The first day of DreamHack Valencia’s StarCraft 2 tournament ended on a high note with a bitterly contested best-of-three between Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri and Yoon “TaeJa” Young Suh. The Korean Terran take the higher seed over the French Zerg for tomorrow’s round of 16, where they will play alongside stars like ViOLet, VortiX, SaSe, HerO, and LucifroN, to name a few.
The initial round of 64 group play threw up few surprises, but also left some great players facing a very hard road to the round of 16.
The Netherlands’ Grubby (Manuel Schenkhuizen, Protoss) won his group in the first round only to find himself facing both Stephano and Taeja in the round of 32. He was eliminated in short order, failing to win a single best of three in his group.
Likewise, the UK’s’ DeMusliM (Benjamin Baker, Terran) was knocked out after a strong early showing. His fortunes took a turn for the worse in his matchup with Sweden’s SaSe (Kim Hammar, Protoss) who rallied after a game one loss to DeMuslim to win his next two. His killer instinct was on full display when he sensed early weakness from DeMusliM and threw everything he had into a cannon rush. DeMusliM went on to lose his match against ClouD, which cost him his spot in the round of 16. Meanwhile, Germany’s Socke (Giacomo Thüs, Protoss) went out of the tournament in a tough grouping with TargA and VortiX.
The day’s highlight, however, had to be Game 1 in the match between TaeJa and Stephano (you can watch it here, if you skip to around 3:25:00). In a long, pitched battle across Ohana, the Terran and Zerg players saw their fortunes swing wildly between imminent victory and absolute catastrophe.
Both players demonstrated absolute mastery of their respective styles. Stephano was almost unerring in his positioning and Infestor play: he nearly took the whole match when he allowed TaeJa’s entire army to commit to a frontal attack before unburrowing a pair of fully-charged Infestors and popping fungal growths across the Terran siege line. Somehow TaeJa came back, however, winning a series of exchanges through perfect deployments and disciplined counterattacks that denied Stephano any chance of a favorable exchange. He also showed the power of the Medivac, lifting entire squads of Marines out of the path of some Banelings, letting them waste themselves against his Thors before dropping them back into the fight.
By the end, both players were exhausted and long-distance mining from the same mineral lines, but TaeJa still had a bit of an army and economy left, and Stephano had little of either and no map control to let him maneuver. It did not look like a terminal situation for the French Zerg, but the odds were exceedingly long, and he bowed out with a “well played.”
He came back with a swift and decisive victory on Cloud Kingdom, but lost Game 3 on Metropolis. Once again, he was able to catch TaeJa out of position and lure him into pincer attacks, but he tried to deliver his killing blow too early and squandered his army through a series of bad exchanges. TaeJa slowly gained control of the match before rolling over Stephano’s remaining army and bases.
The stage is set for some terrific matches tomorrow. The Spanish duo of brothers LucifroN and VortiX (Pedro and Juan Moreno Duran, respectively) remain in contention and could still face one another in the final, although their respective halves of the bracket make that look unlikely.
Play resumes at 9 AM BST / 4 AM Eastern tomorrow morning, starting with ViOLet v. VortiX and TheSTC v. elfi. All matches should be streamed via DreamHack’s Twitch channels. Look for coverage via our StarCraft channel Twitter account, and recaps following both the Round of 16 and the Finals.