'Season one' of the ESL Open Cups is coming to its conclusion, with Cups #52 and #53 being the final two events before the EPT points/standings are locked ahead of IEM Katowice 2021 (the cups will continue to be held on a weekly basis, but won't award points toward the EPT 2021-22 season until April). Week #52 saw Zoun take the first Korean gold medal of the new year, while HeRoMaRinE restored the natural order of things in EU with his first victory in 2021. Finally, Zest took home his third win on the American server.
Just as for the 51st edition, the Korean ESL Open Cup #52 took place in its regular Monday slot on January 4th, as that server wasn't plagued by the hosting issues which had rendered the European and American servers basically useless to competition. Zoun went through a tough opening match against TIME, who once again was eliminated with a 2-1 score by the eventual winner of the tournament. The Alpha X Protoss then also defeated the previous week's victor in Trap, before overcoming a surprising semifinals opponent in Creator. The toughest battle awaited him in the finals, where he traded maps evenly with Solar and was able to finally claim the deciding win on Oxide, denying Solar the chance to equalize his gold medal count with that of Stats—guaranteeing at least a shared top position for the Afreeca Protoss player in the cup standings. For Zoun himself, this proved to be his second gold medal on the Korean server, coming eleven months after his first victory in the weekly tournament.
2021 is playing all the ESL Open Cup Europe classics on repeat: After Reynor battled HeroMarine into submission in the first edition of the new year, Big Gabe claimed victory in 'his' weekly over Clem on Sunday in what has probably been the most iconic match-up of the competition in 2020 and already delivered another hard fought struggle in '21. The mousesports Terran allowed himself no weaknesses on his run this time, only dropping a map to Neeb in the semifinals before clashing with the Frenchman, who funnily enough only met German opponents from the Ro16 onwards, eliminating Spatz, GunGFuBanDa and Lambo with clear results. It very much looked like Big Gabe would be the fourth and final defeated German on Clem's list as the Liquid player took two wins in a row to get to match point, raising the pressure on HeroMarine to play three flawless games. The Terran took up the challenge, taking victories on Lightshade and Pillars of Gold to reverse the momentum. Control of the series completely shifted out of Clem's hands into HeroMarine's, who closed the finals out on Deathaura—reverse-sweep complete.
Over the last few weeks, the two dominating names in the American ESL Open Cup have been Zest and PartinG, with the Raise Your Edge Gaming player being the more consistent member of the duo, having reached the finals in every cup from Week #47 to 50. The 52nd edition proved merely the next episode in their struggle for supremacy after PartinG had evened the scores between them in Cup #50. Plowing through their respective brackets—participation was very low once again—Zest didn't drop a single map before reaching the finals, while PartinG did have to concede one game against Solar, but put on a convincing show otherwise. The currently teamless player had won the last two cups with untouchable PvP performances, but was under great pressure himself this time, as Zest got off to a great start with two victories in a row, bringing his opponent to the brink of elimination. PartinG did briefly fight back and hoped to mount a comeback from his win on Oxide, but Zest did not let go of his third gold medal in the tournament, finishing things on Lightshade. Despite the very limited player pool, Souleer put on another remarkable performance, beating Alpha X players Nice and Astrea as the underdog in both matches to reach his second top four placement in a row, before being outclassed by Zest.
ESL Open Cup winners earn $200 in prize money and 10 ESL Pro Tour points. Players who finish second earn 5 ESL Pro Tour points and $100. A top 4 finish guarantees at least $50. Due to rescheduling from recent server issues, 'Week' #53 of ESL Open Cups is taking place immediately after Week #52 on January 11th.
European Server Cup #52 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #52 (Click for full bracket)