The Oov versus Zeus match-up has provided its fair share of spectacular, unforeseen events, with Oov's frying firebat finish knocking his opponent sideways in game one, followed by a Herculean effort from Zeus last week, when he utterly dominated the seemingly invincible Oov from start to finish to level the tie. However, the two players had one last jaw dropping surprise for the on the edge of their seats audience in game three. A back and forth game, in which for long periods it was unclear who had the advantage, was finally drawing to a close as a fading Zeus, desperately teching to carriers, saw Oov's terran army of tanks and vultures laying waste to his main. Zeus must have been mere moments away from resigning the game when it finished in the most shocking fashion...
...with Zeus dropping, yes dropping, like a Battle.net lamer. Of course in reality the protoss pro had nothing to do with the unexpected event, as OGN's system simply failed. The cameras zoomed in on Oov's end-of-game stats screen, confirming beyond all doubt that the game was indeed over, also revealing the significant margin by which he had out-built his protoss opponent. The OGN announcers stuttered and stammered and fidgeted in their seats before finally revealing that under OSL rules the game would have to be replayed later in the evening. More on this drama soon.
Game Two: July Zerg (Park Seong Joon) v Xellos (Seo Ji Hoon) on Mercury
With Oov and Zeus off stage and the OGN system up and running again, it was time for the final representative of the swarm to resume his battle with the Perfect Terran. July had lost his unbeaten record in game one but stormed, or should that be swarmed, back last week with a flawless hive-tech demolition of a bewildered Xellos. Could July Zerg make it to the semis?
July (zerg at the six o'clock position) opened with a standard 12-hatch, while Xellos (terran at nine) countered with the expected double barracks. July Zerg scouted his terran opponent with a single drone and looked to harass a barracks-building SCV. Besides a little micro trickery from both players, with July looking to knock off the SCV and Xellos working to save it while continuing his construction work, there was little early contact between the two forces. July used the time to morph his lair and start work on a hydralisk den as Xellos began his academy. Having pulled together a small force of marines, medics and firebats, Xellos sent them on a mission to probe the zerg base. July scouted them on en route and quickly began laying down sunken colonies at his expo. At the same time he sneaked two slow-moving hydras towards the top of the map, unbeknown to the Perfect Terran, who must have thought his force holding at the edge of the zerg expansion was both threatening and containing his zerg opponent. As the the two hidden hydras reached the top of the map and turned back towards the terran base they started to morph into lurkers.
Xellos, seemingly satisfied that all was relatively quiet on the zerg front, threw up a factory and began work on a starport. Meanwhile July Zerg's unseen lurkers burrowed under outside the terran base. Until this point battle had hardly been joined and there little sign of what was about to occur. Nevertheless, when Xellos' fall came it was hard and fast. July broke out of his main with a lurker/ling army, scattering the surprised terran forces. July took the game by the throat, zeroing straight in on the terran main. Catching a shocked Xellos preparing his forces for a drop, July's lurkers broke through the undermanned terran defensive perimeter and into the main. He took aim at the comsat station but, quickly realising that the terran army had simply melted away and detection was irrelevant, broke into the mineral line and ended Xellos' campaign.
July Zerg 2 - 1 Xellos
Xellos seemed to have the measure of his zerg opponent in game one. However, games two and three revealed previously unseen flaws in the Perfect Terran as he was comprehensively outplayed in both games.
Game Three: Silent_Control (Na Do Hyeon) v Kingdom (Park Yong Ook) on Requiem
While Oov's flame-fuelled demolition of Zeus on opening night may have been the most spectacular game of this Starleague so far, Kingdom's inexpicable decisions in last week's loss to Control have definitely generated the most debate. Whatever the truth of the matter, the match was tied, with a semifinal spot at stake on Requiem.
Control (terran at three o'clock) managed to throw up his wall quick enough to stop the scouting probe of Kingdom (protoss at 12) getting inside his base and tried to settle into his two factory build. Kingdom, building out of two gates, applied strong pressure to the terran wall. With his cybernetics core working on range upgrade for his forthcoming dragoons, Kingdom sent a zealot down to attack Control's depot. Control lifted his barracks and persued the lone zeal back up the map with three marines and a couple of SCVs, until a second zealot joined the fray, forcing the terrans to flee back behind their wall. With the arrival of the first protoss dragoon the situation became uncertain enough for Control to construct a bunker behind his wall, securing his perimeter until his mechanical units arrived.
