One of the longest running curses in StarCraft II was broken in Poland as soO cast off his silver shackles to claim the IEM Katowice championship. soO appeared to be headed to another devastating loss after Stats went up 2-0 in the grand finals, but the ex-Kong rallied back to win four consecutive maps. soO was unable to hold back tears after winning the IEM trophy which gave him the 'major' title that had eluded him for so long.
Stats had looked imperious throughout the tournament, arriving in the finals with a 10-0 match record. soO seemed like he would be an easy eleventh victim, with his Zerg forces breaking helplessly against the 'Shield of Aiur' in the first two games. However, the swarming Zerg style that had seen soO reach ten previous finals began to work in in game three, and the normally steadfast Stats was suddenly overwhelmed by waves of Hydras, Roaches, and Banelings. Down 2-3, Stats pulled out a tricky 2-base all-in to try and even the score, but soO was able to snuff out the attack to end the series 4-2 and win the $150,000 1st place prize.
soO's runner-up curse and 'kong' reputation had been one of the longest running narratives in StarCraft II, with his first finals loss coming in 2013 at the hands of Dear. Four more 2nd place finishes would follow before he finally won KeSPA Cup II in 2015, and then four more losses after that. Fan mythology proved to be a stronger force than historical fact, as the StarCraft community collectively denied the KeSPA Cup victory 'major' status. It was a position that even soO himself bought into as he continued his search for a championship that no one could dispute. That search would take him all the way to BlizzCon 2017 where he suffered his worst heartbreak yet, losing to Rogue on StarCraft II's grandest stage.
A poor 2018 campaign suggested that the BlizzCon loss may have finally broken the unbreakable player, but early signs were positive for soO in 2019. He looked strong in the early rounds of GSL and online competition—but he was still overshadowed by names such as Serral and Maru, heading into IEM Katowice. Any hopes of a title run seemed to die in the group stage where he finished 2-3, but an unlikely four-way tie saw soO squeeze into the playoff bracket.
Though soO entered the playoffs with the worst record among the participants, he took his play to another level after receiving the unexpected second chance. soO's 3-0 sweep against the mercurial Zest was not surprising, but his bloody 3-2 victory over reigning Global Champion Serral instantly restored soO's championship contender status. herO—an underdog punching above his weight—was summarily dispatched in the semis, setting up soO's meeting with Stats in the finals.
With the victory, soO has not only secured $150,000, but a spot at the 2019 WCS Global Finals. A BlizzCon championship won't be necessary to secure soO's place as one of SC2's all-time legends. Yet, it will be intriguing to see if soO can change his reputation from that as StarCraft II's biggest loser to one of its greatest winners.
You can catch up on the games at IEM's official Youtube channel.