Today we're bringing you a double-edition of the ESL Open recaps, covering the cups prior to DreamHack Valencia (#129) and the cups held during/immediately after the tournament (#130).
Week #129 was a decent prelude to Valencia, with Korean cup winner herO and Americas cup winner Neeb both going on to finish inside the top eight in Spain. Unfortunately, European cup winner MaxPax continued his trend of declining to participate at live events and couldn't wield his cup skills in a live setting.
Week #130 had reduced competition across the board as many players were traveling back home from Valencia. While this allowed Zoun to prevail in Korea, Europe and America still ended up being won by Open Cup stalwarts in HeroMarine and MaxPax.
Week #129 (June 26-27) Recap
Korean Cup: While there was a solid Protoss contingent in week #129 with players like Classic, herO, Jieshi, Nice, and NightMare participating, the other factions were left somewhat wanting. Rex was the only notable Zerg, while Terran had only ByuN and Percival to rely on among Code S-experienced players.
The only surprising result in the RO16 was Chance beating Percival 2-0, but it wasn't a huge shock given both players' 'amateur' status. Other than that, the favorites advanced without much trouble: herO 2-0'd ReBellioN, NightMare and Classic beat Jieshi and Firefly 2-1, while ByuN defeated QuanTa 2-0.
The round of 8 gave us another upset as Classic fell 0-2 to NightMare. Again, this may not have been the biggest surprise, as Classic has been slow to return to his old form while NightMare has shown improvement in 2022. Also Chance continued to roll along with a 2-0 over Nice, which was a good result considering that PvP is a match-up where Nice occasionally beats Code S players.
Chance couldn't keep his underdog run going forever, as he lost to ByuN in the semifinals after stealing a map. On the other side of the bracket, herO beat NightMare 2-0 to qualify for the finals. This set up herO vs ByuN in the finals for the third time in four weeks, with ByuN having won the past two encounters. However, herO was able to narrowly get his revenge this time around. The two players traded games all the way to the fifth map, where herO triumphed to secure a 3-2 victory.
Upset(s) of the day: Chance was the most surprising player of the week in Korea, overcoming around 1:2 odds to defeat Nice and even taking a map off ByuN in the semifinals.
European Cup: As usual, the EU cup was the most stacked one of the week with a lot of strong players from all three races. Elazer and Lambo were the top Zerg representatives, Clem, HeroMarine, SpeCial, and Spirit were the most notable Terrans, while Protoss arrived with its usual massive legion led by Gerald, MaxPax, ShoWTimE, SKillous, and even Reynor offracing.
The top side of the bracket was mostly dominated by Terrans. Kelazhur notably beat BabyMarine and ShoWTimE without dropping a map to face Clem in the quarterfinals, but the French Terran was too strong for his Brazilian teammate and beat him 2-0. SpeCial had a nice Terran run as well, beating arrogfire (2-1) and Gerald (2-0) in TvP before eliminating Lambo (2-0) to face Clem in the semifinals. SpeCial ended up being the first player to take a map off Clem that day, but that was not enough and Clem ultimately won their encounter 2-1 to qualify for the finals once again. Incidentally, this was a mini preview of their series at Valencia, where Clem barely won 3-2 in some close games.
There was quite a bit of action on the other side of the bracket. Elazer beat SKillous 2-0, while MaNa beat GungFuBanDa 2-1 but lost 0-2 to Reynor who switched to Zerg only for that match. After defeating the Polish protoss, Reynor switched back to Protoss and managed to defeat Elazer 2-0 while offracing. While Reynor's off-racing was impressive (he later beat Solar with Protoss at Valencia), he couldn't overcome the PvP powerhouse in MaxPax. The Danish Dynamo had defeated Spirit and HeroMarine (who notably eliminated goblin 2-0) earlier in the bracket to set up a date with Reynor in the semis. Despite going Zerg against MaNa, Reynor tried to test himself in PvP against MaxPax and paid the price with a 0-2 loss.
The Clem vs MaxPax finals was a rematch from week #128, where MaxPax had managed to beat his long-time nemesis to win the cup. As if to prove that Clem no longer has the edge in the match-up, MaxPax won yet again by a 3-2 scoreline to win his second straight cup.
Upset(s) of the day: We've seen enough of Reynor's Protoss now that we can't really say it's an upset for him to win while off-racing, but his 2-0 over Elazer still deserves a shoutout. The 'award' for upset of the week has to go to Kelazhur for defeating ShoWTimE 2-0, with Aligulac only giving him around a 25% chance of winning the BO3.
American Cup: The NA cup had a relatively low number of participants, but there were still strong players representing each race: soO and Scarlett for Zerg, ByuN and GuMiho for Terrans, and Gerald, herO, Neeb, and SKillous for Protoss.
Neeb completely dominated his side of the bracket with a perfect run, beating the likes of Gerald and GuMiho on his way to the finals. ByuN struggled a bit more from the bottom side of the bracket: he went 2-1 against both Dolan and soO (who notably beat SKillous 2-1). Scarlett beat arrogfire but could not defeat herO, losing 0-2, and herO was in turn defeated by ByuN in the semifinals by a 2-0 score.
