While there were considerable IEM Katowice 2022 stakes on the line in week #104, few of the involved parties managed to improve their standing. In Korea, Solar triumphed to take his 11th total cup victory. In Europe, HeroMarine won his 40th total EU cup after a month without winning it. Finally, herO won the NA cup for the second time after his first victory in cup #100.
In terms of the IEM Katowice race, ShoWTimE (742 points) managed to overtake Lambo (740 points) by earning two points for his top four finish in the NA cup, giving him a tentative hold on an invaluable RO24 group stage seed. Lambo jokingly tweeted on the difficulty of playing in the NA cup at such a late hour, but things will become deadly seriously in the final series of EPT Cups in week #105. Elazer also earned 2 points for his top four finish in the European Cup, which may be meaningful if he makes a deep run at DHM Last Chance (again, refer to our IEM Katowice RO24 seed write-up for more details).
KR cup: The usual players were participating in this KR cup for the most part, and the top side of the bracket was dominated by Protoss. Notably, DongRaeGu did NOT participate in KR or any other cup—perhaps he is practicing hard for DH:Last Chance.
Zest promptly beat ByuL 2-0 to face herO in the quarterfinals, but could not overcome his teammate and lost 0-2 in the PvP. Gumiho managed to beat Nice to meet another Protoss in the form of Cyan, but the Chinese Protoss player had no trouble beating GuMiho 2-0 to face herO in the semifinals. Alas, for Chinese SC2 fans, Cyan could not progress any further as herO took a 3-0 victory to advance to the finals.
On the bottom side of the bracket, ByuN faced an unexpected opponent in the form of Korean Protoss player Chance who once played for Team Prime around 2013-2014. Chance had actually beat Ryung 2-0 in a previous round, but ByuN did not fall victim himself as he took a 2-0 victory as expected. Meanwhile, Solar put in a solid performance as usual, taking out Demi and Classic to reach the semifinals. As in the top half of the bracket, this semifinal was also a one-sided affair with Solar taking a 3-0 victory over ByuN.
The trend of one-sided victories continued in the grand finals as Solar took a 3-0 victory over herO. Game one on Pride of Altaris saw herO take a fast gold expansion while going for Void Rays, only to be overrun by a 6-minute Queen-Zerling-Ravager attack from Solar. Moving on to Hardwire, herO took a third base as a bluff before going for a big Zealot-Adept-Sentry all-in, but Solar defended rather easily due to his solid scouting and good game sense. The last game on Berlingrad was similarly one-sided. herO harassed Solar with Phoenixes and Adepts, but didn't deal enough damage to really slow Solar's burgeoning economy. Solar found the breathing room to make enough Corruptors to hard-counter herO's Phoenixes, and even counter-attack for major damage when herO was out of position. herO was eventually forced to commit to an all-or-nothing frontal attack, which Solar defended with his superior army to win the series 3-0.
Upset(s) of the day: There weren't any shocking upsets this week, so Cyan beating Gumiho 2-0 stands out as the most notable one for me. Cyan had around 23:77 odds of beating the former Code S champion according to Aligulac.com, and their head-to-head record was also very one-sided in GuMiho's favor. In fact, before his military service, Gumiho won 12 matches versus Cyan and only lost 1 for a combined map record of 25W–5L. Even considering the recent improvement of Cyan and long hiatus of GuMiho, it was a victory worth celebrating for the Chinese Protoss player.
EU Cup: The European Cup returned to having 100+ participants, but we still saw the usual crew of players contending for the title at the end. Among the semifinalists of cup #104, three were repeats from cup #103: MaxPax, Elazer and HeroMarine. Interestingly enough, Solar's run to the semifinals meant neither Lambo nor ShoWTiME earned any more points in this particular cup.
ShoWTimE had a difficult path all around, beating Gerald in the RO16 but losing to his rival MaxPax in the RO8 (they take wins off each other pretty often and are both in contention for the title of best foreign Protoss). Indeed, MaxPax continued his run of strong EPT performance in this cup, defeating both Indy and MaNa prior to ShoWTimE, and also defeating Elazer 3-0 in the semifinals. Elazer had a strong run prior to that match, even defeating Clem 2-0, but could not overcome the Danish Protoss.
Thankfully for ShoWTimE, Lambo was stopped just short of the RO4 as well. The German Zerg was able to beat Rattata 2-0 in the RO16 but was taken down by Solar in the following round in a 0-2 defeat. However, Solar's cross-server successes were halted in the semifinals by HeroMarine, who took a strong 3-0 victory to show why he is the undisputed king of European ESL Open Cups (he had defeated DisK and Spirit in previous rounds).
