To the Quarter-Finals
A handful of surprises were in store on day three of HomeStory Cup VIII, with Europeans Mill.BabyKnight and Empire|Happy topping their groups to ensure foreigner representation in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Russian Terran Happy started his day by earning a 2-1 win over former GSL champion jjakji, favoring a mech style in the mirror match-up. He then clinched his quarter-final berth with a 2-1 victory over France's ToD that even included an unusual tie-game. Though ToD had Happy against the ropes on several occasions, Happy was able to turtle up and trump ToD in the late game.
BabyKnight went perfect in his group as he progressed to the quarters, defeating teammate Dayshi and then Liquid's HerO without dropping a map. His play against HerO was particularly notable, as he showed off clinical micro to dissect his Korean opponent and take the first place spot.
|1.||Happy||2 - 0|
|2.||jjakji||2 - 1|
|3.||ToD||1 - 2|
|4.||MC||0 - 2|
|1.||BabyKnight||2 - 0|
|2.||HerO||2 - 1|
|3.||Dayshi||1 - 2|
|4.||Scarlett||0 - 2|
|1.||TaeJa||2 - 0|
|2.||Symbol||2 - 1|
|3.||TitaN||1 - 2|
|4.||StarDust||0 - 2|
|1.||Leenock||2 - 0|
|2.||HyuN||2 - 1|
|3.||Socke||1 - 2|
|4.||HeRoMaRinE||0 - 2|
The other six spots in the quarter-finals were filled by Korean players, but not all the ones that were expected. While jjakji, HerO, Leenock, Symbol, HyuN, and TaeJa—all highly successful tournament players—were able to make it through, the most successful Korean of all in SK_MC dropped out of the tournament with losses to ToD and jjakji. DreamHack Summer champion Stardust also dropped out of the tournament, unable to overcome Symbol and TitaN.
The HomeStory Cup VIII quarter-finals features a series of rematches, some from as near as this very tournament and some ranging as far back as two years ago in the Code S finals. Here's a brief rundown of the match-ups.
So We Meet Again - Quarter-Finals
Mill.BabyKnight vs. Azubu.Symbol
This is a rematch from just couple of days ago, as BabyKnight and Symbol faced off in the Ro32 of HomeStory Cup. BabyKnight managed to take a close 2 - 1 victory in that series, though given the circumstances it might not reveal too much about what might happen in their upcoming quarter-final match.
Harstem and NightEnD expressed their vexation as they casted the Ro32 series, noticing that BabyKnight wasn't playing the cleanest games, but was still solid enough on defense to defeat what were essentially 3-base "all-in" builds from Symbol involving mass tunneling claw roaches. Symbol seemed to realize the folly of his ways in later matches, switching to a more standard style where he expertly abused mutalisk tech switches to defeat HasuObs, Stardust, and TitaN.
Just knowing that Symbol can play both standard and aggressive styles (duh!) probably doesn't help BabyKnight too much, but one thing he might look to exploit is Symbol's willingness to take risks by going 3-hatch before pool. BabyKnight already used a cannon rush to hurt Symbol in their prior series (albeit, not against a 3-hatch-before-pool build), and there may be some mind-games revolving around that factor. Frequently an aggressive player in the GSL, Symbol will probably have a special all-in prepared for at least one of the games in the bo5 series.
This could be something of a breakout tournament for BabyKnight, who has shown us a lot of great matches but has never been able to make an eye-opening, deep run. Even though Symbol is a very accomplished player, he's definitely down from where he was at his peak, making this a great opportunity for BabyKnight. As for Symbol, the stakes are the same as always: finally winning a championship after numerous second place finishes.
Liquid`HerO vs. Liquid`TaeJa
The Liquid team-kill is a tradition of esports at this point, with HerO and TaeJa having met in five tournaments in the past. They managed to avoid each other for all of HotS so far, but a sixth meeting in the higher rounds of a foreign tournament was all but inevitable. Right now the head-to-head record stands at 11-5 in HerO's favor, with HerO having taken the last seven games consecutively.
Fans will certainly be pleased with how HerO has started to embrace his inner-MC, creating hype with frequent references to the coming of winter, the season where he won three of his four major titles. But despite HerO's past success in the colder months, even his staunchest supporters would have to admit he rolled into HSC without much momentum. His results ever since winning WCS America Season 1 have been good but not great, which compares poorly to TaeJa and his torrid summer.
