The Code S Season 1 playoffs began with a pair of major upsets, as Super Tournament finalists Maru and Dark were eliminated by underdogs PartinG and TY.
TY headed into his quarterfinal match with a dismal 6-20 head-to-head record against Dark in Legacy of the Void, but he put the past behind him to win in a stunning 3-0 sweep.
Game one on Golden Wall was all about scouing—or the lack there of from Dark. TY's proxy-Baracks Bunker-rush went undiscovered, allowing him to nab several Drone kills before his Marines were forced back. TY's follow-up Hellion drop also went undetected, sneaking past Overlords to deliver its deadly cargo in to Dark's main. The Hellions further crippled Dark's economy, making it easy for TY to finish Dark off with a force of Tanks and Marines.
Dark took scouting a bit more serious in game two on Eternal Empire, sending in an early speed-upgraded Overlord to discover a three Command Center opener from TY. This did not stop TY from duping Dark, however—he followed his greedy opener with an off-tempo Marine-Medivac-Hellbat attack, setting Dark back by destroying his fourth base. Meanwhile, as he kept up a pretense of going for a bio army, TY transitioned into mech.
TY was content to play out his advantage as slowly as possible, patiently taking the expansions on his side of the map while adding the signature mass Orbital Commands and Nukes of a turtling Terran. In his subsequent winner interview, TY explained that Eternal Empire's limited number of expansions made it a good map for Terran to outlast Zerg on. The game played out exactly as TY would have hoped, with Dark bleeding units and bases while TY slowly encroached into his territory. Dark even made the uncharacteristic mistake of losing dozens of Drones to a nuke, soon after which he GG'd out knowing there was no way back into the game.
Having defeated Dark in the late-game, TY switched back to proxy-Barracks rushing in game three on Simulacrum. Dark has no problem defending this time around, as the Barracks were placed much further from the Zerg base than in game one. It seemed to be of no concern for TY, however, who simply transitioned into his next move: Hellions on the ground, and a Medivac with Mines and Marines flying into the main. This modest attack force did a surprising amount of damage, killing several Queens and Overlords. It seemed to knock Dark off balance, as he was woefully unprepared for the third hit in TY's combo: three Medivacs with stim-upgraded Marines. Killing off even more Queens and several Drones, the attack swung the game irrevocably in TY's favor. At match point, Dark tried to play the game out, but it was all too easy for a player of TY's caliber to capitalize on his huge advantage and seal his 3-0 series victory.
After the match, TY credited Rogue and the AfreecaTV Zergs for helping him practice and prepare the strategies leading to his victory. He also said he'd rather play Maru than PartinG in the semifinals, saying he might as well walk the hardest path to the finals. However, TY would not get his wish, as PartinG scored an even bigger upset in his following match against Maru.
PartinG had once been Maru's tormentor in Heart of the Swarm, but much had changed since their last GSL match in 2015. PartinG was still on the long road to recovery after an even longer hiatus from StarCraft II, while Maru had established himself as perhaps the greatest player of all time.
Still, game one on Nightshade might have made Maru think they were back in the mid 2010's, as PartinG forced his way to a victory with a Blink-Stalker all-in. Maru predicted Blink-Stalker aggression (Stats, who practiced with Maru, mentioned as much on his stream) and built Bunkers and Tanks in preparation. However, Maru didn't have the reaction speed and careful positioning needed to beat Blink micro of PartinG's caliber, and was forced to GG out after his units were whittled away. Game two on Simulacrum featured nearly identical opening strategies, but this time Maru was far more alert on defense and shut down PartinG's stalkers. From there on out, it was a cakewalk for Maru to snowball his economy and tech lead into a ten-minute victory.
PartinG went for four-gate Blink-Stalkers yet again in game three, but this time Maru changed things up by going retro with a three Barracks Marine-Marauder attack off two bases. Having the Marauders count needed to shred through Stalkers, Maru was able to play as the aggressor from basically start to finish, constantly pulling PartinG's forces out of position and even tearing down the main Nexus with a drop. PartinG couldn't withstand the onslaught for long, and GG'd out to give Maru the 2-1 series lead.
Maru went for one of his beloved proxy-building strategies to start game four, but his non-committal, single-Barracks proxy ended up being little more than a minor nuisance for PartinG (despite some fantastic load/unload micro from Maru). For the first time in the series, the two players transitioned into the mid-game on somewhat even footing (PartinG having a moderate economic advantage from aggressively expanding), and they seemed headed toward one of those late-game brawls often seen on Eternal Empire.
However, just as Maru looked to secure his fourth base, PartinG made a deft series of moves that swung momentum in his favor. Almost simultaneously, PartinG snuck a Warp Prism into Maru's main to warp in a round of Zealots, smashed a group of Terran infantry skulking around the map looking to counter-attack, and launched a frontal attack on Maru's fourth base before the defenses were set. PartinG ended up doing a great deal of economic damage, and more importantly bought himself time to convert his income into production and set himself up to deal the killing blow. With eighty Probes and nearly twenty Gateways, PartinG pummeled Maru with a relentless series of attacks, extracting the GG and tying the series 2-2.
Both players brought out curveball openers in the deciding game on Zen, with Maru going for two-Barracks Reapers out of his main while PartinG cut economy to go for an extra-fast Adept. While PartinG's Adept was killed by Reapers without doing any damage, the situation still played out in his favor as he had scouted out Maru's Reaper opener. PartinG had more than enough time to ready his defenses, and Maru fell behind when his commitment to producing additional Reapers didn't net him any results. This put Maru in a more defensive posture as the two players transitioned into the mid-game, with the Jin Air Terran looking to hunker down on three bases. Unfortunately for Maru, his one aggressive move was severely punished: three Medivacs full of bio were spotted by a Pylon on the map, and the Terran units were destroyed by the nearby Protoss army.
PartinG ceded back some of his lead with a reckless attack up a cliff into Maru's main, losing a decent chunk of his army. Maru decided this was his window to finally go on the offensive, and unsieged his Liberators and Tanks to move out. However, PartinG read the situation perfectly and had a brilliant response. He sacrificed his fifth base to Maru's forces, all the while launching a huge counter-attack on Maru's side of the map. PartinG's quick thinking and decisiveness let him kill three of Maru's expansions while he lost only two of his own, giving him a significant advantage. Using Tactical Recall to bring his counter-attacking units home, PartinG then gathered his forces to crush Maru's main army and take the 3-2 series victory.
After the match, a visibly emotional PartinG talked about how he hadn't expected at all to win headed into the match. But, having taken down the top Terran player in the world, he suggested he should be able to defeat a top three Terran in TY in their upcoming semifinal match.
The Code S quarterfinals will resume on Saturday, May 23 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00) with Dear vs Cure and Trap vs INnovation.