Week #128 featured the new set of maps that will be used at DreamHack Valencia and presumably added to the official ladder pool later on.
ByuN won the Korean cup once again, making it his third victory in a row. After winning in the Americas Cup last week, MaxPax managed to win on his home server of Europe this time around. Finally, Scarlett came out on top in the North American cup, winning her first gold medal in the region since Week #41 in October of 2020.
Korean Cup: Korean cup participation was down to its usual handful of players, with Rex being the only notable Zerg, ByuN, Coffee, GuMiho and kiwian (the Code S finalist formerly known as TOP) standing out among Terran representatives, and Protoss having the strongest contingent with Classic, herO, Nice, and Zest at the fore.
The round of 16 had two notable upsets: Chinese Protoss Firefly took out GuMiho with a clean 2-0 victory (VOD), while Jieshi defeated Zest 2-0 as well. This was rather unfortunate for Zest, as this would end up being his final ESL Open Cup before retirement. Was it the new maps that helped these two Chinese Protosses defeat former GSL champions? Whatever the case, these surprising results made it easier for herO and ByuN to eventually meet in the finals.
The round of 8 matches went as expected, though, with all the favorites winning their encounters relatively easily: herO 2-1 Rex, Classic 2-0 Firefly, Nice 2-1 Jieshi, and ByuN 2-0 Coffee. The most surprising thing here was Rex taking a map off herO—who had shown impressive PvZ in Code S—but these sort of things happen in Starcraft and ultimately herO still prevailed. The semi finals were similarly predictable: herO won 2-1 against Classic and ByuN took out Nice without much trouble 2-0 to get a shot at defending his title.
The finals (VOD) started with herO winning the first map, but ByuN was imperious in the following games and won three maps in a row for the 3-1 victory. This allowed him to win his third cup in a row and also surpass herO's count of seven wins in Korea with eight of his own.
Upset(s) of the day: The biggest upset in my opinion was Firefly defeating GuMiho. Jieshi actually had worse odds vs Zest at around a 10% chance to win according to Aligulac, but it's hard to know how focused Zest was considering his impending retirement. Then again, Zest did manage to beat Clem 2-0 in WTL on the same day… Still, Firefly was a big statistical underdog as well, with around a 20% chance of winning the BO3.
European Cup: The European cup had a lot of participants as usual, though it was missing the off-racing Reynor who made a miracle run to the finals as Protoss last week. On the other hand, plenty of strong players from every race were participating. Just to name a few highlight players for each faction, Zerg had Lambo, Elazer and Nerchio, Terran had Clem, HeroMarine, SpeCial, Spirit, and Kelazhur, while Protoss had MaxPax, ShoWTimE, SKillous, Neeb, and DnS.
The top side of the bracket was pure domination from Clem who did not drop a single map. He picked up victories versus teammates MaNa and Kelazhur, and then Lambo to reach the finals once more. Other notable results in the top half also included Spatz eliminating fellow countryman ShoWTimE 2-0 in PvP as early as the RO16, MaNa beating trigger 2-0, and Lambo winning 2-0 against SpeCial in the quarterfinals.
The bottom side of the bracket had expected results for the most part. Neeb defeated French Protosses arrogfire and DnS consecutively without dropping a map to face MaxPax in quarters. The Danish Protoss notably defeated Spirit 2-1, and then beat Neeb by the same score to face Elazer in the semifinals. The usual favorite to reach this stage of the cup would have been HeroMarine, but Elazer was in good form and beat SKillous 2-0 before eliminating Big Gabe with a 2-1 victory. Unfortunately for Elazer, he couldn't get past MaxPax, losing in a close 1-2 series.
That set up a final between Clem and MaxPax (VOD). Clem was the big favorite on paper, as he had an impressive 22-2 record against MaxPax in best of 5+ series. The match was super tense with the two players trading games back and forth, eventually reaching a deciding game five. MaxPax was able to take down his nemesis this time around, emerging victorious on the final map.
Upset(s) of the day: Elazer beating HeroMarine was the biggest upset for me, as the Zerg only had around a 33% chance of winning according to Aligulac. Furthermore, Big Gabe is the king of the European cup and does not go down easy, so kudos to Elazer here.
American Cup: There were several strong players participating in the cup, with Scarlett, Solar, and soO as the main Zerg representatives, ByuN, Vindicta, and SpeCial standing out for Terran, while Protoss had a deep field if competitors including Gerald, herO, NightMare, ShaDoWn, trigger, and SKillous. Amusingly enough, the "Random" faction was represented as well by Canadian player Jason.
The top side of the bracket was mostly dominated by Protosses, with RockEr once again defeating a stronger Protoss on paper: this time the victim was Gerald who lost 0-2, and cannons may have been built. ShaDoWn was able to get his revenge from last cup and beat RockEr 2-1 (he lost 1-2 in cup #127), but he could not beat herO in the quarterfinals. SKillous was super dominant though, and defeated both Solar and herO.
The bottom side of the bracket also featured some nice upsets, starting with Jason beating SpeCial 2-1 in random vs random. However, Scarlett was too strong for Jason and beat him 2-0 to face ByuN in the semifinals. ByuN had previously beat soO 2-1 in the RO16 as well as trigger (who beat NightMare 2-1) in quarterfinals. Scarlett was too strong that day and beat her teammate ByuN 2-0 for an EU vs NA match in the finals.
Scarlett almost swept SKillous in the finals (VOD), but the Protoss would not go down that easily and managed to grab a map. Still, the NA cup had a chance to be won by an actual NA player instead of KR or EU player, and Scarlett would not let that rare occurrence go away. She finished the job winning the series 3-1 winning her fourth gold medal in NA. Interestingly enough, the top NA players have similar medal counts in the NA medal standings, with Neeb also having four victories, SpeCial having five, and Astrea having three.
Upset(s) of the day: SKillous’s run was particularly impressive to me, with victories against strong KR players Solar and herO. Also, RockEr beat another strong Protoss which is noteworthy.