter-finals of three individual leagues. He was like a huge wall to me. I took a serious hit in confidence when I lost the MSL quarter-finals series. It came about when my belief in my versus-Zerg play was solid as well (laughs). Thinking about it now, whoever came victorious when the two of us faced one another would go on to win the entire tournament. It happened in this OGN Starleague, and in previous MSL and GomTV leagues.
Q: How did the two of you get close?
Jaedong: I don’t usually log on to Battlenet, but we’ve gotten close by meeting each other frequently in competitions. It was by chance that I came across Flash on Battlenet. We practice with each other a lot, and got closer as a result. It also helped that we played against each other a lot, I guess.
Flash: Jaedong logs on to Battlenet every once a while. I like to play with my off-race when I’m on Battlenet (laughs). I played a lot of games with my off-race.
Q: You played each other with your off-race? Who won more?
Jaedong: I won more.
Flash: I have great pride in my off-race skills, but I lost a lot. I must have vengeance.
Jaedong: We didn’t play a lot, but I think I won the games by about a six-to-four ratio.
Flash: Zerg is a hard to play.
Jaedong: I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that I’ll win.
Flash: Me too, but I keep losing (laughs).
Q: We’re curious on your thoughts of your first ever “LeeSsang-rok”.
Jaedong: I lost that match. It was when Flash was beginning to get a lot of attention. I thought to myself “I must defeat this kid” before the game started, but ended up losing. I tried to play a drawn out management game, but lost after he broke my defenses. I felt so disheartened. However, I won the ACE match after that. So I was able to get over the disappointment quickly.
Flash: I won the first of our encounter, but our team lost. So it wasn’t all that good for me. To be honest, I wasn’t afraid of him at all up to that point, despite hearing a great deal about him (laughs). It was after my defeat against him in the MSL that he began to intimidate me. I was in advantageous situations back then, but kept losing to him in game management and late game play.
Q: To be fair, those matches weren’t called “LeeSsang-rok” back then.
Flash: I had no special thoughts on first couple of matches against each other. Jaedong wasn’t a champion back then, and neither was I. I had no idea that our rivalry would grow this big.
Jaedong-resembling Flash, and Flash-resembling Jaedong
Top players have many things in common. They have greater mental fortitude than the other players, and do not let themselves get distracted by things outside of the pro-gaming world. That is why they could make their way to the top. This is no different in the case of Jaedong and Flash. Massive practice hours and the dedication to see them through makes for a sound foundation that them to be where they are. They are similar in this respect, but have similarities elsewhere also. They have never hit rock bottom during their careers, and have always been heavily relied upon by their team in the Proleague. If we’re to word it satirically, these two players are no strangers to the role as the “head of the household” for their teams, carrying their team on their backs. Here is what they had to say on the issue.
Q: Both of you seem to be immune to severe slumping.
Jaedong: Yes, slumps for me are rather infrequent. I believe it is the fruits of the hours of hard work I have accumulated for this game. If I practice hard, I have faith that one day it will show up in my results even if the effect is not instantaneous.
Flash: Even when people were saying that I was “slumping”, I wasn’t doing all that bad. Even when I seemed to be on a downhill slide, I was pulling my weight in the Proleague gaining awards for having the most number of victories. It was quite arduous having to cope with the Proleague schedule. As for the individual leagues, I was overwhelmed by the need to do well, and a slight lack of stamina was an issue for me also (laughs).
Q: Even when Flash may have not have been up to his standards in the individual leagues, he was always a force to be reckoned with in the Proleague.
Flash: Wasn’t Jaedong doing well whatever the stage happened to be (laughs)? I was so jealous of him. Those were the days when everyone had pity on me for the “slave labour” my team put me through. To be honest, it drove me wild with envy that Jaedong had such solid teammates. I remember taking the initiative to ask the team to recruit more players (laughs). I was so happy when ForGG first came…. (laughs). It’s only natural for a player to think like this. I know how Jaedong must feel nowadays. I should know. It’s not an excuse; some things really are tough on the players.
Jaedong: I was aware of Flash’s results. I mean, to be perfectly fair, our team was on a roll back then. Everyone had an excess of confidence to the point where defeat was unthinkable, and winning was just another day at work. It was both impressive and sad to watch Flash trying to do everything by himself.
Q: It is a rather sensitive issue, but Jaedong seems to be carrying that great burden these days.
Flash: He’s only a novice. I’ve been in this business for two years now (laughs). In all seriousness, the situation isn’t quite the same. Hwaseung Oz are a successful team and have the know-how, so I have faith that they’ll recover soon enough.