With protoss units stationed outside his base, Control decided to finesse a few vultures behind the lines but attempts at harassment proved ineffective and Kingdom cleared out the expected minefield left behind. Kingdom at last chose to take his natural expansion, surprisingly late. Control continued his attempts to throw his protoss opponent off balance with a vulture drop to the 12 main, obliterating a few probes, and taking his natural in the meantime. Now with three dropships at his disposal, Control tried a tank drop behind the protoss expansion, forcing Kingdom to expend considerable energy shuttling dragoons and zealots over and dropping them next to the attacking tanks. Kingdom still appeared confident and counterattacked the terran natural with his dragoons but was forced to retreat by sieging tanks.
By now Control was working hard to expand his perimeter and increase his factory count but looked comfortable. Kingdom was still relying on a large force of dragoons but, as in the second game of the match, was curiously light on zealots. Kingdom was expanding to seven and Control to six, although a few shuttled-in zeals thwarted Control's hopes of setting up a new base at the base of the map. Nevertheless, with Kingdom's attention focussed elsewhere, Control chose this moment to start his push up the map towards the protoss main. Battle was finally joined between the two main forces as Kingdom attempted to overwhelm the terran fast entrenching terran army with weight of numbers, his massive army of dragoons ignoring the deadly tank fire and, with the assistance of a few zealots dropping out of swooping-in shuttles, stopped the terran advance in its tracks, albeit with heavy losses.
A micro battle ensued at the protoss natural as Control showed he was not going to let up in his efforts to harass the protoss mineral supply. Keeping Kingdom occupied, Control reinforced his troops and tried a second advance. This time the depleted protoss army was the one overwhelmed, as Control's ever-increasing force of vultures shielded his mighty siege tanks and allowed them to rain destruction down on the protoss force as it attempted to break the push. The tide had inexorably turned against Kingdom as he was forced to flee towards his natural. Even the arrival of a small force of high templar could do nothing to stall the terran juggernaut as it rolled over the protoss expansion and into the main. Control was turning the screw, expanding to six and launching simultaneous assaults on the protoss main and Kingdom's new expansion at the nine o'clock position. As a final desperation dark templar attempt to save the new expansion failed, a sickened Kingdom bowed out of the Starleague.
Silent_Control 2 - 1 Kingdom
Few would have believed it possible. Having looked unbeatable in the group stage and utterly destroying Silent_Control in the opening game of the match, Kingdom suddenly collapsed. Two soulless performances, questionable decision-making and, seemingly, a lack of ideas, condemned the Devil Toss to consecutive defeats and an early exit from the competition.
Game Four: [Red]Nada (Lee Yoon Yeol) v [Oops]Reach (Park Jeong Seok) on Nostalgia
Reach had looked impressive in the group stages until he came up against Oov, then dropped the first game against Nada in this match with strangely lightweight play, merely going through the motions and putting up little resistance as Nada's first real attack rumbled over his natural. Nada's surprising decision to go for two barracks on Requiem last week allowed the protoss legend back into the match. Reach had little trouble dismantling a makeshift terran army to level the match. Fittingly, the decider produced the best game of the match.
Nada (terran at seven o'clock) walled in and scouted diagnally across the map to immediately locate Reach (protoss at one). Reach was warping in a curiously-placed pylon at the very bottom of his main plateau but if he had any thoughts of some kind of unorthodox secret build he would have dismissed them quickly as a thorough Nada scouted the entire main and saw the secret structure. Reach decided on double gate ranged dragoons, with Nada building two factories behind his wall.
With the arrival of his first dragoon, Reach tried some early pressure on the terran wall. At the same time his scouting probe made two pylons to block off the lefthand mini-plateau and stop any surprise vulture escape attempts, the same tactic Zeus used effectively against Oov last week. However, as his pressure on Nada's wall dissipated with the arrival of the first terran siege tank, Reach seemed to lose concentration momentarily as Nada zipped a group of vultures out past immobile dragoons to wing towards the protoss base. Reach was playing catch-up, his dragoons loping back to defend his main. The vultures dropped some delaying mines and zeroed in on the protoss probes. The protoss defenders circled the nexus and headed towards the vulture squadron. As the dragoons started to pick off the suicide squad, the whole game suddenly hung in the balance for Reach. With his probes clustering around the upper edge of his mineral line, a dangerously-placed spider mine popped up out of the ground and targeted a nearby dragoon. Moments from disaster, probes stranded within the blast zone, Reach's dragoons neutralised the mine and destroyed the last vultures.
