Dark does not participate in ESL Opens often, but he almost always makes a major impact when he does. Such was the case in week #98, as he won both the Korean and North American Cups with a dominant performance where he lost only a single map combined. Meanwhile, in Europe, ShoWTimE rose to the top after winning two hard-fought BO5 series against Reynor and MaxPax.
KR cup: The Korean cup had an imposing roster this week, with Rogue dropping out only to be replaced by Dark. Maybe Dark was really upset about his recent elimination in King of Battles 2, but he actually went for the double of the American cup on top of the Korean cup. Other notable Zergs included Solar, ByuL and Rex, while the Terran side had ByuN, Cure, Gumiho, Percival and TIME in the wings. Finally, Protoss were well-represented as well with players like Classic, DisK, herO, MacSed, Nice and Zest in contention.
Dark completely destroyed his side of the bracket, going through ReWhite (2-0), Percival (2-0), and Classic (3-1) to reach the finals. Most of the other notable players got in respectable runs without many upsets, with the exception of one giant surprise where Russian Protoss EastToss beat Solar 2-1 in the first round. However, Classic was immune to such underdog antics, taking out EastToss (2-0), #1 Trap-fan GG-emini (2-0), and fellow military returnee GuMiho (2-0) to reach the semifinals (GuMiho had taken out TIME beforehand). The semifinals ended with Classic being eliminated 1-3 by Dark, but he can take some solace in the fact that he was the only player to take a map off Dark in the entire
The players fortunate enough to duck away from Dark in the bottom side of the bracket had some close battles amongst themselves. Zest beat Rex 2-0 and his upcoming GSL Super Tournament opponent herO 2-1 to reach the semis, while Cure met him there after defeating ByuL and ByuN in 2-0 sweeps. The Code S finals rematch between Cure and Zest was a very close battle, and once again, the Terran side prevailed (this time by a 3-2 score).
Unfortunately for Cure, Dark was not there to kid around in the finals and appeared as strong as ever. On Blackburn, a standard macro game eventually developed into a split-map scenario. After more than 35 minutes of intense battles, Cure was forced to GG out after failing to protect his final mining base against a complete Zerg swarm of Queen / Brood Lord / Infestor / Corruptor / Zerglings / Ultralisk (I swear it’s not the campaign). The second game on Glittering Ashes played out relatively similarly, except that Dark took his side of the map even more quickly while Cure struggled to even get up to five bases. Although he traded well against the endless waves of Zerg that Dark sent at him, he was ultimately crushed after the 24 minute mark.
After an entire hour for just two games, Dark decided that it was time to speed up the process and went for a Roach-Ravager push off a late 2nd base on Berlingrad. Cure managed to scout it with his SCV, but still could not defend and GG'd out. With a 3-0 sweep, Dark claimed his 8th gold medal in the KR cup.
Upset(s) of the day: The most glaring upset was the unknown Russian protoss EastToss beating Solar 2-1. EastToss doesn't even have a profile on Liquipedia and is the 163rd ranked player in the world according to Aligulac.com (he is red on liquipedia, meaning he has no profile attached to his name). In contrast, Solar is ranked 9th in the world, and is some 1250+ rating points ahead of EastToss. Naturally, Aligulac's odds for the upset happening were ridiculously low, giving Solar a 97.31% chance to win. Amusingly enough, while it's certainly a giant upset, it still doesn't crack the top five list for biggest BO3 upsets in history.
EU Cup: As is usually the case, the European Cup was the deepest of the three tournaments, with too many notable players to list (even Reynor came back for another shot). After a week of Protoss peril in Cup #98, ultimately it was two Protoss players in ShoWTimE and MaxPax who ended up vying for gold.
The cross-server adventurers didn't go very far this week, with herO being stopped by Kelazhur 2-0 early on while ByuN lost 1-2 to PtitDrogo. herO was 'avenged' by Nice who took out Kelazhur, but the Taiwanese Protoss was defeated 2-0 by ShoWTimE in turn. KingCobra (who got famous a few cups ago with his various skytoss strategies beating Clem and MarineLord back to back) managed another upset by beating Elazer 2-0, but got beaten by the same score against Rattata.
The most crowned player of the EU cup, HeroMarine, had a good start with a clean win over MaNa before getting defeated by Rattata, who himself got 3-0'd by MaxPax in the semifinals. The Danish protoss had been on a PvP killing spree prior to that, with 2-0 wins over Ashbringer, Gerald and PtitDrogo. The other semifinals was much closer, with Reynor and ShoWTimE going all five games. The German Protoss won the final map of Blackburn, pulling off a successful Carrier transition.
