After a one-week delay for maintenance to the ESLPlay website, the ESL Open Cups came back for week #93. In Korea, ByuN continued his run of good form by winning another title after a one cup gap, while MaxPax took his very first victory over in Europe. To cap things off, ByuN made it a double on the week by winning Monday's American server cup.
KR cup: Although StayAtHomestoryCup #4 was going on this weekend, the line-up for this cup was similar to previous weeks. Zoun did not try to defend his title, but there were many other Protosses in contention. The recently returned Classic and herO continued their trend of playing in as many tournaments as possible, and their results suggest they are steadily getting back in shape. herO notably beat DongRaeGu 2-0 before meeting Classic, who ended herO's run with a 2-0 victory. ESL Cup monster Zest had no mercy for NightMare and RagnaroK in the early rounds, but had to struggle to a 3-2 victory against Classic to reach the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, ByuN made his own fearsome run to the finals, reminding everyone that he almost earned a 4-peat in the previous edition of the cup. He took down PvT expert PartinG 2-1, and then moved on to sweep TIME in the semifinals. The Chinese Terran might have had his hopes up considering that ByuN’s self-admitted worst match-up is TvT, but these hopes got shattered by an on-point ByuN.
The finals was a close affair between Zest and ByuN, with ByuN narrowly keeping his winning streak against Zest going with a 3-2 victory. Zest took the first game on Berlingrad—there was not that much action until both players had their third bases, but after that ByuN found some damage with his very aggressive style. Still, Zest's defense was good enough for him to ultimately amass a strong army that was too much for ByuN to handle in a straight-up fight. ByuN then tied the series up in game two, with great mid-game harassment being the key to victory (in particular, he got executed a successful Widow Mine drop and Viking harassment in the mineral line). Zest had tried to make an early transition to Carriers, but got abused by the mobility of ByuN’s bio army and ultimately died before reaching critical mass. Zest retook the lead in game three by defending a 2-base Tank-Raven push with Colossus tech, killing ByuN with the subsequent counterattack.
Considering that their recent head-to-head record favored ByuN heavily in terms of both series and map scores, Zest being up 2-1 was a bit of a surprise. However, ByuN was resilient and showed that he still had Zest's number. Game four saw ByuN punish his opponent's cheeky proxy-Gateway early and demolish the Blink-Stalker harassment later on. He then finished Zest off with a 2-Medivac drop that flew in unopposed. In the last game, maybe tilted by the previous game or because of a pause due to lag, Zest made a huge blunder with his anti-Widow Mine micro, losing most of his Probe line to a single mine. ByuN took the game and match 3-2 to win the KR cup.
Upset(s) of the day: Similar to the last Korean open cup, there wasn't a huge upset on the week. Since Classic has recently returned from military service, him taking two maps off of top shape Zest in the semifinals is the closest thing we have to a surprise, even though Classic has been gradually improving. One could think herO (another recent military returnee) 2-0'ing DongRaeGu is a bigger upset, but the latter's ZvP is quite weak compared to his ZvT—so much that herO was actually the favorite according to Aligulac.com.
EU cup: Before we get to the ESL Cup, we should note that Rotterdam and Wardi teamed up to provide a replacement cup yet again during the delay week (having previous done so in week #86). The partially crowd-funded tournament featured the usual Korean suspects in Zest and ByuN, who both obtained good results (semifinals and quarter
finals respectively), but Reynor survived until the very end by decimating foreign Terran after foreign Terran. Kelazhur gave him the most trouble by taking a single map, but after that, the 2021 World Champion did not lose a single map. 2-0 MarineLord, 3-0 HeroMarine are already good results, but 4-0'ing Clem in a dominant performance was a bit more surprising.
In the actual Open Cup #93 though, Clem declined to try and take his revenge on Reynor, perhaps taking a break after StayAt HomeStory Cup on Sunday. As for Reynor himself, while his record in Open Cups is impressive, he did not manage to defend his title this time. After beating his younger brother BabyMarine 2-0, MaNa 2-1 and Spirit (formerly known as souL) 2-0, he got beaten by the young Protoss prodigy MaxPax in a close 3-2 match. MaxPax had already had a strong run up to that point, defeating both Kelazhur and Lambo in the earlier rounds. On the other half of the bracket, EU Cup King HeroMarine made a dominant run to the finals without dropping a single map, taking out players like Harstem, Creator, and SpeCial along the way.