The finals was completely one-sided for Neeb as well, with Neeb sweeping ByuN 3-0 to achieve a perfect cup run.
Upset(s) of the day: Even though no result was a particularly big upset taken alone, Neeb’s flawless run must be commended. Also, he was the underdog against ByuN according to Aligulac with less than a 30% chance of winning, but he still came out with a 3-0 win.
Week #130 (July 3-4) Recap
Korean Cup: Although none of the big dogs were present because of DH Valencia, there were still 20 participants trying their luck in the Korean Cup. They included soO and Rex for zerg, aLive and Percival for Terran, as well as Classic, Firefly, Jieshi, and Zoun for Protoss, among others.
The tournament played out in fairly straight-forward fashion, except the fact that Chinese Protoss ReWhite beat aLive 2-1 in the RO16. However, I don't think that aLive has been that active, so perhaps it's not much of a surprise. The quarterfinals got a bit more interesting, with Percival winning 2-1 versus Rex and Zoun beating jinioh by the same score. Other than that, soO beat Classic 2-0 to qualify for the semifinals where he met Percival, ultimately defeating him without losing a map for the clean sheet on his way to the finals.
On the bottom side of the bracket, Zoun had no trouble beating Jieshi who defeated ReWhite in the previous round, but the final against soO was very close (VOD). Zoun won the first map but soO was able to take a 2-1 lead, only for Zoun to tie the series and ultimately win it 3-2.
Upset(s) of the day: I don’t think there was any real upset, but the oddly named Protoss player "jaedongoz" and Terran player jinioh both managed to take a map off Zoun.
European Cup: Similar to Korea, the EU cup was not as stacked as usual because of DH Valencia. However, there were still plenty of solid players competing including Denver, MilkiCow, Gerald, GunGFuBanDa, MaxPax, and SKillous. Also, Open Cup king HeroMarine was able to barely make it back home in time to compete in the cup.
The bracket was dominated by Protoss players due to their sheer numbers, with HeroMarine and YoungYakov being the last non-Protosses remaining in the quarterfinals. Big Gabe actually ended up making a flawless run to the finals, winning 2-0 vs Dobro, Spatz, ArT, and Jieshi. YoungYakov beat Terrans Narra and MilkiCow respectively before losing against Jieshi (who notably defeated Gerald 2-0 in the ro16) in the quarters.
In the bottom side of the bracket, the competition was fierce. MaxPax beat Denver and BabyMarine 2-0 in PvZ and PvT, but surprisingly lost in a PvP 1-2 versus GungFuBanDa (who previously beat Strange and CuKu). The other semifinalist SKillous had some trouble getting there, going 2-1 against both Firefly and goblin in PvP. However, the semi finals went better for SKillous as he beat GungFuBanDa 2-0 to advance to the finals.
Big Gabe had already defeated SKillous multiple times in EPT EU finals: 3-2 in cup #113, 3-0 in cups #119, #120 and #125. It looked like it would be another 3-0 as HeroMarine went up 2-0 to start the series, but SKillous was able to take a map to prevent Big Gabe from achieving yet another perfect run. Still, it did not matter much in the end as HeroMarine won the next map for the 3-1 victory (VOD).
That win gave HeroMarine his 47th victory in the EU/global standings, putting him even further ahead of 2nd place Zest who won't be able to increase his medal count of 44 for a while.
Upset(s) of the day: The biggest upset of the day was undoubtedly GungFuBanDa who managed to defeat MaxPax in PvP! The German Protoss had less than a 14% chance of winning according to Aligulac.com, which ranks MaxPax as the most fearsome PvP in the world. Even in a BO3, it was an impressive result.
American Cup: As with the previous two cups, NA was also missing some of its stronger regulars. Still, we saw GuMiho and KeeN for Terran while Protoss fans had Firefly, Gerald, SKillous, MaxPax, and Nina to cheer for. Unfortunately, Zerg didn't have players who have been involved in top level competition lately, though SC2 fans would be familiar with the names of Neuro and Golden.
SKillous dominated the top side of the bracket up until the semifinals, notably beating Nina (who defeated Gerald 2-0) without dropping a map. His match against Firefly was a bit closer as he won 2-1 to advance to the finals, a few hours after his EU cup outing.
On the bottom side of the bracket, the favorites advanced without much trouble either: KeeN beat Nicoract 2-0 before losing 1-2 against GuMiho in quarters. MaxPax benefited from his high seed, beating relatively unknown Protoss players Azura and Creature to qualify for the semifinals where he beat GuMiho 2-0 with a clean sheet.
Perhaps unhappy with his performance in the EU cup, MaxPax demolished SKillous with a clean sweep to achieve a perfect run in NA (VOD). This victory brings him closer to #2 Solar who has 16 gold medals, as this was the 14th victory of MaxPax in NA.
Upset(s) of the day: There weren’t many upsets in that cup, therefore Nina beating Gerald has to be the biggest one. Even though there was the server advantage, Nina was still the underdog with less than a 32% chance of winning according to Aligulac.