This finals of ShoWTimE versus MaxPax was a rematch of EU cup #95. ShoWTimE won that past duel 3-1, and he once again bested his regional foe—albeit by a closer scoreline. The first game on Blackburn was a Phoenix mirror-war as is often the case on the map. Both players started transitioning to Carriers while still producing Phoenixes, and ShoWTimE chose to attack at 200 supply. While it can be hard to tell exactly why anyone won a giant air deathball fight, it seemed that ShoWTimE surprising MaxPax and getting a few moments of initial focus fire allowed him to snowball his way to a win. The second map of 2000 Atmospheres saw the German Protoss win once again, this time in a Stalker-Disruptor-DT war. The two players fought hard for around 20 minutes, but ShoWTimE ultimately took better trades and managed to maintain a bigger army to win the game.
MaxPax just would not just get 3-0'd, however, and pulled back to keep things close. The third map of Curious Minds produced a weird base trade where MaxPax's earlier transition to Carriers helped him against the buildings of his opponent, while ShoWTimE was stuck on Phoenixes. On Berlingrad, MaxPax won with a successful three base push, winning the battle between main armies after several skirmishes around the map. Both players opted to fight it out on the ground again on the final map of Glittering Ashes, with ShoWTimE finishing off MaxPax by attacking him at a weak timing when he only had two Disruptors.
Upset(s) of the day: There were several upsets this week, which is not that surprising considering the high number of top players participating. KingCobra with a 2-0 over Elazer was the biggest upset for me, especially considering that players should know to watch out for him and his peculiar play-style by now. Cyan beating Spirit 2-1 was a decent upset too, and Rattata beating HeroMarine 2-1 would have been worthy of upset of the day in some other cups.
NA Cup: While the depth of this cup didn't quite match week #97, Clem and Dark's entry on opposite sides of the bracket gave the NA Cup one of its most stacked grand finals. NA Cup regulars ByuN, Zest and Solar also participated, but they couldn't get past their illustrious foes.
Clem had an easy first two rounds vs Kazmir and ForJumy, but started to face more difficult challenges from the RO8 on. First, he took out Team NV Protoss (who had defeated Gerald in the previous round), before moving on to face Solar in the semifinals. Although Clem lost on Blackburn, he was still able to take the series 3-1 to set up a duel with Dark in the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, it seemed like frequent foes Zest and ByuN were headed to a quarterfinal clash, but ByuN missed the date after he was upset 1-2 by DisK. The Canadian Protoss even took a map off Zest in the next match, but Zest won a 2-1 victory in the end. Zest was doomed in the next round, however, as he was brutally 3-0'd by Dark. Not satisfied with simply winning the KR cup the day before, Dark was on an utter rampage in the NA cup as well. As if to rectify his 'mistake' of dropping a single map to Classic in Korea, he managed to complete a perfect, undefeated run this time around.
That included a 3-0 against Clem in the finals, who had the time-zone difference go against him by playing at 5AM in European time (though he's probably used to this as a frequent NA Cup competitor). On Berlingrad, Clem went for a standard build while Dark took a third base immediately followed by Roach pressure, forcing a CC lift off and dealing quite a lot of economic damage. This advantage was almost enough to win him the game a few minutes later with a big Roach-Ravager 1-1 push when Clem tried to land his third base, but the French terran was resilient. Still, Dark finally won after transitioning to Lurkers. Clem went for a standard Hellion-Banshee build on Glittering Ashes, but Dark produced a lot of Zerglings that he used to both envelope the Hellions and also counter-attack to deal crippling economic damage. In the end, Clem couldn't recover from his early deficit. After two one-sided bouts, 2000 Atmospheres delivered an action-packed macro game, where Clem held a decent supply lead for much of the mid-game. However, Clem couldn't find a way to kill Dark before he reached Lurker tech, after which the DPG Zerg used clever and incisive army movements to slowly dismantle the Terran.
Upset(s) of the day: DisK beating ByuN 2-1 was the biggest (and only) upset in my opinion, since ByuN has a very fearsome TvP and playing on NA is not as handicapping as on EU. Aligulac seems to fully agree as the stats website gave DisK poor odds of around 9% to beat ByuN in a BO3.
European Server Cup #98 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #98 (Click for full bracket)