The final match of HeroMarine vs MaxPax was a semifinals rematch of cup #102, in which MaxPax narrowly beat HeroMarine 3-2. However, HeroMarine showed why the overall head-to-head stats favor him by taking a 3-1 victory in this week's showdown. In the first game on Glittering Ashes, HeroMarine went for 3 rax with stim and combat shield and a mix of Marine-Marauder while MaxPax sly built a hidden 3rd base. Unfortunately for the Protoss player, the timing attack of his opponent dealt a lot of army and economic damage, and HeroMarine kept sending groups of bio across the map before ultimately killing MaxPax—probably without even realizing there was a hidden third base. MaxPax was able to strike back on 2000 Atmospheres, as his Blink Stalker harass dealt decent damage while he took a third base. HeroMarine continued to threaten MaxPax with a dedicated 2-base attack for nearly 15 minutes, but he was eventually forced to GG out as he could not break through the Protoss defenses. Going on to Berlingrad, HeroMarine went for an unorthodox proxy-Barracks opener that allowed his Reaper to kill some Probes early on. Coupled with a Mine-drop, this put HeroMarine slightly ahead, and he capitalized on this advantage to take the game with a successful push later on.
The last game on Blackburn also featured MaxPax harassing HeroMarine with Blink Stalkers, killing 15+ SCV's as early as 6 minutes into the game. However, this was due to a big chunk of the Terran army being away for an attack into Protoss territory, and HeroMarine was able to deal even more economic damage than he received. MaxPax equalized the playing field with DT harass, and the game went on with both players in a relatively similar position. Using several multi-pronged attacks with a hit-squad on his opponent's third base and big drops into the main, HeroMarine eventually killed MaxPax by taking good trades over and over. With the 3-1 victory, HeroMarine took his 40th gold medal in 104 EU competitions for an incredible 38.4% gold-rate.
Upset(s) of the day: Considering Clem's run of TvZ losses in the last few months, his 0-2 to Elazer isn't quite the shocking upset it would have been before. So while it's worth mentioning, my upset of the day goes to Solar for beating Lambo 2-0 on the European server. It was especially notable given the stakes, with Lambo needing every single point possible in the Katowice RO24 race against ShoWTimE.
NA Cup: There were several storylines going on in this American edition of the EPT cup. First, there was the direct Lambo vs. ShoWTimE race for 6th place in Europe. Lambo ended up losing 0-2 to herO in the RO16, and thus didn't get anything points. On the other hand, ShoWTimE beat Gerald 2-0 in the RO16 (funnily in the same round / side of the bracket as in EU cup a few hours before), and proceeded to beat NightMare 2-1 to secure two more points. ShoWTimE was a bit fortunate here, as NightMare pulled off a big upset and eliminated MaxPax with a 2-1 victory in the previous round. However, ShoWTimE wasn't able to put any more distance between himself and Lambo, as he lost 1-3 to Astrea in the semifinals. Overall, Astrea had a very good run, having defeated both Creator and Clem 2-0 before his match against ShoWTimE.
On the other side of the bracket, herO defeated the former Code S finalist kiwian (a.k.a TOP), Lambo as mentioned previously, and SpeCial with 2-0 scores—yet more evidence that he's back in form after concluding his military service. Cup #104 winner Zest beat Trigger and ByuN without dropping a map to face herO in the semifinals, but failed to defend his cup title with a close 2-3 loss.
To start the finals, Astrea managed to beat herO on Blackburn with two proxy Gateways into a gold base—he dealt enough early damage to win before his expansion was even finished. However, herO rallied from the early deficit for a clean 3-1 victory. He smelled another proxy in game two on Curious Minds, and won the game in less than 3 minutes by killing the proxy Pylon powering up the Stargate and Shield Battery of Astrea. The third game on Glittering Ashes was a little bit more standard, and herO was able to win using a Blink Stalker timing attack. The last game on Hardwire was the longest one of the match, lasting more than 11 minutes. Once again, herO was the aggressor—while his opponent went up to 4 bases, herO stayed on 3 bases and used his +2 attack upgrade compared to +1 of his opponent to take better trades again and again until Astrea was forced to capitulate. With his victory, herO claimed his 2nd ever NA cup title.
Upset(s) of the day: NightMare beating MaxPax 2-1 was the biggest upset of the night in my eyes. Sure, Clem was a relatively big favorite versus Astrea with 74:26 odds according to Aligulac, but it was on Astrea’s server, and Clem is generally not looking to be in top form. On the other hand, NightMare and MaxPax played with relatively similar conditions, and NightMare was a big underdog with only around 15% chances of beating MaxPax in the BO3. Even considering the variance of BO3 PvPs, it was a big win for NightMare against the #1 ranked PvP player on Aligulac.
European Server Cup #104 (Click for full bracket)
Americas Server Cup #104 (Click for full bracket)