Week #95 of the ESL Opens gave us a change of pace, as it was the first time since week #85 that neither Zest nor ByuN won any of the cups. Instead, herO won his first ever cup in Korea, ShoWTimE won European gold for the first time since week #70, and Solar won his 16th American title.
KR cup: Though the recent Korean cups haven't featured the toughest competition, it was still nice to see military returnee herO win his first ever cup. herO actually did manage to take out the most notable player in the Cup, defeating Zest 2-1 in the quarterfinals. herO then went on to 3-0 SKillous in the semis, ending a solid run from the Russian Protoss which had included victories over ByuL (2-1) and RagnaroK (2-1).
From the other side of the bracket, NightMare returned to the finals for the second straight week. He maintained his good form from the previous week, not dropping even a single map against Has, KeeN, and Zoun. That last win was particularly impressive, considering Zoun was more than 400 Aligulac rating points ahead of NightMare in PvP at the time (#8 vs #19). Alas, similarly to the previous KR cup, NightMare couldn't seal the deal.
herO won the first game of the finals on 2000 Atmospheres, committing to a one-base all-in against a more macro oriented build from NightMare. After winning a few skirmishes and dealing a lot of economic damage to NightMare, herO was able to extract the GG. NightMare won the next game on Hardwire, with both players going to the late game this time around. After nineteen action-packed minutes, NightMare's Disruptors were eventually able to out-value herO's Immortal-centric force. The two players traded another set of games after that, sending them to a final showdown on Pride of Altaris. herO bet on a big timing attack with Stalkers and Phoenixes off two bases, while NightMare went for more macro-oriented play with a third base. Unfortunately for NightMare, his shield batteries were not enough to make up for the disparity in army size, and he was forced to GG. herO won the match 3-2 and came out as the victor of the Korean server cup.
Upset(s) of the day: There were several outcomes that could be considered an upset this day. Perhaps the lower number of favorites allowed a bracket of parity? The result that stands out the most for me though is NightMare 3-0'ing Zoun to get to the finals yet again. While he already had a poor 33% chance to beat Zoun in a BO5 according to Aligulac, he had less than 7% chance to win in a 3-0 sweep. Honorable mentions go to herO for beating Zest 2-1 and SKillous for defeating RagnaroK by the same score.
EU Cup: Protoss reigned supreme in Europe, with ShoWTimE taking out MaxPax in the finals of cup #95. Die Mauer arrived at the finals through a Zerg-less path, getting quality wins over PtitDrogo (2-1), SpeCial (2-0), and king of the cup HeRoMarinE (3-1) on his way to the finals.
MaxPax had a similarly impressive path to the finals, defeating Gerald (2-0), Harstem (2-0), and the previous week's champion Clem (3-2) along the way. The Team Liquid ace was actually on the verge of 3-0'ing MaxPax in the semifinals, but the young Dane showed his resolve to earn an impressive reverse-sweep. MaxPax's precise Blink-Stalker use was on display in the deciding match, as he finished Clem off with Stalker + Warp Prism attacks on two fronts.
The finals began with both Protosses going for an old school PvP Phoenix war on Curious Minds, with ShowTimE finding a way to get better trades and snowball his small advantages into a win. The second game on 2000 Atmospheres was a super long macro game featuring Disruptor and DT tech, ending with ShoWTimE taking his second win after a favorable base trade. Too proud to get 3-0d, MaxPax managed to win a map in the third game on Blackburn. In a sub-5 minute game, he went for a Pylon-Shield Battery proxy in his opponent's natural, and managed to eke out a win with Stalkers and Phoenixes. However, ShoWTimE was not affected by the shenanigans of the Danish Protoss and forced a macro game on Hardwire. Although it took around 20 minutes, he proved once again that he was the better macro player on the day, and won the finals by a convincing 3-1 scoreline.
Upset(s) of the day: Congratulations to the unknown Russian player Rattata for beating Brat OK and ziGGy to reach the quarterfinals! Oh wait, he is not unknown at all—it's Vanya, who has decided to change his ID.
I feel like there weren't any big upset this week in the European edition of the cup—maybe the closest thing would be MaxPax winning against Clem in a close 3-2 series. Despite MaxPax's rapid improvement, he still has a dreadful head to head record against Clem, and Aligulac only gave him about a 20% chance to win in a BO5. However, MaxPax's victory doesn't surprise me that much, especially given how he won week #93 by beating HeroMarine.
Finally, a few weeks ago, ShowTimE beating HeroMarine would actually have been a surprise, but the German Protoss has rediscovered his mojo and is destroying Big Gabe lately, with the two now being similarly rated on Aligulac.
NA Cup: Like the Korean Cup, the American edition was not super-stacked this week, though it did feature a number of notable regulars.
With Clem opting not to compete in the AM cup, that left ByuN and SpeCial as the two strongest Terrans. However, the Mexican Terran did not have a great run, breezing through some easier matches before losing to the first DHM-level player he encountered: Rattata. The wild Zerg had a solid outing on the AM server, not just beating SpeCial (2-1) but taking down Creator (2-0) prior to that. However, he couldn't overcome the mighty Solar, who took out the Russian Zerg 3-0 to reach the finals.
Unlike Clem, MaxPax decided to try and avenge his EU cup loss on NA, but could not overcome ByuN in the quarterfinals. In turn, ByuN himself fell to PartinG in the semifinals, with the Big Boy returned to cup competition after a two-week hiatus. Prior to beating ByuN (3-2), PartinG had taken out a rather varied field of global competitors in SKillous, Rex, and Neuro.
The final showdown between Solar and PartinG ended with the KaiZi ace taking a 3-2 victory. In game 1 on 2000 Atmospheres, Solar defended the Adept harass of his opponent perfectly, and then hit a quick counter-attack with Lings and Ravagers that PartinG could not defend. Pride of Altaris allowed PartinG to shine however, as he kept Solar honest with DT drop, and killed him with Blink Stalkers off 3 bases before Solar could solidify his defenses. Game three on Blackburn saw PartinG go for a more standard Void Ray build with some ground units, while Solar opted to go Mutas for harassment. Solar then transitioned into mid-game attack with 200/200 army of Roach-Ravager-Queen, which was enough to outright kill PartinG before he could get his late-game composition together.
Seeming more confident with a ground-based army centered on Blink-Stalkers, PartinG tied up the score again in game four, defending several attacks from Solar before executing a decisive attack at the 11 minute mark to force the GG. With the series going to the final game, PartinG made a huge gamble by cannon rushing his opponent. However, Solar was able to defend it perfectly, receiving the final GG in just over three minutes. This 3-2 victory in the finals crowned him for the 16th time in the NA cup, right behind Zest with 17 NA gold medals.
Upset(s) of the day: Rattata beating SpeCial 2-1... oh wait it’s still Vanya. Nonetheless, getting wins over Creator and SpeCial was a nice result. Outside of that, there weren't any giant upsets in the NA, so this 'award' goes to Rattata for the aforementioned wins, TriGGeR for taking a map off MaxPax, and SKillous for taking a map off PartinG.
European Server Cup #95 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #95 (Click for full bracket)