Jaedong: I think I have an idea of what Flash was going through back in those days now.
Flash: It was surprising how my name would pop up in the search engines with the mention of Pato of AC Milan (laughs).
Q: The two of you seem to be called for the ACE match more than any other players.
Jaedong: It is a great privilege, but it’s not easy having that kind of responsibility on your shoulders. With that in mind, it’s unbelievable how Flash managed to hold it together for such a long time. It really is harder than people imagine.
Flash: It was taken for granted that I step up for the ACE matches. I was very stressed out because of the burden on my shoulders. I’m pretty sure that nobody really knew what I was going through back then. Even now, I’m certain that there are people out there who have no idea how hard it was for me.
Q: So the rumours of you being overwhelmed with the role you had in your team was true?
Flash: There was a period where I had to prepare for twenty-two Proleague ACE matches in a row. It was an insane burden on me. Things were made even more vexing because nobody would acknowledge the hardships I went through. I practically prepared the an entire season’s worth of ACE matches during that period.
Q: Some people say the most ignorant things by dismissing your hard work by saying it’s only playing a video game.
Flash: You won’t understand it fully unless you’ve been through the experience personally. I play football a lot, and it is not as exhausting as my practice schedule. The most difficult moment is when you prepare with all your heart and soul, and still lose. It really does take its toll both mentally and physically.
Q: How much do you practice everyday?
Jaedong: More than ten hours a day. There have been plenty of days when I did nothing but practice, eat and sleep. I can’t concentrate unless I get sufficient sleep. I would say around thirteen hours? I can feel my condition go down the drain if I don’t sleep well the day before.
Flash: I would say it’s pretty much the same. There was a time when I only slept for three hours a day and literally did nothing but practice for the remaining twenty-one hours.
Q: I guess practice hours like result in stuff like calluses on your hands.
Flash: I’m happy to have them. I didn’t have them before, and it feels like a battle-scar of sorts.
Jaedong: How come I never have any?
Flash: Jaedong doesn’t have any callus on his hands, but I can tell right away that they have been overworked. Our teammates discussed before how Jaedong’s hands have been overtaxed. I think they’re in a very bad state.
Jaedong: My hands aren’t too pretty to look at. They’re small too.
Flash: My hands are quite large; I can stretch my fingers to use all ten numbers on the keyboard for hotkeys. So that’s why you don’t use much hotkeys.
Jaedong: So that’s how you found out? The ICCUP replay?
Flash: My hotkey habits are quite unique you see. Jaedong seems to be quite particular with his hotkey usage as well. FireFist took one look at the replay I had and noticed right away that the user was Jaedong. I’m different from the other gamers in that I use all ten hotkeys for the same unit or building to get my hands all warmed up.
Jaedong: I never use the last three numbers on the keyboard.
Flash: That’s quite a rarity. It’s hard to master Zerg without extensive keyboard usage you see. He’s similar to Savior in that respect.
Jaedong: That’s right.
Flash: You’d think that these two players have similar hotkey usage due to their limitations in hand size, but they couldn’t be more different from each other.
“LeeSsang-rok”: a blockbuster hit in the making
As we mentioned before, “LeeSsang-rok” is the biggest match-up in the entire industry. “Taek-Beng-rok”, the ultimate showcase of Protoss mastery between the majestic Bisu and Stork, deserves a mention too; but it is a mirror match-up. With the usual fondness that the E-Sports have for the intense struggle for survival between the Terran and the Zerg race in mind, it’s no surprise that “LeeSsang-rok” has replaced “Taek-Beng-rok” as the most eagerly anticipated-for face-off in the scene right now. It seems like the eternal rivals, Boxer and Yellow, have passed on the torch to these two to carry on the legend.
On closer inspection, it always were the Terran and Zerg users that had the most fierce rivalries. It wasn’t just the glories of the “Lim-Jin-rok”, there were equally enticing rivalries in between Nada and Chojja, Oov and July, Nada and GoRush. “LeeSsang-rok” has it all; Jaedong and Flash are the best players of their respetive races, they excel in both the Proleague and the individual leagues, and happen to be ranked as the top two players in the Kespa rankings. In other words, it really is the clash of the titans.
Q: What was your most memorable match out of the numerous clashes you’ve had against one another?
