With the conclusion of the round of 12 and quarterfinals, we are finally left with the final four competitors for the IEM Katowice 2020 championship: Serral, Zest, Rogue, and Maru.
INnoVation booked a quarterfinal match against Serral after winning a decisive victory over ShoWTimE in the RO12, with the German Protoss looking outclassed against the Machine Terran. While ShoWTimE's strong PvZ and PvP earned him a playoff berth, he was pulled apart again and again by the Korean Terran's drop-play and army movements. However, Serral administered a similar beating to INnoVation in their quarterfinal match, with the Finnish Phenom looking every bit the superior player. He blew INnoVation out of the water in every macro game, with INnoVation stealing a single map with a hidden blue-flame-hellion all-in. Despite having enjoyed some success against Serral with late-game play in 2019 (IEM Katowice and WESG), INnoVation's choice to go for a bio-based 'mid-game all-in' style at Katowice 2020 ultimately ended up being less effective.
Zest continued his resurrection in 2020 with a quick dismantling of Hurricane and Dear in subsequent rounds. Hurricane offered little resistance to Zest's PvP prowess and looked thoroughly outclassed in all facets of play. It was similar for Dear, with Zest simply out-muscling or out-braining whatever Dear had planned for his games, be it fast-expands or peculiar unit compositions. Zest did have one major lapse in execution, ceding one map to Dear after a laughable attempt to force his way up his opponent's ramp. But all-around, Zest proved to be an overwhelming player in PvP, deserving to be called the current best PvP-er in the world.
The other double-mirror quadrant of the bracket ended with Rogue crushing Dark to advance to the semifinals. Dark started the day off strong with a 3-1 victory over Solar in the RO12, showcasing his strengths in a variety of styles—be it muta-line-bane, roach ravager mid-games, or lurker-viper management in the late game. However, Dark was unable to continue his momentum against Rogue. As easily as Dark beat Solar, so did Rogue with Dark, taking calculated risks and attacking aggressively. Dark seemed a beat slower in his decision making—as when he made Drones while enemy forces marched under a scouting overlord—or was simply taken completely off guard.
The last quadrant of the bracket ended with a Jin Air Team kill and the rekindling of much hype, as Maru coming out on top. sOs eked out a win in an odd series against Stats, where despite going the full five games ended up being the shortest in terms of game time. sOs using dark templars to varying degrees of effectiveness, while Stats either punished sOs or coming up short against him. However, Maru put a stop to sOs' shenanigans with much more efficiency, punishing his team-mate for choosing builds like proxy gateways, dark templars and glaive adepts.
The hope of a Maru-Serral grand finals burns in the hearts of StarCraft II fans once more. While Zest's poor record against Serral suggests the Finnish Phenom will hold up his end of the bargain, the match between Rogue and Maru could be a much tighter affair. IEM Katowice concludes on March 1st with the semifinals and grand finals.