Our e-sports correspondent is ESFI World’s Samuel Lingle.
It’s been a long time coming, but Jung-Hoon “MarineKing” Lee deserves his crown. The man famed for his uncanny ability to be the first loser quelled all talk of second place curses by following his MLG Winter Arena victory with an MLG Winter Championship itself, earning $25,000.
MarineKing wowed audiences in 2010 during the second season of the Global Starcraft League, a cinderella making it all the way to the finals while showing off flashy micro and magnetic style. The typical Korean player shows little emotion, win or lose, but MarineKing endeared himself to Western audiences by living and dying with every match, breaking down in tears after an emotional loss in the finals against the first “best player in Starcraft 2”, Jae-Duk “NesTea” Lim.
After his debut, MarineKing placed second in just about everything he played in, including GSL January, GSL August Code A, and the GSL World Championship. He was cursed - the most prominent member of Starcraft 2’s “kong line”, a label born in the Starcraft: Brood War Korean scene to describe players perpetually doomed to make finals, and then fail in them.
MarineKing took down the MLG Winter Arena a few weeks ago, but that didn’t break the spell: it was a qualifier tournament, with no live audience, and that doesn’t count as an event major enough for him to escape his fate. Part of MarineKing’s legend is that he chokes under the pressure, in front of a crowd expecting him to win, and even after ousting current GSL champion Soo-Ho “DongRaeGu” Park with a thrilling comeback in the Winter Arena, that demon had yet to be exorcized. What it did was set the stage for MLG Columbus.
Taking advantage of his top seed earned at the Winter Arena, MarineKing obliterated the competition at MLG Columbus, sweeping his group and posting a 17-4 map win and loss record throughout the whole tournament. He looked like a man on a mission, hoping to play in front of fans who have supported him wholly throughout a career filled with heartbreak.
The final day of Major League Gaming Columbus culminated in a dream final as MarineKing again faced DongRaeGu. The royal Terran had control of the match all series long, dazzling a massive audience with a variety of creative builds to decimate the player considered to be the best in the world after his GSL championship last month. MarineKing took the title with a 5-2 score, ending the talk of curses once and for all.
In true MarineKing fashion, his relief was plain to see as he walked around the stage, unsure of how to react, unsure of how to celebrate a victory. He plopped himself face down on the couch and collected himself before standing up and performing the wacky “Kong Dance”, a move created by Brood War pro gamer Jin-Ho “YellOW” Hong and a signal that yes, MarineKing himself knew best the importance of his coronation.
Other cool stories in Columbus included Chris “HuK” Loranger’s run to a top four finish, cementing his position as the world’s best player born outside of Korea. The Protoss from Evil Geniuses has always played well at MLG, and this was no exception.
Saturday’s big mover, Min-Hyuk “Heart” Kim, the Korean Terran on Complexity, showed that his breakout performance was more than a fluke, charging to a third place finish by eliminating GanZi and HuK in two solid matches. It’s rare for a player to perform so well in his first major outside of Korea, especially one with so little background before.
While there was plenty of other excitement, the day truly belonged to MarineKing. Let his reign be a long one. Or for at least two weeks, when esports heads to Vegas for the IGN Pro League and another dance with destiny.
Here are the top 5 storylines for Championship Sunday.
- TLO interview
- Sleep interview
- CrazymovING interview
- Flo interview
- DRG ends Heart’s 10-win streak, makes it to Winner’s Finals
- MKP defeats PartinG; DRG rematch secured
- MKP beats DRG again; makes second Grand Finals in a row
- All hail MarineKing, the new rule of Starcraft 2