StarCraft Spring in Shanghai:by Wax
Chinese Tripleheader Recap
Over the last three weeks, the AfreecaTV studio's status as the central hub of live StarCraft II faced a stiff challenge. NetEase's Shanghai arena hosted three major events, featuring not only China's top SC2 players, but several high-profile stars from Korea and the WCS Circuit.
We start off with the much-hyped SCBoy China Team Championship, where Triumphant Song Gaming (Cloudy, Solar, Hickok, herO, Apologize) defeated Team LP (Wanted, Patience, Impact, QzDdb) 4-3 in the grand finale of the two month saga. Formats are often what define a team tournament, and CTC distinguished itself by going for an ambitious best-of-seven playoffs (all-kill with one revive), where every set was a best-of-three.
While the format might have been grueling, it did succeed at somehow improving on two of the greatest things in team tournaments.
First, the all-kill. TSG's Solar scored a very special all-kill in the semifinal match (VOD) against team Player 1 (defeating FanTaSy, PartinG, Firefly, and FanTaSy again), winning four BO3's in a row with a combined 8-1 map record. 4-0 all-kills in GSTL? 5-0 all-kills in NationWars? They've all been usurped by this new, ultimate display of domination in team StarCraft II. What are we even supposed to call Solar's ridiculous feat? A super-all-kill? An all-all-kill?
Second, the ace match. Not only did the grand final between TSG and Team LP go all the way to its seventh and final 'ace-series,' that BO3 series then proceeded to go all the way to its third and final map. Patience and herO delivered a game that was worthy of this rare 'ace-ace-match' (again, I'm open to ideas on new terminology), with both aces refusing to give up in a brutal PvP that's bound to make TL.net's Best Games of June list. Actually, just go watch it now:
Starts at 3:24:00
To be fair, the finals did seem like a slog at moments—besides the ace-match and another great match between Patience and herO ([you should really watch that game too])—generic PvP's and ZvZ's made up a decent number of the seventeen total gamed played (TSG prevailed by a map score of 10-7 in their victory). Still, it's worth considering that the format isn't even necessarily longer than a normal GSL-style group (5 BO3's), and is shorter than the middle-day of a WCS Circuit stop (around eight BO5's). Western team tournaments seem to have abandoned BO3 matches since the old Evil Geniuses Master Cup, but perhaps it's due for a revival in the playoff rounds.
I also have to mention one of the biggest disasters of the tournament: Jin Air forfeited its playoff spot (the team finished 2nd in the regular season) after supposedly failing to apply for Chinese visas. Seeing that Jin Air only used Maru in three of their seven regular season matches, one might have figured this tournament wasn't the team's biggest priority. Still, the forfeiture was quite a disappointment, and one hopes Jin Air will get its act together should it compete in season 2.
'Awards' and misc. thoughts.
Most valuable player: Solar was the clear MVP of the tournament, finishing with 11 wins, 2 losses, and 2 draws with a ridiculous 24-6 combined map score. Oh, right, draws. The other format quirk CTC implemented was to play the regular season Proleague style, but with best-of-twos. This allowed 1-1 draws as a result, which isn't something I particularly cared for outside handing out the following award:
Neutrality award: Congratulations Dear, for scoring the most 1-1 ties with FOUR. Impact, herO, GuMiho, iAsonu, and Special tied for runner-up with three ties a piece. Actually, the spirit of the award suggests they deserve it more than Dear...
Impact award: Impact wins the newly created 'Impact award' for another strong performance in a non-GSL tournament, putting up a 9 win - 4 loss - 3 draw record (21-14 combined map score) on his way to a 2nd place finish with Team LP.
The China Team Championship wasn't the only team league going on—somehow, we ended up with two team tourneys being held parallel to each other this spring. NetEase Esports X Tournaments (NeXT) was slightly smaller than CTC, with six teams to CTC's eight (notably missing foreign participants PSISTORM and Jin Air), and awarding 100,000 CNY compared to the CTC's 300,000.
NeXT's twist on the team tournament format was to mix in actual team games: a single 2v2 was played as the fourth game of each series (allowing teams to sweep 3-0 with 1v1's during the BO5 regular season, but forcing them to play at least one 2v2 during the BO7 playoffs). This wrinkle ended up affecting the title picture, as eventual champions Newbee (TIME, Scarlett, Dear) happened to be the team with the best 2v2 duo in TIME + Dear. After going 3-0 in the regular season, TIME and Dear contributed two more wins in the playoffs to finish the tournament undefeated.
Speaking of TIME, the young Chinese Terran player put in an all-around MVP-worthy performance. On top of his 5-0 score in 2v2, he put up a combined 7-2 record in 1v1 games, with four of those wins coming in the playoffs (3 wins vs SpeCial, and 1 against herO). The last of those wins came in the deciding map of the grand finals (VOD) against Ocean Gaming (Silky, SpeCial, TooDming, Zest), where he defeated SpeCial to secure the 4-2 victory for Newbee. Combined with TIME's improving results at WCS Circuit events, one hopes that he can become the star player that keeps Chinese interest in StarCraft II going strong in the future
My pick for MVP runner-up is Ocean Gaming's Zest. Despite getting eliminated in the Code S RO32, Zest was in full 'online-Zest' form in the NeXT tournament, putting up a 11-2 record in 1v1 matches for Ocean Gaming (8-1 in PvP!). Although, now that I think about it, he did go 4-1 in the offline playoffs portion as well... Is it time for the Zest hope-cycle to begin anew? (The Korean community meme around Zest is that they've lost track of how many times he's broken out of his coffin after 'dying')
Concluding this trio of Chinese event wrap-ups is a good ol' traditional 1v1 tournament in the Gold Professional Championship. GPC is basically the 2019 version of the Gold Series tournaments—China's long-running series of top-flight tournaments. While Gold Series previously served double-duty as the Chinese qualifier for WCS Circuit events, that's now been split off into its own separate tournament.
That means Gold Series was free to invite four foreigners to compete along side twelve of the top Chinese pros (a 'region-unlock,' some might call it). While I can surmise that SpeCial, Scarlett, and Solar were invited because they were already in China for the prior CTC, I can only assume INnoVation was invited because he's the most meme'd Korean player in China (I'll enjoy believing this before a Chinese reader ruins it by revealing the real, boring reason in the comments).
As one might expect with such a player pool, the result was INnoVation taking home the first place prize of 60,000 CNY. He didn't quite look like Lü Bu cutting his way through swarms of peasant soldiers in Dynasty Warriors, but it wasn't a disaster at the White Gate either.
The surprise performance of the tournament came from iAsonu, who defeated Solar 3-1 in the quarterfinals (VOD) to earn a top-four finish. After taking out Solar in fairly straight-up games, iAsonu even put in a respectable showing against INnoVAtion in a semi-final loss (VOD). He managed to take a map with a fake-Roach cheese into Banelings, and played a surprisingly even game against INnoVation's BC/turtle-mech until he was lured into a catastrophic engagement. Of course, GPL wasn't iAsonu's first heroic performance on home turf—he had previously eliminated both Stats and GuMiho at IEM Shanghai in 2017.
Credits and acknowledgements
Images: China Team Championship
Images: China Team Championship