Serral defeated Elazer 4-2 in the grand finals of GSL vs. The World 2019, winning his second consecutive title at the annual competition. Serral's victory capped off what was possibly the most successful tournament for non-Korean players in pro-StarCraft II history—in a tournament that began with eight Korean and eight non-Korean pros, three out of four semi-finalists ended up being 'foreigners.'
Serral's championship run saw him allay doubts about his form after he finished top four at ASUS ROG Summer and runner-up at WCS Summer—'poor' results for a player who won 8 out of his 17 major tournaments since 2018. GSL vs. The World played out as a point-by-point addressing of Serral's supposed weaknesses. A tough series against TIME at ASUS ROG was made up for by a comprehensive 3-1 victory over TY in the Ro16. In the following rounds, victories over top Korean Protoss players in Trap and Classic covered for his loss to Stats at ASUS ROG. Finally, his finals opponent Elazer served as stand-in for Reynor, whose ZvZ ability cost Serral the WCS Summer title.
It wasn't Serral's fault that he couldn't avenge his losses to Reynor and Stats directly, as they were the ones unable to earn the rematch. Reynor was swept by SpeCial in the Ro16—an unexpected result given Reynor's undefeated record against the Mexican Terran in WCS Circuit competition. Slightly less surprising was Stats' quarterfinal loss to Neeb, whose PvP prowess had been well-established (despite some recent woes).
Elazer's run to the finals was redemptive as well, but on a much longer timeline. After breaking out in 2017 by winning WCS Valencia and placing top eight at the Global Finals, Elazer suffered a 2018 slump that saw him miss out on BlizzCon entirely. At GSL vs. The World, things finally started go Elazer's way again. After beginning the tournament with an immense, 3-2 upset against GSL champion Dark, Elazer continued his roll with victories over TIME and Neeb in the proceeding rounds.
Despite defeating Dark earlier in the tournament, Elazer's EU ZvZ did not avail him against Serral in the finals. The first three games were a Nydus bonanza, resulting in a 2-1 lead for Serral. Game four then delivered the highlight game of the finals, with both players gearing up for a late-game macro-fest on Acropolis. Though Elazer impressed by keeping upwith Serral's constantly movements and multi-tasking for over twenty minutes, he was eventually worn down by Serral's more efficient use of the Hydra-Lurker-Viper composition. Elazer recovered a point after deflecting an early speedling build from Serral in game five, but Serral finished the series out in another macro-game in game six.
Measuring the gap
Two weeks ago, ASUS ROG Summer left the Korean-Foreigner gap looking as wide as ever with six out of eight quarterfinal spots taken up by Koreans. GSL vs. The World delivered a diametrically opposite result, with three foreigners reaching the semifinals despite Korea fielding a considerably stronger side (Dark, Maru, and Classic had been absent from ASUS ROG). In another strange twist, GSL vs. World runner-up Elazer didn't participate at ASUS ROG Summer as he had failed to even qualify.
Taking those two contrasting tournaments into consideration, it might be best to refrain from making any grand statements about the state of Koreans vs Foreigners. All we seem to have learned is that there's a considerable amount of variance from tournament to tournament and from match to match—but that's something we should have known already from 9 years of competitive StarCraft 2. However, there is one thing we can expect to stay constant: Serral in the championship picture.
Team match fiesta
With foreigners outperforming expectations in the main tournament, it wasn't surprising when they impressed in the ~$8,000 team showmatch as well. In a format that forced Korea vs foreigner in every single match, the foreigners acquitted themselves nicely by going 3-5. SpeCial took out Classic (after losing 2-3 to him in the main tournament), Serral defeated soO, while HeRoMaRinE closed out the series by defeating Trap (another revenge match from the main tournament).