2020 GSL Code S Season 2 - Round of 8 Day 1by Wax
Start time: Saturday, Aug 01 4:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
This season of Code S has been all about upsets, and the first quarterfinal match delivered the most surprising one of all as DongRaeGu defeated INnoVation in an emphatic 3-0 sweep. Will defending champion TY be the next player to be swept away in this strange cosmic current? Or will he restore some semblance of normalcy to the GSL as it heads into the semifinals?
Quarterfinals Match #3: TY vs PartinGIf revenge is a dish best served cold, DongRaeGu dined on the most sumptuous, dry-aged morsels last Wednesday, winning his 6-year rematch against INnoVation to reach the Code S semifinals.
Revenge will be a theme again on day two of the quarterfinals, but this time the events that led to the grievance are more fresh in mind. Last season, PartinG was the player in DongRaeGu's position, having made a remarkable run to the semifinals when many fans doubted that he could ever return to pre-retirement form. While it was a fantastic accomplishment to just reach the semifinals—by beating Maru in the quarterfinals, no less—he was reality-checked by eventual Code S champion TY who served him a bitter 4-2 loss.
Now, just a few months later, fate has brought these two players together again for a rematch.
While TL.net writers have often called upon their imaginations to create stories about what progamers might be thinking, PartinG spared us the trouble. After a going out for a few (or a lot of) drinks following his semifinal loss, a tearful PartinG started an emotional stream to express exactly how disappointed he was in his performance. Recently, in his post-RO16 interview, PartinG explained himself in more sober terms. While he had accepted his loss to TY, what he couldn't accept was how poorly he played and how he hadn't been able to really show his skills.
Indeed, looking back the match, PartinG was little more than a practice dummy while TY got to show us the full breadth of his abilities. In many of the games, TY caught PartinG off-guard with early game attacks, seizing the advantage or winning outright. To wrap things up, TY also showed his great theoretical understanding of turtle-Terran, splitting the map and letting PartinG impale himself on the Terran defenses. Still, one has to think what pains PartinG most was his mistakes. In one game, he straight-up lost because he forgot to get Warp Gate upgrade against Hellions. In the aforementioned turtle game, his chances of winning evaporated alongside a huge chunk of his army when he move-commanded through a choke-point where several Siege Tank cannons were aimed. In short, he was a far cry from the player who had scored an incredible 3-2 upset against Maru in the quarterfinals.
So, how do I expect the rematch to go?
PartinG didn't seem quite confident after winning his RO16 group, saying that during practice he had noticed his skill-level had gone down. But even if PartinG's self-appraisal was harsh, you had to be impressed with his 2-0 victory against INnoVation. He won largely on the strength of his great improvisational skills in unusual situations, as the games spiraled into chaos following aggressive openers. Even if PartinG says he's somewhat out of practice, he clearly has a great fundamental understanding of the PvT match-up.
Also, PartinG might be able to take a bit of solace in the fact that TY isn't looking too hot lately. Since winning the Code S championship, TY has been noticeably poor across all competitions, putting up a sub 60% win-rate in both map-score and match-score. In our RO16 preview, we gave TY a pass, saying a lot of those losses came in smaller online tournaments, and predicted he'd show us the class of the defending champion when it was time to play in Code S. Instead, he put in a disappointing performance in his hand-picked group, advancing in second place after losing to DongRaeGu. Even though DRG proved he is a much stronger player than anyone ever expected, it still gives us reason to be concerned about TY's ability to mount a credible title defense.
During one of the many GSL video packages, I was amused to hear SpeCial say that he and TY were players with slow hands who made up for it with their big brains. I imagine TY would object to anyone calling his hands slow, but I have to agree with the overall gist of SpeCial's statement. Carefully crafted strategies were far more important to TY winning the championship last season than his prodigious mechanics. If he's to defeat PartinG and defend his title, he's going to have to bring the same kind of strategic brilliance he used to beat PartinG the last time around.
I should note that the two did play a head-to-head recently in the group stages of the DreamHack Masters Summer Finals, with TY winning 2-1 in a rather cheesy series. I can't read into it too deeply, since the match took place a few days before PartinG's GSL RO16 group, and PartinG admitted he was hiding builds and focused 100% on the GSL. Still, even if neither player brought their A+ builds to the match, I think the cheesy flavor will carry through to their upcoming Code S bout. While both players are quite capable macro players, they're at their best when they can use aggressive strategies to gain an early advantage. Thus, I think there's a chance this ends up being a wonky, coin-flippy series as both players blindly pull out early-game gambits against each other.
