Ready Up - Springtime for MarineKing in NYC, winter for PartinG and DRG (4/20/2012)

MKP Winter Champ thumb - courtesy MLG

I hope you like StarCraft II, because it dominates the eSports schedule this weekend. There are two concurrent events this weekend: Dreamhack EIZO Open in Stockholm, and the MLG's StarCraft II Spring Arena 1 in New York. Arena kicks off first at 6 p.m. Eastern tonight, with MarineKingPrime (Lee Jung Hoon, Korean Terran) playing against PartinG (Won Lee Sak, Korean Protoss).

That's a highly anticipated match, and possibly a preview of the Spring Arena's Grand Finals. PartinG has been playing incredibly well lately, and is widely believed to have been robbed of a victory over MarineKing in the Global StarCraft Team League Finals at the IGN Pro League tournament in Vegas two weeks ago. PartinG was significantly ahead of MKP and on the cusp of knocking him out of the tournament when the connection dropped. The match could not be resumed, so they had to replay the same map, and this time MKP took the victory. He then went on a tear and wiped out the rest of PartinG's StarTale teammates to give his Prime team the GSTL crown.

All of which probably didn't sit terribly well with PartinG. This recent history will certainly make their first encounter more interesting, even setting aside the fact they are both playing extraordinarily well these days.

Spring Arena 1 is a small eight-player tournament, which is a small field, but an elite one. MarineKing, DRG, Heart, HuK, PartinG, Ganzi, Violet, and MC are all competing for a $10,900 prize pool from Friday to Sunday. To cast the matches, the MLG has brought in Tastosis, djWHEAT, JP McDaniel, Rob Simpson, and Grubby. It starts with round robin play today and tomorrow, then on Sunday players are seeded into a single elimination bracket. There will be no extended series.

As was the case with the Winter Arena, Spring Arena I is not available for free. However, you can buy access to the event , with its seven streams, for $10. Alternately, you can pay $30 for access to the entire spring season . The viewing schedule is here .

If you decide to watch the Arena this weekend, Team Liquid has an outstanding write-up of the top storylines to follow during the tournament.

What's really surprising is how poorly DRG (Park Soo Ho, Korean Zerg) has been doing lately. After winning the GSL championship, DRG decisively lost the MLG's Winter Championship to MarineKing, who had already eked out a win at the Winter Arena. DRG also got knocked out of Code S contention in the GSL in the first round of competition. DRG's difficulties used to be confined to MarineKing, but they've clearly grown since the Winter Championship.

Meanwhile, at Dreamhack, NaNiwa (Johan Lucchesi, Swedish Protoss) has come home to Sweden to compete against players like Polt, SaSe, Socke, PuMa, and Ret, among others. It's not a bad field, although it's not exactly the League of Assassins that you'll find at Spring Arena this weekend. But NaNiwa may have other things on his mind: he's currently making a strong bid for the GSL championship, a return to elite Code S competition that once looked questionable after a series of incidents that called NaNiwa's sportsmanship and judgment into question.

Apollo, Wolf, and iNcontrol will be casting the event. Play begins at 5 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. You can see the rest of the schedule here and stream it here . The winner of this weekend's Dreamhack Open will receive an invitation to take part in the MLG's second Spring Arena, which starts on May 18.

That's what's on deck for StarCraft II this weekend. It looks like a quiet weekend for eSports outside of SC2, but if there are other events you'll be watching this weekend, be sure to shout them out in the comments.

The MLG is having a big week. They announced a major partnership with CBSi in which CBS becomes the MLG's exclusive online broadcaster for the Pro Circuit, and does advertising representation for the MLG.

You can learn a bit more about the deal on this week's Live on Three , featuring eSports journalist Rod "Slasher" Breslau, caster Marcus "djWHEAT" Graham, and Evil Geniuses director "SirScoots". They get into the CBS deal around the 1:10:00 mark, and talk to GameSpot's Director of eSports, Benito Gonzales.

And just this morning, the MLG confirmed that it will partner with Blizzard to host two StarCraft II World Championship Series events. The USA nationals will occur at the Spring Championship at Anaheim in June, and the North American Finals will occur alongside at the MLG Summer Championship in August.

(Image credit: Major League Gaming)