Jaedong: The match on Rush Hour 3 in the Winner’s League play-offs last season sticks out for me the most. I somehow managed to all-kill KT Rolster that day, but my practice on Rush Hour 3 was almost non-existent. I just went out there with nothing to lose and played on the spur of the moment. It was made even more special by the fact that my final opponent was Flash. After a hard fought battle, I came out on top and the euphoria of it was unimaginable. There were just so many things to be happy about that day. I personally look back on it with more pride than my defeat of Flash in the finals of GomTV Classic Season 1.
Flash: That match has been etched onto my memory also. Our team expected Hwaseung Oz to save their best card for later, but we were all caught off guard by Jaedong being their first representative. I asked to be saved for the very end, as I was confident of reverse all-killing Hwaseung Oz, if necessary. Luxury was fresh from his MSL conquest, but still lost to Jaedong in the first set. Then Jaedong proceeded to win his next two matches also. However, I still had great belief in myself. I had practiced for all four remaining maps. I recall the game as starting out with Jaedong in the lead, me pulling ahead after that, before Jaedong somehow turned the tides to snatch victory from my fingers. It really was heart-breaking. That’s why I cannot forget it. Neither can the members of my fan club, apparently.
Q: What was your most heart-breaking defeat then?
Jaedong: My defeat against him in the third set of the quarter-finals of the Bacchus Starleague 2008. I was so far ahead, but lost because I dealt with Flash’s fully upgraded mechanic army very poorly. All of my advantage counted for nothing the moment I squandered my lead like that against his one-time attack.
Flash: Like I mentioned before, the game I had against him on Rush Hour 3. I remember it vividly because I was full of confidence and had much responsibility on my shoulders. It was such a gut wrenching feeling to lose in that situation. However, I feel like I am where I am currently because I was able to overcome such harsh defeats.
Q: Many of your games end quite abruptly early on in the game.
Flash: Yes it’s like that. But I’d like to mention that my bunker rush against him recently was not cheese at all. The game plan after the initial attack was the piece de resistance of the entire strategy, and I prepared much more for it rather than the bunker rush itself. Even now I’m very content with the overall build. So I could invest heavily in the bunker rush because of the belief I had in the following game plan afterwards.
Jaedong: I had no idea that our match in the EVER Starleague quarter-finals 2009 would turn out like that. I basically lost without being able to do anything; I was caught completely unaware. My practice for the games weren’t lacking, but I wasn’t prepared for a strategy of that kind. I was caught with my pants down, to be fair. I’m not upset at all just because he happened to deviate from the norm. The thought of “you’ve got me” just repeats over and over. I was given the impression that Flash was toying with me mentally, and I had only myself to blame for that. I didn’t prepare against bunker rushes at all.
Q: How would it feel if Jaedong was to 4 or 5 pool against you?
Flash: It never happened to me. However, a lot of our games were wrapped up by mutalisks. If it were to happen to me, the thought of “you’ve got me” would pop up, I guess. It would be mentally crippling in a series.
Jaedong: When you lose like that, it does put you off your footing, so to speak.
Q: What are your thoughts on the phrase “LeeSsang-rok”?
Jaedong: I like it.
Flash: I’ve really taken to it. Any match-up that has been christened “-rok” of some sorts has always been the centre of attention amongst the fans. I think “LeeSsang-rok” sounds the coolest.
Q: The fans say the “top Terran player pitted against the top Zerg player” rivalry you have going between the two of you is the most epic one witnessed since the days of Boxer and Yellow. How familiar are you with the legendary “Lim-Jin-rok”?
Jaedong: I do recall watching them play. It was when they were duking it out in maps such as “Hall of Valhalla”, I don’t remember much, but the memories are there. Oh yes, I was one of the casual viewers who witnessed the forever legendary three consecutive bunker rushes made against Yellow (EVER Starleague 2004).
Flash: I was too young to remember that far back (laughs).
Q: “LeeSsang-rok” always brings about a lot of anticipation and excitement amongst the fans.
Jaedong: Quite obviously, that kind of phenomenon is always good to see. It feels great to be at the centre of attention, and to have people care so intensely about the matches you prepare for. It’s a privilege few players enjoy. It’s only naturally to feel thankful.
Flash: The attention you receive as a gamer is the best reward one can hope for. Any match-ups that have been named as a “-rok” of some kind have always been epic. Head-to-head statistics are important, too. It doesn’t feel right if it is too lopsided. “Lim-Jin-rok” wouldn’t have been as exciting if they weren’t so nail-bitingly close.
Q: You’ve played against each other a lot. Wasn’t there a time when you met in the quarter-finals of the OGN Starleague, MSL and GomTV Invitational all at once?
