World Championship tournament kicks off this weekend

On February 16th, Blizzard's eSports organizers kicked off the year-spanning World Championship Series for StarCraft II . Hundreds of players from dozens of countries have battled through local qualifiers, national playoffs, and finally continental championships to make it to Shanghai this weekend for the tournament to end all tournaments. 32 players from every corner of the globe remain, but only one will go home with the title of global champion.

Places in the World Championship were awarded to the national champions of China, France, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, and the U.S., along with varying numbers of the highest seeds from each continental championship.

Player portraits from WCS Official Site .

The North American Champion is Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn of Team Acer, from Canada. She is the most successful female player in the history of StarCraft II, having pulled a major upset at the Canadian and North American finals, unseating several well-known pros.

The Oceanic Champion is Andrew "mOOnGLaDe" Pender of Team Nv, from Australia. A former pro WarCraft III player (in case the name didn't give it away), he has been active in the Wings of Liberty scene from the beginning, but just this year has become a figure in the international scene.

The European Champion is none other than Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri if Team EG, from France. Stephano among the handful of non-South Korean players who is seen as able to play on the level of that country's best. He was offered a spot in the prestigious GSL Code S earlier this year, but elected to turn it down.

Finally, the Asian champion is SK Telecom T1's Jung "Rain" Yoon Jong of South Korea. Despite never placing higher than third in the GSL, he managed to fight to the top of the most competitive national championship of them all.

Other notable players include 2-time MLG champion Chris "HuK" Loranger from Canada, American "bad boy" Greg "IdrA" Fields , StarTale's Won "PartinG" Lee Sak from South Korea, and Spanish brothers Pedro "LucifroN" Durán and Juan "VortiX" Moreno Durán , who became the talk of the European Championship when they both advanced to the semifinals and ended up facing off in the loser's bracket.

This is about as close as we can get to having StarCraft in the Olympics. Which nation and which players will win glory on the battlefields of the Korprulu Sector? You can tune into the free livestream starting November 16 at 6:00 p.m. PST and find out!

Oh yeah, and there will be World of Warcraft Arena.