2021 GSL Super Tournament 1 - Day 2by Darkhorse
If you are a fan of Protoss vs Terran, GSL Super Tournament has the definitive slate of matches for you on day two of the opening round. As an interesting side note, there is not a single mirror match in the round of 16, which has never happened before in a Super Tournament dating all the way back to Polt’s victory in the event’s first iteration in 2011.
Strange trivia aside, the bottom half of the bracket has a few unexpected faces replacing regulars such as TY and Rogue. With the exception of Zoun, all of these players are heading into the all important IEM Katowice next month, so it remains to be seen who will use this as a way to gain momentum before the world championship and who will falter nearing the end of a long EPT season. Either way, day two will showcase established champions, underdogs trying to make their mark early in the year, and of course plenty of PvT.
Day 2 Preview: Round of 16 - Part 2Start time: Thursday, Jan 28 8:00am GMT (GMT+00:00)
RO16 Match #5: Zoun vs Armani
Right away day two starts with a matchup that may look surprising for a Super Tournament. While Zoun and Armani are certainly not unknowns, with Armani in particular making a Code S semifinal run in 2020, neither are considered in the absolute top tier of Korean players. It will come as little surprise that this matchup occurred due to a big upset earlier in the qualifiers. Zoun took out the two time 2020 GSL champion TY 2-1 to advance to the main bracket in the most surprising result of the preliminary round. His qualifier run was a PvT show, as his win over TY came after he had already beaten Dream earlier in the day. This makes this matchup all the more unfortunate for the Alpha X Protoss, as he is the only Protoss player who doesn’t get to try his hand at PvT on Thursday. Aside from his excellent showing in the qualifiers, Zoun also had a relatively strong end to 2020 as he made his deepest Code S run ever which ended in the round of 16. And that Code S run prominently featured Armani, the opponent that he will face today. As the only player in the day’s slate of matches to not be qualified for IEM Katowice, Zoun will be looking for a strong start to the year to hopefully qualify in 2022.
Armani is by no means considered the absolute elite of Korean Zergs like Rogue or Dark, but he did have one of the strongest results of any Zerg in recent times a few months ago. His Code S performance in season three of 2020 left him as the last Zerg standing. While he did lose to Maru in the semifinals, he took two games off the GSL legend in impressive fashion, and achieved his best ever Code S result with a top four finish. However, Armani hasn’t had a notable result since, as he fell out in the group stage of the Dreamhack Winter Finals and likewise lost in round one of TSL6 to HeroMarine. He also had a tough time out in the previous Super Tournament, as he got swept aside by INnoVation in the Round of 16. Armani is still seeking a breakout performance, and he’ll need to gain some steam here in order to both make a run at the Super Tournament and also to advance past the play-in stage at next month’s world championship.
So about that Code S history. Armani and Zoun ended up in Group A together in the round of 16 in last year’s Code S Season 3 and faced each other in the opening match. Zoun beat Armani 2-0, but failed to pull the upset in the winner’s match against TY. The two would face each other again in the elimination match, but this time Armani reversed his fortunes and won 2-1. While Zoun was eliminated, Armani earned the opportunity to reach the semifinals. With a split result the last time the two sat in opposite booths in the GSL studio, it would seem that these two are fairly evenly matched. However, there is the problem of the matchup. Armani’s strongest matchup throughout the past EPT Season is ZvP at around a 60% win-rate, and that was reflected in his qualifier run where he beat Patience twice to make the round of 16. Meanwhile, Zoun has hovered just barely above a 50% winrate against Zerg over that same time span, and Armani also leads 6-3 in head-to-head matches over the last year. While I expect this series may end up being close, I’ll give the edge to Armani.
Prediction: Armani 3 - 1 Zoun
RO16 Match #6: Cure vs PartinG
In the first of three PvT’s of the day, Cure takes on PartinG in perhaps the most evenly matched pairing of day two. Cure was one of the breakout players of the 2020-21 EPT Season, and is actually the #1 rated Korean Terran on Aligulac.com at the time of writing. He established a reputation as an absolute online beast during a year where online play took even greater prominence, and put up a strong offline result by taking second place in the first Code S of 2020. Unfortunately, he didn’t improve upon that result thereafter, but he did remain solidly in the top half of Code S and finished in the top four of the Dreamhack Summer Championship in July. He is oft overlooked in terms of the top Korean Terrans, but would be in line to be inducted as the “Fifth Horseman” after TY, Maru, ByuN, and INnoVation if he could finally win a title. He also made the finals of the King of Battles International tournament in October where he notably defeated Serral, Reynor, and TY. Cure will certainly be a tough draw for anyone at IEM Katowice, but he doesn't have that signature result to make him one of the top title contenders.
PartinG on the other hand has had plenty of signature individual results with five premier titles over the course of his long career. However, it has been a long time since he was in the running for best player in the world during the latter stages of Wings of Liberty. Still it is somewhat of a marvel that PartinG is even in this position as a borderline top twenty player given the length of his absence from the competitive scene. While he may not be the world beater that he once was, it’s ludicrous that he is back at this level despite that long layoff. His GSL results in 2020 were semifinals, quarterfinals, round of 16, which while consistently good did show a decline in performance throughout the year. His most recent outing was at the Dreamhack: Last Chance tournament where he ended up finishing last in his group. However, it is worth pointing out that he was in debatably the group of death along with Byun, Rogue, and eventual champion Trap. Similarly to Cure, PartinG has been overshadowed results-wise in the later years of his career by more accomplished Protoss players like Stats, Zest, and Trap. However, he has never been completely overlooked as his outspoken personality and previous career achievements will never truly leave him out of the limelight.