Despite TY's shaky form, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt once again. No matter how poorly TY has played in other competitions, a BO5+ series with preparation time is the absolute best scenario for him. No disrespect to PartinG here, but I have to go with the defending champ playing in his 'home court' environment.
Prediction: TY 3 - 2 PartinG
Quarterfinals Match #4: Trap vs StatsProtoss vs Protoss is one of the harder match-ups to hype, but what if I told you this match is the unofficial championship bout for the title of best Protoss in the world? Trap is the present holder of that title, having placed runner-up in the recent DH Masters Summer finals and having been the most consistently excellent Protoss player for about a year and a half now (with two GSL finals appearances in that time). It's a title that Trap took way from Stats, who used to be the living embodiment of consistency in 2017-2018. Then, in 2019, Stats suddenly morphed into a radically different type of player, one more suited to making red-hot runs in weekender tournaments than surviving the grind of Korea's GSL. This feast or famine version of Stats arguably had higher peaks than Trap (you know, beating Serral in Finland and all), but was also incapable of escaping the Code S group stage.
While Trap fans would have hoped this would be the permanent state of affairs, Stats has rediscovered his passion as of late. In the month of July, he's put up an absolutely mind-blowing 46-6 match record across all competitions, which are numbers that make even online-Cure look like a chump in comparison. In fact, he actually defeated offline-Cure and Rogue in the RO16, earning his return to the Code S quarterfinals for the first time since 2018. Sadly, the impetus for Stats' summer surge seems to be his approaching military service (more specifically, soO's impending military service reminding him of his own career mortality, as revealed in his post-RO16 interview), and he's now looking to make another splash in GSL Code S while he still has a chance.
Is Stats going to prove that he merely let Trap hold onto the best-Protoss-in-the-world title belt for a while, and now take back his rightful property? Or will Trap prove that he took that title from Stats fair and square, and put the old man back in his place? Alright, a single BO5 PvP match certainly won't answer that question, but it sure does provide some compelling narrative framing.
There are great stats-based cases to make for both players (no pun-intended). Stats is back, but he's mega-f***ing-back in PvP. Ever since the 4.12.0 patch (the Battery Overcharge patch) went live, Stats has put up an overwhelming 28-2 match record in PvP with a 63-17 map score. Presently, he's on a sixteen-match winning streak in the Protoss mirror (thirteen, if you want to lump some of his BO1 War Chest Team League wins into a single series). I guess it's no surprise that giving a player nicknamed the "The Shield of Aiur" an incredibly powerful, new defensive tool would make him even better.
What's the rub? Trap accounts for one of those two losses Stats gave up, and is the last player to beat Stats before the start of the streak. The victory actually came in a somewhat meaningful match, with Trap sweeping Stats 3-0 in the finals ESL Weekly Korean Cup #27 (VOD). Honestly, it's a bit hard to interpret this result, as all three games were relatively quick, and could be chalked-up to being build-order losses for Stats. It made me think about what Trap said in his post-RO16 interview, where he felt like he had been the #1 PvP player before the 4.12 patch, but now PvP feels more random than before. Wait what? Wasn't one of Battery Overcharge's specific goals to the reduce randomness in PvP? Regardless of his statement, Trap has been no slouch in post-patch PvP, putting up an excellent 9-2 match record. That's not completely bonkers like Stats' record, but it's impressive nonetheless.
One final bit of Aligulac.com diving before we move on to the prediction: the head-to-head record actually favors Stats heavily in 2020, with Stats leading 6-1 in matches. Before that ESL Weekly Cup game, Stats had prevailed in every single clash. Is it meaningful that all of Stats' win were pre-patch, and that Trap got his first win against Stats this year after 4.12? Or is that just random statistical noise, as is often the case in competitive SC2?
All in all, it's hard to see this as anything but a dead-even match between two top-tier Protoss players. As is often the case in PvP, this match could easily end up being a 3-0 in either direction, and it wouldn't really tell us who's the better player. I'm giving Trap the slight edge just because he's been the more consistent player for quite some time now, and won't have any Code S playoffs rust to shake off like Stats.
Prediction: Trap 3 - 2 Stats