There were a couple of close calls, a few series that went down to the wire, and two unbelievable swerves. But at the end of the day, IEM Sao Paulo continued its trend of offering few surprises, at least where the final results was concerned.
Favorite no longer?
SuperNoVa came into IEM Sao Paulo with recent wins over Leenock and DongRaeGu. Already a Code S Korean, TvZ was the match-up where he was supposed to dominate even harder than normal. Things couldn't have turned out more differently.
In the group stages, d.KiLLeR came close to scoring an upset over SuperNoVa by playing very strongly in the late game. The story repeated itself in the quarter-finals as SuperNoVa barely overcame Slivko in series that went the full five games. The trouble for SuperNoVa lay once more in the late game, when he faced a Zerg opponent who had secured all the resources and tech he needed. In particular, SuperNoVa's refusal to use ghosts meant that he had no easy way of dealing with Slivko's brood lords and infestors, two units which were his bane throughout the series.
SuperNoVa did look excellent when he was aggressive and focused on harassment, and that was enough to see him through to the semi-finals. However, considering the fact that he would play even more renowned Zerg players in Violet or Ret should he reach the finals, his chances of winning it all suddenly seem much lower.
Feast and Real were both looking to further their progress as some of the EU scene's rising Protoss stars, but they were forced to collide head-on in the round of eight. Real emerged victorious 3 - 1, forcing Feast to wait for his next opportunity. In the games, Real showed the same willingness to perform risky plays that allowed him to nearly beat ST_Sound back in HomeStory Cup, employing tactics such as a hidden Nexus and the reliable but recently less-popular 4-gate.
The almost comeback
Ret easily went up 2 - 0 in his series against DarkForce, looking superior to his opponent in almost every way. In the next two games, DarkForce reversed the roles, and flattened Ret just as easily to tie up the series 2 - 2.
It seemed all but assured that DarkForce would complete the reverse-sweep in the final game when Ret went for a desperation nydus worm after being put in a disadvantageous position. However, the tactic was so unexpected and so uncharacteristic of Ret that DarkForce dismissed the possibility entirely, letting the nydus worm complete - under the sight of one of his overlords.
It was an unfortunate loss for DarkForce, who seemed to have had the series wrapped up. However, the German Zerg was surprisingly cheerful despite his loss, and was able to laugh off his unlikely defeat during a post-match interview.
The almost comeback, again
After Ret nearly blew a two game lead in the previous series, Violet managed to repeat the tale nearly exactly in his series against DeMuslim.
A two - nil lead for Violet turned into a two - two tie by the fifth game, where the path to the semi-finals was on the line on Tal'Darim Altar. DeMusliM used a well executed proxy-barracks reaper strategy to punish Violet's hatchery first fast expansion, and looked well on the way to victory. However, he made a crucial oversight by refusing to complete a wall-off at his main base, which allowed Violet to steal the game with a desperation speedling all-in.
Similar to DarkForce's game, the loss was particularly shocking due to the amount of advance warning the losing player had before the all-in. While DarkForce lost to a nydus worm in plain sight, DeMusliM lost to a speedling all-in after an earlier zergling counter-attack had already alerted him to the gaping hole in his wall.
Like DarkForce, DeMusliM managed to stay positive in defeat, expressing his contentment with his performance and determination to do better in the future.
oGsSuperNoVa vs TypeReaL
There is a possibility that this will be one of the strangest series we've seen in recent weeks.
Real's tournament success so far has been largely due to his willingness to use unorthodox tactics and put his opponents in weird situations. In his series against Sound at HomeStory Cup4, we saw that Real would have been crushed in a straight up game. However, his ability to use weird strategies to create unfamiliar situations for Sound allowed him to take two games. This is a perfectly fine way to go about winning tournaments, but the problem is that this time, Real will be going up against a player who does the exact same thing.
In his last eight GSL TvPs, SuperNoVa went for what would be called a "standard" strategy just twice. Every other game, he attempted some sort of 1/1/1 variation, two base all-in, or risky double expansion build. While his bag of tricks worked against MC, it did see him drop out of the RO16 to Puzzle and Oz.
Now, Real is definitely no MC, Puzzle, or Oz, but he's certainly has had time to watch their games. How does this affect his game plan? Going for wacky strategies works against players who are playing standard, but used against similar minded opponents, chaos can ensue. Real could try to play normal, with his mentality being to hold off SuperNoVa's all-ins. However, SuperNoVa is extremely skilled at performing those all-ins, and Real might not be able to stop them even if he sees them coming.
It's almost impossible to predict how the games will play out. However, in terms of the end result, I still predict a victory for SuperNoVa. Despite looking weaker than he did coming into this tournament, it's hard to pick against a Code S Korean.
Prediction: SuperNoVa 3 -1 Real
Liquid`Ret vs Empire.viOLet
Not one month ago, these two players faced off in a best of seven series (MLG style extended-series) to see who the champion of the MLG Winter Arena EU qualifiers would be. Though there was not much on the line due to both players having already sealed their qualifications for the MLG Winter Arena in New York, the series provided some insight into how the two players match up.
Ret went up 2 - 0 early on, only to be swept 4 - 0 by Violet in the extended series. Despite the eventual victory and the four-game streak for Violet, the two players seemed very evenly matched. Mechanically, it was hard to separate them at all, with both players macroing and microing at an almost equally high level. Decision making seemed even as well, with both players able to come up with creative ways to handle disadvantageous situations. The margin between the two players was sometimes as thin as a misplaced roach-warren, which cost Ret a game and a half. One peculiarity of their MLG series was that mutalisks barely played a role, with the games being decided entirely on the ground. This contrasted with their usual styles, where both players are willing to use mutalisks in appropriate situations.- though it's unknown what kind of implications this might have on their upcoming match.
While the two players are at a deadlock otherwise, Violet does have an advantage in having more information. Not only does he have the six games from the MLG series to look at, but the dozen ZvZ games Ret played over the last two days at IEM Sao Paulo as well. From that slight edge, I cautiously predict a win for Violet.
Prediction: Violet 3 - 2 Ret
Replays can be downloaded at ESL World.
For Slivko fans: Slivko vs SuperNoVa, Game Two
This game is also recommended for Zerg fans, who will get a preview of the glorious patch 1.4.3 days to come.
For SuperNoVa fans: Slivko vs SuperNoVa, Game Five
SuperNoVa at his aggressive, harassing, annoying, best.
For Starcraft II fans: Slivko vs SuperNoVa, Game Three
Every tournament needs a crazy base trade game; this was it.
WTF comeback game: Violet vs DeMusliM, Game Five
You gotta see it to believe it.