Summer of TaeJa 2013 wasn't as intense as 2012, but it still ended up with TaeJa taking three major titles and defeating some of the best players WCS Korea had to offer (his masterful victory over SKT's Rain was particularly impressive). TaeJa has cooled down a bit since then with poor showings in WCS America S3 and the WCS Global Finals, but he still comes in with a far better recent tournament resume than HerO.
HerO's ability to take on TaeJa in a long game has to be questioned. He struggled against both Kas and Dayshi in macro games this tournament, with his deathballs looking strangely fragile. In contrast, TaeJa seems to be very comfortable playing long, standard games, and has a great understanding of how to turtle with ghosts and drive opponents insane. HerO has managed to take out TaeJa with aggressive tactics in the past, which may end up being the key to this series.
Empire|Happy vs. Quantic_HyuN
Here's another rematch from the very same tournament! When Happy and HyuN clashed head-on in the Ro32, sparks... didn't really fly. Instead, they played one of the most bizarre games of the tournament and perhaps in all of StarCraft 2. Happy seemed to have HyuN all but beat at the end of a base trade, left with only floating buildings but a vastly superior army. However, the HyuN was able to exploit the sheer expansiveness of Frost to play hide-and-go-seek for what seemed like forever, taking a new base on the opposite side of the map every time Happy came to tear one down. The end result was Happy GG'ing out, perhaps not so much because he had lost, but out of sheer frustration instead. While some fans found this game thrilling, caster HeRoMaRinE didn't even bother to hide his boredom with the very long and repetitive match. You can watch the VOD here, but it might tire you out before you even watch the quarter-finals.
That game didn't dissuade Happy from playing for super-long games and base trades against hi other opponents at HSC, and he came out victorious against jjakji and ToD in similar scenarios. We haven't checked the stats, but we're pretty sure Happy is averaging the longest game length by far this tournament. Viewers might want to allot an extra hour or two for this rematch between HyuN and Happy.
Leenock.fOu vs. mYi.jjakji
Holy s***. It's THE rematch.
Two years ago, the GSL was known as the tournament with the best players and best games in the world, but also the tournament the with the worst, god-awful finals in the world. For all the exciting matches and top-notch play in the lower rounds, the finals would always end up being one-sided stomps, either due to mismatches in skill or mind-games.
In Code S November of 2011, jjakji and Leenock changed all that. The two combined to play an explosive and nail-biting TvZ series the likes of which had never been seen, a series which is still a classic today (GO WATCH IT ALREADY). Two years later, we finally have the rematch.
While jjakji defeated Leenock 4 - 2 in 2011, their careers couldn't have gone in more different directions. Leenock overcame the setback of finishing second in the GSL and went on to become one of the best international tournament players ever, perhaps not winning as many trophies as players like MC or TaeJa, but arguably winning more difficult tournaments.
On the other hand, jjakji basically fell off the map after his championship. For nearly two years after, he was more of a ghost of the past than a player with any presence in the present. But the death of NS HoSeo and a move to mYi, jjakji seems to have found a belated second wind. He came out of nowhere to place top six in WCS Korea, and has quietly snuck into HSC as a darkhorse contender to take it all (you can read more about jjakji's demise and revival in this previous article).
This long-delayed rematch doesn't come with either player at the peak of his powers, but it arrives at an intriguing point in time nonetheless. Leenock has struggled in HotS, looking far less dominant than he had been in WoL. Though he was still good enough to narrowly win DreamHack: Stockholm earlier this year, he has only declined since then. jjakji's experience has been almost exactly opposite, as he failed to get an immediate boost from HotS unlike many of his Terran peers. He has only recently come alive, showing occasional glimpses of his old, championship winning self.
At this crossroad, it's hard to tell who has the upper hand. Leenock is playing the worst he has in months, but he's still a formidable opponent. jjakji is playing the best he has in months, but he's still not up his old level. If Leenock wins, he'll try to use it as an opportunity to bounce back as a champion after months of poor results. If jjakji beats Leenock again, he'll have to remember not to squander the opportunity again.
Regardless of who wins, we hope for another epic series.