Jaedong: There’s this thing. Because you meet so often, it feels different every time you face each other in another stage. It’s interesting how things have turned out like that. It’s not easy for that kind of situation to happen. So it was quite a fresh experience for me.
Flash: After the MSL brackets for the round of eight was completed, I managed to get to the round of eight for the OGN Starleague also. In an interview I mentioned jokingly “I have a feeling we’ll meet in every tournament we participate”, but I turned out that the brackets really did have us facing each other in the round of eight for all three leagues. After that, Jaedong really did take off, and started sweeping in title after title. It drove me to practice even harder. The more we faced one another, the greater my need to close the gap between the two of us became.
Q: In the finals of GomTV Classic Season 1, Jaedong took the victory, three games to zero.
Jaedong: That was back when I had the belief that nobody could touch me. We met in the finals; I had no idea that I would win so convincingly because I had lost a lot to him before that. It was just one of those days where everything went right. I had the feeling I had the whole thing in the bag after game one. Even the things I did on the spur seemed to get into Flash’s head, and I knew that I had defeated him psychologically. I was behind him in head-to-head statistics back then, so I really wanted to defeat him that day. However, it was just one tournament out of many others, there was nothing particular about that series apart from that.
Flash: That was when I was starting to slump after this brilliant phase I had after winning Bacchus Starleague 2008. I kept losing series after series, in all the tournaments. So it was critical for me not to lose in this tournament as well, and I gathered all my teammates to practice non-stop for several days. After getting manhandled in such a manner, I couldn’t help but accept my lack of experience (laughs). I lost to so many players around that period that I didn’t have the luxury of sitting down and reflecting upon the details of that particular defeat.
“LeeSang” on “Taek-Beng-LeeSang”
“Taek-Beng-LeeSang” has always the centre of attention in the world of E-Sports. Before we did this particular interview, we have interviewed the “Taek-Beng” duo in 2009. We also took the chance to get “Taek-Beng-Lee” together for an interview in Chengdu, China, the host city for WCG 2009. Any interview that was taken with these great players always created a lot of discussion in the communities, and the fans enjoyed seeing the more relaxed, honest side to these players in these interviews.
The topic of “LeeSang” was impossible to avoid during the interview with the “Taek-Beng” duo; and likewise, we found it only natural to discuss the other two players of the majestic quartet in this interview. What if “LeeSang” happened to be in the same team? Further more, what if all four of the “Taek-Beng-LeeSsang” quartet were purchased to create an all-conquering team? Which player stands out the most out of the four? The answers to all these questions are answered below.
Q: We interviewed the remaining three players of the famous quartet during WCG 2009. Have you read the article?
Flash: I wasn’t that envious of the three. I was fortunate to participate in bigger tournament. I have a feeling that I wouldn’t have won anyways, had I represented Korea in WCG 2009, what with those three around (laughs). I managed to get the gold medal in the Asian Indoor Games 2009 instead, and I have been doing well ever since.
Q: During the above mentioned interview, we got the feeling that Jaedong and Bisu found it awkward to be around each other. Is it the same for you too?
Flash: I find it difficult to practice with Bisu as well (laughs). We used to practice a lot before, but that’s not the case anymore. So we’re kind of drifted apart now (laughs).
Q: “Taek-Beng” caught on in the communities first, followed by “LeeSsang” before the term ““Taek-Beng-LeeSsang” was created.
Jaedong: I’m not sure how early on the rivalry between Bisu and Stork caught everyone’s attention. I didn’t pay much attention to their rivalry because they were both Protoss.
Flash: It’s pretty much the same for me.
Jaedong: However, it felt good to be part of the “Taek-Beng-LeeSsang” quartet.
Flash: It’s like the Four Kings before us. They’re going to go down in history as legends of the scene, and so are we, in a way (laughs).
Q: We’re curious to see which player you think is the best out of the four.
Flash: I have always thought Jaedong was the best; even today. He’s the best skill-wise, and has achieved so much during his career. However, nothing lasts forever, and any one of us could turn out to be even better. I think very highly of Bisu and Jaedong, but nowadays I lean more towards Jaedong.
Jaedong: It’s always good to hear praises, but I didn’t think like that before. I thought more about how I shouldn’t lag behind others. Then my trophy count increased one by one, and then I really wanted to have a bigger trophy cabinet than everyone else.
Q: How would it be playing for the same team?
Jaedong: The thought has entered my mind before. Hypothetically speaking, it would be quite a nice situation to be under in many ways. We would be able to rely on each other, most of all. We respect each other’s skill, so we can learn from each other, and the synergy effect of being around a player of that caliber would help a great deal in general.
