Tonight marks the beginning of MLG's Tournament of Champions, a single-elimination invitational pitting a who's who of the best StarCraft II players against one another for a $7000 prize. The opening match, kicking off at 9 p.m. Pacific, 6 p.m. Eastern, will be the God of Brood War, Lee "Flash" Young Ho, vs. Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho, a champion in both MLG and GSL play considered by many to be the current best Zerg player in the world.
This weekend promised to be a great one for StarCraft II fans, and it did not disappoint. On the one hand, MLG Spring Arena 1 wrote another chapter in one the best stories in eSports right now: the incredible rivalry between the world's greatest Terran and Zerg players, MarineKing and DRG. For the third straight MLG tournament, the two cleared the field of pretenders to square off in a seven-game series. Meanwhile, DreamHack EIZO Open played host to one of the feel-good stories of the year, as the unassuming Swedish Terran ThorZaIN (Marcus Eklöf) carved his way through a crowded field and far more successful players to take a championship in front of his hometown crowd in Stockholm. The cheering was so loud that windows were probably shaking in Helsinki.
This was also a weekend that really showed how these games and tournaments do not happen in isolation.
At the end of Saturday's competition, before the 2v2 mini-tourney started, most the Spring Arena competitors found themselves in a kind of limbo as the MLG sorted out who had done well enough to make it into the brackets for the Sunday finale. With three players tied at 3 match wins and four losses, the MLG had to start looking at individual game results and who had beaten who over the first two days of the Arena. On the hot seat were two of the most unlikely suspects: DRG and PartinG.
The two had met earlier in the day, and PartinG (Won Lee Sak, Korean Protoss) overcame DRG (Park Soo Ho) for the first time in his playing career. With some of the best force fields of the weekend so far, PartinG was able to outmaneuver DRG in two successive games, including a brilliant Game 2 where he broke apart a Brood Lord army with blink Stalkers supported by a Mothership. PartinG also took a game off MC (Jang Min Chul, Korean Protoss) after losing their first two matches, in what will likely prove the weekend's cheesiest win. While chatting with MC, PartinG slipped a probe into MC's main to build proxy gateways just outside of MC's vision. MC conceded the moment the first zealots strolled down into his main.
The first day of the first MLG Spring Arena was a reminder that StarCraft II sometimes seems to be changing faster than it actually is. Coming into this event, PartinG (Won Lee Sak, Korean Protoss) seemed like he was poised to make a strong challenge to MarineKing's (Lee Jung Hoon, Korean Terran) dominance. Korea's deadliest Zerg, DongRaeGu (Park Soo Ho) was riding a streak of underwhelming performances and looked like he might be teetering on the edge of a major fall.
Not so much.
In the final day of competition at the MLG Winter Championship, there was a sense of inevitability to most of the matches. MarineKing (Korean Terran player Lee Jung Hoon) and DongRaeGu (Korean Zerg Park Soo Ho) were on track for a rematch following their duel in the Winter Arena Final. They were dominant in their pools, and few of their competitors looked like they could string together enough solid games to upset either. When DRG and MarineKing met in the winner's bracket final, it was almost a sure bet that they would be meeting again in the Championship Final.
Still, a lot of great StarCraft 2 happened along the way. While DRG and MKP were rarely (if ever) in serious trouble, they faced opponents like Complexity's Heart (Terran Korean Kim Min Hyuk) and Parting (Protoss Korean Won Lee Sak) who were capable of inspired play and last-minute rallies that sometimes made it look like neither MKP nor DRG would make it to the Final.
The MLG Winter Championship at Columbus concludes today, starting at 10 AM Eastern and the Championship Finals commence at 6 PM Eastern. Before we find out who this season's top StarCraft 2 player is, however, we should revisit the action from yesterday.
One of the big storylines going into this tournament was Greg "IdrA" Fields' streak of bad competition performances. Columbus was an opportunity to put that behind him, and show that he remains a top foreign Zerg player.