This week's column is by ESFI World's John King.
This week, the world of e-sports continued its march into the heart of championship season. Around this time of year, most of the major tournaments have either concluded their latest round of competition or are looking to do so in the next few weeks, and this year the competition has never been tougher. Between a new season of Chinese Dota 2, the cross-pollination of Korean StarCraft 2 tournaments, and the conclusion of North America’s premier e-sports competition, fans of competitive gaming have had little time to rest.
On Saturday, October 27, StarCraft 2 reached a big milestone with the conclusion of the 2012 Auction All-Kill OSL in South Korea. It’s been more than two years since StarCraft 2’s release, but it wasn’t until last weekend that the OSL, previously South Korea’s most important StarCraft: Brood War tournament, made the switch and completed a tournament focused exclusively on StarCraft 2. Finally, fans were able to watch their favorite StarCraft 2 players like Jang “MC” Min-Chul and Jung “MVP” Jong-Hyun compete against Brood War powerhouses like Lee “Flash” Young-Ho and Jung “Fantasy” Myung-Hoon. Would the StarCraft 2 players finally prove that their skills were not to be ignored, or would the old guard reassert themselves in the sequel to the game that they had played for more than a decade?
Rain at the OSL finals. Source: ThisIsGame.com
Ultimately, it was Park “DongRaeGu” Soo-Ho, a StarCraft 2 player from team MVP, against Jung “Rain” Yoon-Jong, a former Brood War player from SKT1. At first glance, DongRaeGu seemed to be the favorite, but Rain was quickly making a name for himself in StarCraft 2 despite limited tournament appearances. Two weeks earlier in the GSL, the most important StarCraft 2 tournament, Rain was only barely stopped by four-time GSL winner MVP in the semi-finals. On the other hand, DongRaeGu was no pushover either—he won numerous tournaments over the course of his StarCraft 2 career, and he’s never been known for being eliminated easily.
Unfortunately, DongRaeGu wasn’t able to put up much of a fight against Rain’s superior army control and surgically precise timing attacks. In a series that wasn’t as close as its 4-1 score might suggest, Rain won not only his first championship, but his first OSL, marking an admirable rise from Brood War mediocrity to StarCraft 2 greatness.
Like many others, however, Rain quickly turned his attention from the OSL and set his sights on another important competition: the MLG Fall Championships in Dallas, Texas. Amid some ominous tweets that MLG’s staff might be stranded in a flooded New York City, MLG Executive Vice President Adam Apicella announced that Rain had forfeited his spot in the upcoming GSL so that he could fly to Texas and compete against some of the best players from around the world. Unfortunately, this announcement will do little to calm the stormy relationship between KeSPA, the players association that manages the former Brood War teams and oversees the OSL, and GomTV, which runs the GSL and works closely with the non-KeSPA StarCraft 2 teams. Both organizations have tried to cooperate to strengthen the StarCraft 2 scene in Korea but have pulled their players from each other’s tournaments when that cooperation has broken down. Rain is one of the few KeSPA players still qualified in the GSL, but it’s hard to say what effect his forfeiture might have on inter-league relations.
Chris “HuK” Loranger at Dallas. Source: Team Liquid
Despite the problems of Korean tournament politics, and thankfully despite one of the most severe weather systems to ever strike the U.S.’s east coast, MLG Dallas is a go. For the StarCraft 2 tournament, this MLG marks the first time that former Brood War players will participate in the regular, open competition. At MLG Anaheim, in June, MLG flew out eight players to compete against one another in an exhibition tournament. Flash ended up winning that tournament, and in Dallas he and a few other qualified Brood War players will hope to test themselves against competition from the rest of the world.
Unfortunately for fans hoping to see a non-Korean emerge victorious, one of the strongest international players won’t be at Dallas. Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri, a player known for giving the best Korean players a run for their money, will be in his home country of France, defending his title in the E-Sports World Championship.
The theme of Korean dominance also extends to MLG’s League of Legends tournament, where the North American and European teams, who have lately been focusing on roster shuffles and general team management, will enter with records against the Korean teams of .500 or worse. In fact, the only European team at MLG Dallas with a winning record against Korean teams will be CLG EU with an unenviable combined record of 8-7. As it stands, teams like Nanjin Sword and Azubu Blaze look like they’ll sit comfortably atop the podium come Sunday’s championship ceremony.
Outside of MLG, other games continue trundling along as well. Dota 2, not to be outdone by MLG Dallas, saw the start of Season 4 of the G-1, one of the major Chinese tournaments. In addition to featuring the largest prize pool in its history, this season is notable for its inclusion of some more international teams. Natural 9, Sequential, and Evil Geniuses all qualified to compete against some of the strongest teams China has to offer, including the winners of The International 2, Invictus Gaming.
All in all, there was no shortage of exciting events this week. With MLG Dallas, this should prove to be one of the more exciting weekends in recent memory.
More at ESFI World.