Flash: I sometimes let my mind wonder about being in the same time with another top player, not necessarily Jaedong. It would be so much fun being in the same team as Jaedong. The circumstances won’t allow that at the moment, but I’d like to be in the same team as him one day.
Q: What if we were to expand on that; how do you feel about the entire “Taek-Beng-LeeSang” quartet being in the same team?
Jaedong: Now, that’s taking things a little bit too far (laughs). It’s ridiculous just thinking about it, and would be impossible to pull off in real life anyhow. Even if we somehow managed to be in the same team, it won’t be as good as people might imagine. I’d imagine the negatives will outweigh the positives in that situation. There will be too much competition within the team; things might backfire from that kind of a situation. Plus, E-Sports won’t be as much fun. Monopoly is never good for competition, and the interest of having four separate aces spearheading the attack for their respective teams will be all gone. I also have the feeling that our individual colours will fade away with the merging of the teams if it were to happen.
Flash: If I’m to be frank, we’ll most likely win the entire season undefeated. Any one of the four of us can always win the ACE match if it comes to that. I don’t think it’ll even come to that.
Reversing the hands of time: About the NATE MSL
This interview was taken before the NATE MSL finals; it was completed in article form after it. On the 28th of January, Jaedong defeated Flash three games to one in the finals. Ultimately, they ended up sharing the individual leagues as if by promise. What was hyped to be the best finals ever turned out to be the biggest disappointment ever due to the power outage. However, it would be wrong to dismiss the blood, sweat and tears these two players have poured for the finals.
This interview wouldn’t have been complete without asking the players about the finals they were about to take part in. Their wish to make this the greatest finals ever was shot down by events outside of their control, which makes things all the more disappointing. However, let’s not forget their dreams to make the finals an unforgettable experience, their desire to give it their all for the fans of E-Sports. We have no doubt that these players will continue to flourish long into the future, and that they will indeed meet again in the finals. Here’s to hoping that their wish will one day come true.
Q: Everyone is dying to see the upcoming finals between the two of you.
Jaedong: I’m loving it. It’s great that everybody is excited that I am in the finals. It truly is an amazing feeling to have. I would be content regardless of the results if I can display all that I have prepared for. After all, this won’t be the last match of my career. There will be more to come.
Flash: I’m reminded of this whenever I play for the more important stages; I’m fueled by the fact that thousands of people are there to see me play. The more people there are, the greater my will to win becomes. I believe that a lot of people will come to watch me play this time, and it’s making me feel all giddy already. I’ve already mentioned in past interviews that results won’t matter as long as I participate in what I dream to be the greatest finals ever; I want everything to be perfect.
Q: It would have been nice to see the two of you face each other in the OGN Starleague finals as well.
Jaedong: I thought about that too; but nothing more than that. Once the brackets are decided, I concentrate on the upcoming matches and nothing else. Of course, it would have been nice if the brackets didn’t have us meeting that early on (laughs).
Flash: We were going to play one another eventually, and that was that for me. I thought more about the fact that if I wasn’t able to beat him there, I wasn’t able to beat him no matter where we met. Now that we have met in a more important stage, I wish to prepare
Q: The map pool is said to be very difficult for Zerg players.
Jaedong: I don’t want to talk about map imbalance. I’ve heard that the maps were made with the concept of cutting down the number of Zerg players in the first place. Hearing things like that makes things even worse for you. When you’re playing in the latter stages of the individual leagues, it’s wise to detach yourself from all these talks of map imbalance. Of course, the preparation is going to be stressful, but there’s only one game to prepare for. It’s good to take control by telling yourself that there’s only a single game to play for each map. If you become too conscious of the map data and what seems to be disadvantageous towards you, it affects the way that you prepare also. I try to think that the situation isn’t too dire.
Flash: As for Ultimatum, there are strategic aspects that haven’t been explored yet, so it is hard to tell for sure. Odd-Eye is a good map for Terran players. However, I felt this by practicing for the EVER Starleague 2009 finals; with sufficient practice, there are always answers. I personally had great difficulty with New Heart Break Ridge, but after slaving away to find a way, I overcame the map imbalance. For the upcoming finals, I’ll try my best abusing what leverage I have in terms of map imbalance.
Q: What do you expect the final score to be?
Jaedong: I never contemplated the final score. My preparations are inadequate at the moment. I just hope that I’ll win, I guess.
