Ugly and at times even cruel, the GSL Code S round of eight played witnessed a series of mismatches that devolved into crushing blowouts. Match spoilers will wait until after the jump, but the four victorious SC2 pros looked nigh-unbeatable in their matchups. The stage is set for some great semifinals.
In some ways, the round of eight was hard to watch because it put differences in ability and judgment in such stark relief. The bracket was full of MLG, GSL, and DreamHack champions, players we’ve hardly ever seen get annihilated. This week, however, they went down in lopsided, confidence-shaking defeats.
You could see it when SK Telecom T1’s Jung “Rain” Yoon Jong absolutely crushed Team Liquid’s Song “HerO” Hyeon Deok in a 3-0 Protoss v. Protoss shutout that left HerO staring blankly at his monitor for answers he knew he wouldn’t find. In their first game, Rain had won a battle of similar late-game armies and proved he was the better tactician. In their second, HerO tried for a quick decision with early aggression, a tacit admission that he couldn’t win the long game. When Rain took that game as well, HerO was finished. Game 3 looked like it was over before the map even loaded.
Mvp’s pain in the neck
The match between four-time GSL champion Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun (Terran) and Kang “Symbol” Dong Hyun (Zerg) was supposed to supply a bit more drama, with Mvp playing through a pinched nerve that was causing him chronic discomfort and numbness in his hands. Casters Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski and Nick “Tasteless” Plott theorized that Mvp would be looking for swift, decisive victories to avoid drawn-out games where his injury could become a decisive factor.
The first game on Abyssal City looked like it was setting us up for a classic best of five. Mvp, conceding nothing to his circumstances, went for a heavy mech build that practically guaranteed a long game while aggressively attacking Symbol’s economy. However, Symbol defended beautifully and the two players began a series of bloody but even exchanges.
The real cost to Symbol was map position. With Symbol barely holding his own, Mvp consolidated his map control with a series of Planetary Fortresses, then launched raids from the center to clean out Symbol’s expansions. On five bases against Symbol’s three, Mvp regrouped his force of Thors and Siege tanks before delivering his knockout blow.
It was the best match the two would play, and Mvp had made a statement. He was supposed to be too hurt, too distracted to be able to go the distance in a long game, and he showed that to be a lie. Symbol would have to find some other way to win. While Symbol took a cheese-filled Game Two off of the Terran player, Games Three and Four went decisively to Mvp.
Day 2: Leenock’s lapses and MarineKing’s tough night
The best match from the round of eight had to be Yoon “TaeJa” Yong Suh (Terran) v. Lee “Leenock” Dong Nyoung.
In their first game on Cloud Kingdom, Leenock looked utterly defeated as TaeJa picked off expansions and slowly choked the Zerg’s economy. Leenock’s defeat was a foregone conclusion... right up until the moment he threw everything into a final Brood Lord / Infestor play.
TaeJa’s army melted under the onslaught, and Leenock’s army quickly poured across the map to force his surrender. Some in the StarCraft 2 community have argued that Infestor / Brood Lord is an overpowered endgame for the Zerg, a “get out of jail free” card for a player that has lost the economic and positioning battles, and the rabbit Leenock produced from his hat last night will likely be used as further evidence of that. Still, TaeJa reacted by making sure Leenock would never got another chance to use it so decisively, and took the next two games.
Leenock had a chance to get back into the series with their fourth game on Antiga Shipyard. TaeJa and Leenock battled back-and-forth across the map, neither able to really assert control, but then Leenock’s mental lapses started adding up. He abandoned a fight near one of TaeJa’s expansions, but forgot to change his rally point.
While Leenock’s attention was elsewhere, four desperately-needed Ultralisks marched unescorted into TaeJa’s army, where they died instantly. A few minutes later, TaeJa stumbled across a half-dozen drones sitting idle at an empty mineral patch. Losing units, positions, and money through forgetfulness and inattention, Leenock never found a way back into the game.
But the most painful scene of the round of eight had to be the aftermath of Life’s 3-1 beatdown of MarineKing.
Lee “MarineKing” Jung Hoon is one of the world’s best Terrans and, for a while, it looked like 2012 would be his year. He won two MLG events in a row and was the runner-up in another, and his Marine-Marauder-Medivac micromanagement was so outstanding that he could use it to beat almost any build an opponent could throw at him.
Last night, however, Lee “Life” Seung Hyung’s Zerg turned MarineKing’s signature style into a coffin for MarineKing’s GSL hopes. While MarineKing won the first match on Cloud Kingdom, Life came back at him with Zergling / Baneling rushes that crippled MarineKing and led to a swift unraveling.
To add insult to injury, Life made sure to repeatedly dance his Zerglings just to show MarineKing how completely powerless he was to stop Life’s victory. That’s when something seemed to snap in MarineKing. You could see him staring daggers through his booth at Life a few feet away while his coach tried to engage him.
He was still fuming when Game Three began. He went for a proxy barracks and a rapid victory, and Life handed him his head yet again.
It was painful, if you’ve watched a lot of MarineKing’s matches, to watch him turn all his strengths into weaknesses. Life wasn’t just countering MarineKing’s style, but MarineKing himself was playing his part badly. His timing was terrible: he rushed forces into the middle of the map with no recon, and in nowhere near enough strength to know they could protect themselves. He would lose a heap of units, then send another into the same killing field to the exact same results. Life used speed-upgraded Zerglings and Banelings to deny MarineKing his ability to maneuever and concentrate firepower, and yet MarineKing refused to stake out defensive positions and start building out for a late-game victory.
Once again he taunted MarineKing mercilessly, and MarineKing seemed even angrier and more frustrated when the final match on Whirlwind began. He tried to go mech with Hellions and Banshees, but his play was sloppy and he failed at fundamentals like blocking Zergling rushes with supply depot walls. His workers died in droves while MarineKing flailed.
When he finally tapped out, MarineKing just crumpled in his booth. He buried his face in his arms, once again denied victory in GSL Code S. At almost twenty years of age, MarineKing still has time to add that to his laurels. But last night, he looked desperate and frustrated, like a champion who saw, in the taunts of his 15 year-old opponent, the game that he loves starting to leave him behind.