Week #134 of the ESL Open Cups saw ByuN win in Korea, Clem come out on top in Europe after another surprising challenge from TIME, and Neeb triumph in North America with a victory over Dark.
This KR cup featured a solid line-up with Rex as the main Zerg representative, ByuN, GuMiho, and Ryung as the top Terrans, and herO, Creator, Astrea, Nice, and NightMare as the main Protoss competitors.
NightMare had a strong underdog run, not only beating Ryung 2-0 in PvT, but also recent Code S champion herO 2-1 in PvP. To beat Ryung, he first defended a tricky timing attack on Moondance with a potpourri of Terran units. The second map of Data-C featured a long macro game of more than 30 minutes. Despite Ryung being a great macro TvP player, NightMare was able to hang on and assemble a strong composition of Skytoss + Disruptors and Templars to close out the game.
Against herO, NightMare started game one with a regular ground-based composition and some Oracles while herO opened Phoenixes to deal economic damage. Still, NightMare was able to take a third base and contain herO on 2 bases with his strong ground army and Stasis wards. herO tried to break the containment, but GG'd after failing to bust out. herO was able to tie things up on Stargazers with Blink-Stalkers off two bases, out-microing NightMare as he tried to take a third base. NightMare then took the deciding victory in game three, using 3-Gate pressure to chip away at a more tech-oriented herO and gradually overwhelm him.
Unfortunately for NightMare, his surprise run was ended by ByuN in the semifinals, with the Shopify Terran taking a 2-0 victory. That set ByuN up to face Astrea in the finals, with the American Protoss having defeated Nice and GuMiho on his way there.
This finals ended up being quite one-sided as ByuN swept Astrea 3-0. In game one, Astrea perfectly defended ByuN's initial mine drop, but couldn't keep up with ByuN's mid-game multitasking and collapsed to his continued attacks.On the second map of Inside and Out, ByuN was far more successful with his mine drop, killing 10 Probes compared to the 1 from game one. Although Astrea was able to drag the game out for some time, he still fell to ByuN's continued pressure in the end. The last game on Tropical Sacrifice was the closest one, giving us around 15 minutes of near non-stop action. Again, ByuN's powerful offense was the key to victory, eventually finding a two-prong attack that broke Astrea for good.
Upset(s) of the day: NightMare beating both Ryung and herO was clearly the biggest upset of the day for me. Aligulac.com definitely agrees, giving him less than a 40% chance of beating Ryung and somewhere around a 10% chance of beating herO.
The European cup had a strong turnout as usual, with players like Clem, ShoWTimE, Elazer, Lambo, TIME, Neeb, MaxPax, HeroMarine, standing out among the rest.
The previous cup winner MaxPax was one of the favorites to win again and he started pretty nicely, defeating both Harstem and Neeb without losing a map in PvP. However, TIME was on fire this week, taking out Jieshi, HeroMarine, and then MaxPax to qualify for the semifinals. Apparently, TIME has arranged a routing/VPN situation that reduces his lag to the central European server to the mid-100 milliseconds range, which explains his recent burst of activity in the EU cup.
In the match against MaxPax (VOD), TIME won the first map of Inside and Out by successfully defending Adept pressure off a proxy gate of MaxPax. A counterattack allowed him to deal a lot of economic damage, and while the game went on for longer, MaxPax’s attempts at counter harass were not successful enough to bring him back into the game. On Stargazers, MaxPax abused the pocket expand to harass with Blink Stalkers and a Warp Prism and got a nice economic advantage out of it. TIME was not dead and was able to hold out for longer, ultimately taking a very good fight near his fourth base with a big flank to surround the army of MaxPax and take the win.
On the top side of the bracket, Lambo went through goblin and Elazer to reach the semis, where he came to face Clem who had advanced with a 2-1 win over ShoWTimE in his own RO8 match. Clem lost the first game of the semis on Stargazers (VOD), as he was overpowered by Lambo's impressive Muta-Ling-Bane play. However, the French Terran tied the series on Data-C, this time able to get the better of Lambo in the mid-game wars. Lambo changed things up in game three on Moondance, going for an early timing attack with Roaches off three bases. However, Clem was able to prepare and defend successfully, and snowballed his advantage into a 12-minute win.
The grand finals between Clem and TIME was quite close, with both players trading games back and forth. Unfortunately for TIME, he lost the first game, and this pattern allowed Clem to win the series 3-2. With the victory, Clem claimed his 35th ever gold medal in Europe and 42nd across all regions. He is now 3rd place in total medal count behind Zest (44) and HeroMarine (47).
Upset(s) of the day: TIME’s run was the most impressive to me, with two good upsets versus both Big Gabe and MaxPax. In both cases, he was the underdog with around 40:60 odds according to Aligulac. Even if he's made some tweaks to his network situation that brings his ping to more playable levels, it's still quite impressive to be winning with a lag disadvantage.
This NA cup was very competitive in Week #134, with players like Dark, Solar, ByuN, Cure, GuMiho, MaxPax, Neeb, NightMare, and trigger all in contention.
Despite 4 Code S champions participating, only two were able to get to the semifinals: GuMiho got eliminated 0-2 pretty early by Jason/JuggernautJason in TvT, while Cure got beaten by ByuN 1-2 in the quarterfinals. Dark expectedly dominated his side of the bracket, defeating NightMare and Solar without losing a map, but Neeb was on fire like in his nickname and beat MaxPax and ByuN to reach the finals.
In his semifinal match against ByuN (VOD), Neeb started by losing the first map of Stargazers after a 4-Medivac doom drop into his pocket expansion swung the game. However, Neeb came back to win on Inside and Out, with his Zealot harassment giving him the edge needed to build an unstoppable army. Finally, Neeb closed things out on Data-C by successfully defending against a 2 base all-in.
While Neeb's run to the finals was already impressive, he turned it into an incredible result by destroying Dark in the finals with a clean 3-0 sweep (VOD). On the first map of Moondance, Neeb won by defending against a 6-minute Queen-Ravager-Ling attack with a lot of Stalkers and Shield Batteries. In game two, Neeb became the aggressor, out-trading Dark over time with 8-Gate Blink-Stalkers. The last game on Inside and Out played out in more standard fashion, but Neeb was once again victorious. He used Blink-Stalkers to pressure Dark at the front, and then found an opening for a big Zealot warp-in in the Zerg main to deal a decisive blow.
Upset(s) of the day: Jason beating GuMiho is a very impressive upset as GuMiho was the heavy favorite, and the streamer even made a humorous tweet about his unlikely victory.
Other than that, Neeb’s overall run was fantastic, beating top world players of each race in MaxPax, ByuN and Dark while only losing one map. Neeb's last ride before starting university in the fall has been quite impressive, and doesn't appear to be a fluke at all.