Flash: I think it’ll be neat if the series would be decided by the fifth match, regardless of who becomes victorious at the end. That’s how I feel right now, anyways. I wish we have an epic series, then our rivalry will be even better than the one Boxer and Yellow had. I get the feeling that our rivalry is still overshadowed by theirs, as of yet. I’m confident that I can do well in individual leagues in the future, and that we’ll meet again in the finals soon.
Q: You’ll become the top ranked player in the Kespa rankings should you win the finals.
Flash: I’m not too fussed about things like that. It’s hard enough to manage the overflowing joy of winning the OGN Starleague. I recently won two additional Proleague matches as well, and getting first place in the MSL would be the perfect; but it’ll be alright even if I lose, since there will be more to come. I’m sure that I will be able to congratulate Jaedong sincerely, I should lose.
Q: Jaedong will be the first Zerg player to have five individual league titles under his belt should he win.
Jaedong: I’m pretty much in agreement with Flash. I’m going to give it my all for the upcoming finals, and if I am satisfied with my game-play, I won’t despair even if I should lose. I’m confident that I can do well this year. Of course, I have to win, but I don’t want to get too obsessed, because there’s always next time. The important thing is to take what you can no matter what the result.
Q: So you’re both confident that you’ll be able to congratulate the winner like a true gentleman?
Jaedong: I think so (laughs).
Flash: Me too. I really like seeing good sportsmanship such as congratulating the winner even if you have suffered defeat, and I wanted the OGN Starleague finals to be like that too, but I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries by going up to Movie to shake his hands. I was sorry that I didn’t return Movie’s handshake properly because I was overwhelmed with all the emotions; but I was really moved by his gesture. I tried to return his good manners by dropping everything that I had to receive his handshake. He truly displayed good sportsmanship that day. I wish to be the kind of person that offers my opponent a handshake regardless of the results.
Jaedong and Flash with the “LeeSsang Blues” (featuring their fans)
After discussing their forthcoming MSL finals, we finished our lunch together and took off to photograph the two in a studio we had booked in advance. We weren’t going to let them off this easily after all we’ve been through to get these two together. While doing their make-up, and the actual photograph shoots, we asked some of the questions prepared by the fans themselves. These two were more relaxed than ever as they discussed openly about the issues the fans were interested in.
Q: If you were to have a grudge match against each other, what would the stakes be?
Jaedong: I have never thought about it… I don’t recall seeing an epic ceremony from Flash after his games. So I’d like to make him do one of those. It would be funny to see him do one of the new K-pop dance moves or style his hair to mimic a girl band look a la Luxury.
Flash: What would be amusing? Something really peculiar. I want to make him do something really weird. Jaedong never does anything of note when it comes to ceremonies too, so I’d like to dress him up as something; really odd too, like a cartoon character. Maybe Gollum…. something along those lines anyhow.
Q: Do you think that you have much in common?
Jaedong: More than one would expect. Little things, like trying out new restaurants, and enjoying traveling abroad. There’s more, but I can’t think of any… Flash, help me out here.
Flash: He’s right. We do look for good places to eat. I’ve heard that Jaedong went to Canada recently, and I like going abroad too. Other than that, I guess both of us are confident, very determined, and quite competitive in general.
Q: What do you like about your team, and which aspect of each other’s team makes you envious?
Jaedong: Our team has the valuable experience of going all the way to the top from rock bottom. We have great pride of accomplishing what we did, especially since the odds were stacked against us. There’s this connection, an unbreakable bond that is stronger than the other teams in the scene. The fact that most of the players happens to be around the same age helps a lot too. KT Rolster is a solid team, to start off with. KT Rolster A-team members tend to be quite dependable. Flash once said something along the same lines; his team has a fairly even distribution of skill, with no great disparity between the A-team members, or between different races. It gives them great stability, and their systematic approach to the game with numerous coaches makes them a formidable foe.
Flash: Like Jaedong mentioned above, the fact that we have a plethora of competent players, working in synchrony with our coaches, who each take responsibility for players of a certain race, makes our team more stable than the other teams. The players practice hard, and the style of management in general is slightly different from the other teams, which I guess is a winning recipe for success that we’re having right now. As for Hwaseung Oz, I’m most envious of the special treatment Jaedong gets from his manager. The manager of Hwaseung Oz really does seem to take care of his players like they’re his own children. In that regard, he is the best manager in the scene, in my opinion.
Q: What makes your rival such a tricky player to play against?