PartinG owns the career head-to-head record 9-7, and has won four of their six meetings over the last year. Cure, meanwhile, won their most recent meeting 3-0 in a convincing sweep. Additionally, Cure is experiencing a sharp uptick in TvP tear recently, winning thirteen out of his fourteen TvPs in 2021 including the aforementioned victory over PartinG. The Protoss player on the other hand has been less active in the new year, winning two PvTs over Natural and TIME but losing two to Byun and Cure. Given their current forms, I will give the edge to Cure in a close series.
Prediction: Cure 3 - 2 PartinG
RO16 Match #7: Stats vs Bunny
Despite having one of the best Legacy of the Void resumes of any player, Stats has seen Trap run away with the title of world’s best Protoss in recent months. While Stats and Trap have been relatively close throughout the last few years, it seems that Stats has finally slipped firmly into second place given Trap’s recent monstrous form and Stats run of silver medals. However, he has still been one of the best players in the world over the last year, finding a way to slip in gold medals when Trap was still afflicted by the silver curse. He was the runner up in GSL season two of 2020 and was a semifinalist in season three. The end of his year was even more impressive as he reached the finals of both the Dreamhack Season Finals in November and the GSL Super Tournament 2 in December where he came up short to Serral and Trap respectively. On the flip side, his last outing at Dreamhack Last Chance was a bit of a dud, as he ended up finishing third in his group with losses to Solar and Serral. Losses to Serral and Solar are certainly nothing to be ashamed of given that both are world class players, but it again provided a poor comparison to Trap, who beat both Zergs on his way to the title. Still with his form towards the end of 2020 he is positioned well and perhaps is the favorite to get out of the bottom half of the Super Tournament Bracket.
While Stats was a minor disappointment in the group stage of Dreamhack Last Chance, Bunny was anything but. While he was already a surprise qualifier after beating Byun, DRG, and Maru sequentially to make the tournament, Bunny’s best performance of the event was still to come. He came out firing and upset the apple cart in group C, beating Reynor 2-1 in his opening match. With his 2-1 victory over Innovation in the winner’s match, he made himself the talk of the group stage as the most unlikely group winner. Unfortunately any chance at a deep run was spoiled by Clem in the quarterfinals, and Bunny is left to prove whether that Dreamhack performance was a new norm or a flash in the pan.
Despite Bunny’s recent performance at Dreamhack standing in stark contrast to Stats’ disappointment, I’d say Bunny is facing an uphill battle here. Stats absolutely owns the head to head between the two by a 15-4 score, and only one of Bunny’s four wins has come within the last three years. Bunny has never had significant success in a GSL booth with only one top eight finish in his entire career, while Stats has been to the quarterfinals eight times. And while Bunny has had a few recent quality results including his Dreamhack run and qualifying for the Super Tournament, he has had to play very little TvP with his best wins coming over Ragnarok, Byun, Maru, Reynor, and Innovation. Meanwhile, Stats is an absolute PvT maestro. Over the last six months he is 38-6 in the matchup and only took losses to the top tier of Korean Terrans (TY, Cure, Maru, Dream, and ByuN x2). As much as I’d like to see a close series and for Bunny to build on his success, I see this as the most one sided matchup of the day.
Prediction: Stats 3 - 0 Bunny
RO16 Match #8: Zest vs SpeCial
SpeCial was one of the busiest players on the ESL Pro Tour in 2020. The Mexican Terran has split his time between being a solid middle of the pack GSL Code S player and winning all three seasons of the Dreamhack Masters Latin America to comfortably claim the #1 Latin American qualifying spot at IEM Katowice. While he didn’t make huge inroads at the international Dreamhack Season Finals throughout the year, he was a mainstay in multiple league and tournament top sixteens. Even still, it was a surprise to see him make it through the qualifiers here, especially after he was knocked into the loser’s bracket by sOs. However, he was able to pull the huge upset over Rogue in the deciding match to secure his spot in his first ever GSL Super Tournament.
Zest is a player that can never truly be counted out, but he is in the longest premier title drought of his time playing Starcraft II. While he once was the best Protoss player in the world, he relinquished that title some time ago and hasn’t been able to reach the peaks he previously saw in his illustrious career. His recent form has been up and down. He made the quarterfinals of GSL season three before being upset by Armani. He then was eliminated in round one of last year’s final Super Tournament 2 in a 0-3 sweep by sOs and likewise fell out of DreamHack: Last Chance, finishing last in his opening group with losses to Clem and Ragnarok. That being said, on the day he can still come up with brilliant performances like he showed when he made the final of last year’s IEM Katowice, so it is best to not overlook him. Zest has made an unexpected turn as an innovator and pioneer in the last year, and one has to contend with the possibility of unorthodox strategies on top of his usual strong macro play.
SpeCial being the only non-Korean player in the Super Tournament is an awesome story, especially considering his upset win over Rogue in the qualifiers. Still, Zest has the edge here. He is 14-1 against SpeCial over the course of their careers, by far the most lopsided head-to-head record of the day’s matches. Additionally, while SpeCial has a respectable TvP record in recent months, he rarely beats the absolute top level Protoss players and has been beaten repeatedly by the likes of Stats, Trap, Zest, and sOs. With Zest slumping and SpeCial riding his momentum from the qualifiers (as well as really having nothing to lose) I’ll give him a game. But Zest should advance here relatively comfortably.
Prediction: Zest 3 - 1 SpeCial