Big Gabe almost made it a perfect cup victory, going up 2-0 against MaxPax in the grand finals. He abused his Protoss foe with clever army movements in the first two games, making a 3-0 result look almost inevitable. However, the Danish Protoss dug his heels in and fought back, earning a clutch reverse sweep in the end. He scored his first point in game three by successfully defending a 2-base bio tank all-in, and then won an impressive comeback victory in game four. There, HeroMarine had started off by dealing significant economic damage with a 3-Hellion drop, and seemed to be in a great defensive position against MaxPax's 4-Gate Blink Stalker counter. However, MaxPax's micro and persistence allowed him to grind his way back into the game and ultimately take the GG. The final map of Berlingrad saw HeroMarine attempt another big 2- base push with Mines and Liberators supporting his bio, but MaxPax had time to tech to HT with storm and barely defended, taking his first EU Cup by a 3-2 score. Amusingly enough, fans seemed much more excited about MaxPax's dramatic victory than the player himself, who gave a comically stoic interview to Rotterdam after the finals.
Upset(s) of the day: Similar to the KR cup, there wasn't any jaw-dropping upset in Europe this week. Thus, MaxPax beating Reynor 3-2 was the most noticeable result in the bracket. Reynor had been on a nine-match winning streak headed into the cup, and had mostly gotten the better of MaxPax in their favorite duels. Also, Aligulac had given Reynor around a 65:35 chance to win at the time of the match, so this was a pretty impressive win for MaxPax.
NA cup: The American edition of the weekly cup saw ByuN win his first NA gold of the 2021/22 season and reaffirm his dominance after a victory in Korea and a deep run in Europe. He demonstrated his mastery of TvP, defeating only Protosses from RO16 onwards—2-0 vs Gerald, 2-0 vs Has, another 3-2 vs Zest, and a 3-1 against SKillous in the grand finals. Interestingly enough, Aligulac considers Zest a 66:34 favorite against ByuN, but ByuN is actually 8-2 against him in their recent matches (almost all of them BO5's). It's one of the more peculiar relationships in StarCraft II at the moment where ByuN's style seems to hard-counter Zest, despite Zest being the 'objectively' better player.
SKillous went on a good run to reach the finals, taking out both TIME and Astrea, but was outmatched by ByuN in the end. In the first game, ByuN successfully defended Adept-Oracle harass early on, and then dealt major damage with his 3-Rax attack with stim (he caught SKillous positioning his defenders unevenly between his two expansions). After that, a bigger push off two bases was enough to finish the game. The second game was far more hectic, with Skillous containing ByuN early on and even killing his expansion CC, but also losing a lot of Probes to a mine drop. After both players stabilized, ByuN was barely able to win the game with multiple SCV-pull attacks. Skillous took his sole point on Berlingrad in a 13-minute macro game, managing to crush ByuN’s army straight up with multiple Colossus and a Disruptor. In the last game, ByuN prevailed in a longer macro game by using his bio mobility to his advantage with superior multitasking, securing a 3-1 victory to win the AM cup.
Other players making notable runs were Cham and Astrea, with Cham beating regional rival SpeCial while Astrea managed to take out Cham and Vanya. Zest racked up the wins as expected, beating Rhizer, Gumiho and NightMare before falling to his nemesis ByuN.
Upset(s) of the day: The big upset of the day was SKillous demolishing Astrea 3-0 on his home turf, with his 2-1 victory over TIME also being a nice bonus. The American Protoss was playing on his server and was seen as a 65:35 favorite according to Aligulac, yet got completely obliterated in a sweep (only around a 7% chance for that result according to the stats website). Furthermore, the 5 EPT points from reaching the finals might be very important in SKillous' Katowice qualification campaign, as the Russian Protoss is right behind Elazer at the #10 spot at the time of writing.
European Server Cup #93 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #93 (Click for full bracket)