Jaedong: He doesn’t lose easily. He has such good foundations in general, in that he knows how to set himself up for a solid late game position, something he really excels in. It’s difficult to beat him because of that.
Flash: His multitasking abilities. He’s on another level from the other Zerg players in the scene in that respect. It’s not just on televised games, but you can tell the difference during practice as well. He’s the best Zerg player around. His results speak for themselves; he’s just a beast.
Q: Being a pro-gamer must leave you somewhat excluded from the outside world. Are there any current issues that you feel strongly about?
Jaedong: I’ve heard about the earthquake that struck Haiti. After discovering the extent of the destruction, I’ve decided to do some research on the humanitarian aids. If possible, I’ll try donating my bit for the Haiti Earthquake Relief.
Flash: I’m more familiar with the assault scandal that went on in the series “Iris”. I tend to be more interested in show business rather than social issues, probably due to my age; that, and the fact that I rarely surf the internet (laughs).
Q: Busy as you are with your schedules, what would you like to do if you really did have the time to do it?
Jaedong: A lot of things. I’d like to learn English. I want to play the piano. Plus, I’d like to try out some sports. Stuff like Kendo or jazz dancing, which I find to be worth learning. If I only had the time, I’d like to do a lot of things.
Flash: I want to learn English most of all. I’d like to do more sports. Football! I’m crazy about it, but it is winter time and there’s no time to play. So I have to settle for watching it only.
Q: Do you ever get fed up with all the practice? How do you overcome these frustrations if you do have them?
Jaedong: I try not to think like that, so I don’t. If such a train of thought start to cross my mind, I do all I can to set myself straight right away through mind control. That’s how I deal with it. It’s a battle against yourself. There’s nothing to tell apart from the fact that I do what I can to stay focused; little things like writing myself motivational notes, reading inspirational passages from books, and setting aside some time before I sleep for meditation.
Flash: The thought never crossed my mind. The game is so much fun for me, and I really want to win, so there’s no problem doing what I do. I keep myself in tip-top condition by sleeping a lot and eating a lot of greasy foods. I like to eat meat at least once a day. I think eating a lot, and sleeping a lot is the best way to stay on top.
Q: How outgoing would you say you are?
Jaedong: I’m quite awkward socially. I used to be quite popular in school, and had a lot of friends, but my personally changed slightly after I walked this road. It’s as if your social skills wither away from disuse, because you spend all your time focusing on your gaming.
Flash: Not so much. It’s hard to keep in touch with everyone. I’m fine with the people I see regularly, but it’s difficult to stay close to people who you don’t have much contact with anymore.
Q: Do you see yourself achieving the things you have achieved with another race?
Jaedong: Nope (laughs). Not at all. I never thought about wanting to play with another race. I never regretted choosing Zerg for my race.
Q: Your fan-base is well known for getting along great with each other. If both of you were to host a fan meeting, who would be the more popular of the two?
Jaedong: Haha… who knows? It would be nice for both of us to get some love. I really can’t say to be honest (laughs). I’d just like for our fan-base to keep their good relationship going since we’re getting along fine as well.
Flash: It’s impossible to tell. There will be plenty of people at both fan meetings, I would imagine.
Q: What are your opinions on the all-elusive title of “bonjwa”?
Jaedong: I don’t take any notice. I guess it is what it is; a player to be so much further ahead of the pack that no one else can touch him. I’m not dying to be it. It would be too much for me to handle. I just want to be a player that keeps producing results. I want to be someone that shines till the end.
Flash: I don’t find the title of “bonjwa” too appealing either. I can see myself losing all motivation and drive if I were to become a “bonjwa”. The thought of “I’ve done it all” will be the ruin of me no matter how hard I try to stay focused. I’m not saying that was the case for the previous “bonjwas”, it’s just how I imagine how it would be for me. So the entire business doesn’t interest me at all. I wanted to be rated by my overall achievements as a player, not how on fire I am at the moment. For a player to look back at his career, the most important thing will be how much he had achieved. I have so much respect for Nada because of this.
Q: Some people say that the upcoming NATE MSL finals is the stage for the coronation of the “fifth bonjwa”.
Jaedong: It doesn’t interest to me too much to be honest. The actual matches matters a whole lot more to me.
Flash: Me neither. I have my eyes on Jaedong, and him only.
Q: How long do you want to keep playing professionally?
Jaedong: I want to keep trying as long as the passion is there. I don’t see the end anytime soon.