Even as Nada had been taking the battle to his protoss opponent, Reach had declined his natural and started an expansion at 11. The purpose of this secret expo quickly became clear, as Reach warped in two early stargates and a fleet beacon. The audience gasped a the sight of the stargates, with Nada completely unaware of the expo site and no sign of either a starport or armoury in his main. However, Nada's barracks was floating agonisingly slowly up the left side of the map towards the unseen protoss base. Tension was mounting in the audience. Would Nada identify the growing threat before it was too late?
Nada took his natural and at last started work on an armoury. The first two carriers arrived at the protoss stargates and started to glide down the map. As the carriers passed through the very edge of the terran barracks' vision range, the OGN cameras flashed to a shot of Nada, catching the jolt of electricity that passed through him as he caught sight of the carriers for the first time. His fingers started racing even faster over the keyboard as he began furiously building turrets to protect his growing tank force. The two carriers approached the battle zone but Reach thought better of an all out attack as he saw the veritable forest of turrets that had gone up around Nada's army. With his factories now producing goliath after goliath, Nada started to advance before the size of the carrier fleet became unmanagable. Reach's carriers had been lured out of position momentarily as they pursued Nada's floating barracks, while Nada first tried unsuccessfully to expand at six, then started a command centre at the nine o'clock position.
Battle was joined as Nada tried to advance up the map towards the protoss position. Tanks and goliaths clashed with dragoons and carriers. There were gasps as Nada destroyed first one, then a second, carrier. It looked as though Nada was making progress against the combined protoss forces but a renewed dragoon/carrier assault broke his army and sent his tanks fleeing. Reach kept up the pressure, persuing the terran army as his own forces were joined by the first dark templar.
Reach was now in control of the map and sent just a single zealot towards Nada's expansion at nine. Nada was utterly unable to defend his SCVs, with the expansion completely isolated from his main. As he savaged the new expo, Reach closed in on Nada's natural. Nada was only just hanging onto his position thanks to the incessant stream of goliaths coming out of his factories. However, with more dragoons and zealots arriving from his expanding array of gateways, plus a growing carrier fleet, Reach renewed his assault. Nada's natural teetered for a moment... then fell. Dragoons and carriers surged up Nada's ramp and into the main, sending Nada out of the Starleague.
[Red]Nada 1 - 2 [Oops]Reach
Flawless timing and decision-making from Reach, who survived a single mine-induced scare to comprehensively outplay Nada. Nada's scouting was not what one would expect from a player of his calibre and he was still not fully prepared by the time Reach's carriers made their first appearance on the battlefield.
Game Five: Iloveoov (Choi Yeon Seong) v Zeus (Jeon Tae Gyu) on Namja Iyagi
A match that had produced so many ups and downs, so many shocks and surprises ended in anti-climax. Zeus escaped inevitable defeat earlier in the evening thanks to computer failure and was given a second chance. Oov did not let him take advantage of that second chance.
Iloveoov (terran at 10 o'clock) opened with double factory and double vulture upgrades, Zeus (protoss at eight) with single gateway dragoons and observers. From the moment his first combat forces started to emerge from his factories Iloveoov played like a man possessed. His first force of vultures harassed Zeus' small opening army and suddenly Iloveoov was surging towards the protoss main with a strike force of four marines, a few tanks and a flock of vultures. It was immediately obvious that Zeus was utterly unprepared for such an early attack. Iloveoov stationed his tanks at the bottom of Zeus' ramp and set up an ironclad containment. Minutes into the game, it was already desperation stakes for Zeus as he sent his probes out to try to break the terran hold on his base. Probe after probe exploded. Zeus sent more. Oov shrugged them off and broke into the protoss main.
Iloveoov 2 - 1 Zeus
Iloveoov simply decided enough was enough and utterly obliterated a flabbergasted Zeus, who looked like he had been hit by a train.
So, all four semi-finalists have been decided. Iloveoov will play July Zerg on Friday July 2. Will July Zerg live up to his name or will Iloveoov continue his seeminly inexorable advance to the final? Silent_Control will play [Oops]Reach one week later. The unfancied Control has already knocked over one of the favourites but can he really top Reach over a five game match?