Two sessions of the ESL Open Cups were played this week, with cup #97 played mid-week to make up for the postponed October 17-18th cups (due to ESLPlay site maintenance). The mid-week scheduling did not prevent some big names from participating, and indeed, the NA and KR cups were slightly more stacked than usual (though the EU cup saw reduced competition). In the end, Cure won back-to-back KR cups, HeroMarine finally reclaimed his throne in EU with a perfect run, and ByuN won NA by avenging his cup #96 loss to Astrea.
KR cup: The Korean cup had good mix of representatives from each race playing— notably Rogue and Solar for Zerg, ByuN, Cure and TIME for the Terran, and Creator, Zoun, Has, Nice, Cyan, MacSed for Protoss.
Rogue does not participate often in the ESL Weeklies, but did not quite live up to his #1 seed reputation as he went out to Zoun (3-1) in the semifinals (Rogue only defeated Has and amateur player fork prior to that). Zoun showed strong all-around PvZ play to qualify for the finals, taking out Rex (2-0) and Solar (2-1) in addition to Rogue.
Meanwhile, Cure's path had some challenging TvT's, taking out ByuN (2-1) before facing TIME in a rematch of the week #96 finals. TIME had lost 2-3 to Cure then, and he couldn't change the outcome in this hastily convened rematch. TIME actually took a 2-0 lead to start, but ended up getting reverse-swept to give up yet another 2-3 loss to the reigning Code S champion.
The finals started with Cure getting a straight-forward victory against in game one, finding some success with Mine drops and following up with a 2-base Tank push to kill Zoun. Pride of Altaris saw Zoun get a solid win for himself, winning a decently long macro game by melting Cure’s army with splash damage in the deciding fight. Game three on Berlingrand saw Cure achieve some early game success with 2 Reapers early on, and he again followed with a 2-base Bio-Viking-Tank push to finish off Zoun before his Phoenix-Colossus composition could come together. On the last map of Hardwire, Cure took a slight lead with Widow Mines, and once again smashed Zoun's Phoenix-Colossus attempt with a big 2-base attack. With the 3-1 victory, Cure claimed his 14th overall first place finish in the KR cups.
Upset(s) of the day: The most glaring upset came in the semifinals with Zoun beating Rogue 3-1. Even if I'm skeptical of Rogue in online tournaments—especially if it’s a weekly cup—I have to give credit where it's due.
EU Cup: Clem declined to go for two EU cup wins in one week, which left HeroMarine, MaxPax, and recent finalist SpeCial to enter EU cup #97 as the favorites (top Koreans Zest and ByuN decided to participate as they often do, but the disadvantage of playing on the European server doesn't quite allow them 'favorite' status in this circumstance).
On the top side of the bracket, Zest got a relatively easy draw, only needing to defeat Rattata (formerly Vanya) to reach the semifinals. In contrast, Zest's semifinals opponent TIME had a tougher path, having to defeat both DisK and MaxPax 2-0 to reach the final four. Unfortunately for the Chinese Terran, he couldn't keep up his good TvP run against the DPG Protoss, losing 1-3.
Last week's runner-up SpeCial had a disappointing run, losing against the underdog Polish Protoss ArT 0-2 early on (ArT himself lost to ByuN by the same score). Beating DnS (2-1) and ArT (2-0) allowed ByuN to face HeroMarine in the semi-finals, with Big Gabe having advanced with 2-0 wins over both Spatz and Cyan. The undefeated streak for HeroMarine continued against ByuN, as he destroyed the Shopify Terran in a 3-0 series.
HeroMarine's finals against Zest was also rather one-sided, as he took another 3-0 sweep to complete an impressive, undefeated championship run (12-0 overall map score). Game one on Hardwire saw HeroMarine use a quick 2-base timing push very effectively to take a big lead and finish the game a few minutes later. On Curious Minds, he defended the proxy-gate of Zest without difficulty, before winning with another 2-base timing push. Perhaps annoyed by these 2-base pushes, Zest decided to be even more aggressive with a one-base Blink all-in with some Gates hidden on the map. However, he did not have much success with it, allowing HeroMarine to win his 38th cup in Europe.
Upset(s) of the day: ArT beating SpeCial was the big upset for me, and Aligulac.com seems to agree: he was given 17:83 odds to win the match at all, let alone win by a 2-0 score. Honorable mention to TIME beating MaxPax 2-0—this is definitely not an easy feat.
NA Cup: The North American edition of the cup was clearly the most competitive one of the week overall. RagnaroK was the only notable Zerg representative, but the other factions brought stacked line-ups that more than made up for it. ByuN, Clem, Cure, GuMiho and HeroMarine showed up on the Terran side, while Astrea, Creator, Gerald, Has, NightMare, PartinG, Trap, TriGGeR and Zest arrived to represent Protoss.
With so many top players participating, it's impossible to go through all the matches. Ultimately, Astrea made an impressive run to survive the top-half of the bracket, taking out top seed Trap (2-1), Has (2-0), and HeroMarine (3-0) to reach the finals. Interestingly enough, HeroMarine defeated Zest once again on the NA server after defeating him in the EU Cup finals just a few hours earlier. However, HeroMarine's mighty TvP didn't avail him against the surging Astrea, who took a 3-0 sweep victory.
ByuN was the survivor from the bottom side of the bracket, defeating RagnaroK (2-0), Clem (2-0), and then Cure (3-2) to reach the finals. Cure himself had a solid run before running into ByuN, defeating TriGGeR and PartinG 2-0.
After his disappointing loss to Astrea in the previous NA cup, ByuN was able to take his revenge with a 3-1 victory in the rematch. ByuN opened up on Hardwire with a double-Barracks proxy-Reaper build, which did not do much damage but still forced investment into early defenses from Astrea. The game progressed on to the mid-game phase, where ByuN's repeated drop tactics disoriented Astrea and eventually allowed the Terran to win with a frontal attack. Astrea took a point back on Curious Minds, perfectly defending his fourth base at a key juncture in the game, and then defeated ByuN with a combination counter-attack + Prism warp-in in the main.
Game three on Pride of Altaris allowed ByuN to shine, perhaps contrary to its reputation. ByuN defended against the Blink-Stalker pressure of Astrea without much trouble, which allowed him to really take advantage of the bio's mobility in the mid/late-game with two big armies operating independently. The map being so big made the game last longer than 20 minutes with a lot of action and harassment from both sides, but eventually ByuN overwhelmed his opponent. ByuN then closed out the 3-1 victory by winning on 2000 Atmospheres in a quick game, surprising Astrea with an unscouted proxy-Marauder attack (while pretending to expand at home).
Upset(s) of the day: ArT made waves once again in PvT, beating Gumiho 2-0. He was less of an underdog statistically than against SpeCial, but 26:74 odds are still a significant upset, and Gumiho is slowly getting back in shape, although at a slower pace than Classic and herO the other military returnees. Astrea beating HeroMarine with a clean 3-0 is impressive as well, although at a late hour for the German terran, and with server advantage.
European Server Cup #97 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #97 (Click for full bracket)