Flash: The more important thing for me is whether I’m able to keep this level of performance. I’m going to retire the moment I feel that I’m not able to cut it anymore. After I gain all there is to gain, achieved all there is to achieve, I’ll have no regrets stepping down if I’m no longer able to be where I wish to be. Of course, I could delay my retirement even if my skills weren’t there to play on television every once a while, enjoy my popularity and get paid in ample amounts. However, I didn’t become a pro-gamer for those reasons. I’m going to retire once I know that it’s over for me.
Q: How long do you wish to sustain your rivalry?
Jaedong: It would be nice to keep this going until the very end, so that both of us can end the rivalry on a good note.
Flash: I wish it to be there till the very end, too. I can’t even begin to imagine how breathtakingly awesome the rivalry between Boxer and Yellow must have been for everyone to be talking about it to this day. I dream of the day our rivalry surpasses the one between Boxer and Yellow, and the next generation of pro-gamers look upon our rivalry as the ultimate rivalry of the scene.
Q: Tell us about your ideal girl.
Jaedong: Nothing has changed for me. Someone like Lee Yeon Hee; a state of perfection, innocence and purity. I noticed that a lot of people have been naming her as their ideal type of girl on television recently, but she has been my number one since 2006, so I chose her first laughs).
Flash: I like cute girls. Someone who isn’t too tall, and has a lot of cute charm about her. If I’m to choose someone in the show business, I would say Nicole fits the bill (laughs). It used to be Goo Hye Sun, but not anymore. The roles she has been playing haven’t been to my taste.
Q: What music have you been listening to recently?
Jaedong: I’ve been listening to a lot of Damien Rice as of late. I’m listening to a lot of softer music now, like “Lucid Fall”.
Flash: I enjoy listening to “I’m a loner” by CNBLUE. They’re this new group, and have talent to spare. They’re good looking too, so I have a feeling that they’ll be big.
Q: Do you watch a lot of soap operas, or films?
Jaedong: No. I used to watch them deliberately, but not any more. I keep getting the feeling that they are a waste of time, and that my mind will wonder even after I finished watching them. This is especially so with soap operas, I’m afraid I might get riveted. I did watch a bit of Iris.
Flash: I don’t watch soap operas all that much. One or two series a year at most? They seem quite dull to me. I love watching films, though. I slept really late yesterday because I spent all night watching films (laughs).
Q: Are there any girl groups you like?
Jaedong: There are so many of them nowadays. I don’t get too attached to any one particular group. I must admit that T-ara have caught my eye; I know all the members by name, and I think they’re all pretty. I’ve heard that Flash likes Nicole of Kara, and I wish him all the best (laughs).
Flash: I’ve seen almost all the recent girl groups in real life, and they don’t really do it for me to be honest. They don’t interest me all that much. I just like Nicole. She’s cute, just the way I like.
Q: Out of all the records set by your rival, which are you most envious of?
Jaedong: I’m envious of all the “youngest player to… ” records. These kind of records are held by a privileged few, and there’s only a small period of time for others to break it. Of course my opportunity has passed by already (laughs).
Flash: The Golden Mouse. The fact that you have to win three OGN Starleagues to earn it really does speak volumes for its worth.
Q: What does Flash mean to you, Jaedong?
Jaedong: He’s like me in a way. I’m reminded of where I was two years ago when I’m looking at Flash; such as the way he thinks and behaves. The resemblance he has with my younger self really is uncanny sometimes.
Q: What does Jaedong mean to you, Flash?
Flash: He is the kind of player that drives you to practice even harder. Even when I wasn’t doing as well as I could have, Jaedong seemed to be always on the top of things, which me to strive for more. The motivation is there because he has more experience than me, and has achieved more. I’m thankful that he has been there to motivate me when I could have slacked off.
So the long and winding “LeeSsang Blues” has come to an end. Although we have felt it after closing up all of our interviews, there’s always this feeling of incompleteness, this feeling we could have done things better. With this slight feeling of disappointment, and some feeling of hope that we could complete the untold stories next time we met, we pondered how we can upstage an interview of this magnitude. Perhaps an interview featuring all four players of the “Taek-Beng-LeeSsang” quartet would do the trick.
There couldn’t be a better example of a beneficiary rivalry than this one. Jaedong and Flash are like the best two students in school who also happens to be friends. Both strive to be the best, but also have mutual respect for one another and wish to progress hand in hand; just like a model professional would. There’s no doubt they’ll rule supreme as the leaders of their respective races for some time to come. Whether it is through their own determination, or through their fierce competition; we’ll be there to watch their beautiful race for the dizzying heights. We’ll be there to witness the epic “LeeSang Blues”.