Taeja vs Jaedong
TaeJa was able to continue his recent strong performances against Jaedong with his third victory over Jaedong this year, keeping Jaedong to winning just one map. The series was marked by each player being content to play very standard TvZ with small early skirmishes and building up to big macro games. Taeja's superb widow mine control gained him the advantage and eventual victory in the first game, while Jaedong struck back in game two by shutting down Taeja's medivacs giving him a large advantage. Taeja was resilient and survived for other 15 minutes with at least a 50 supply deficit, but Jaedong's hive tech eventually over ran him.
The final two games of the series had Taeja gain small edges early on which snowballed into a large advantage. In the third game Jaedong's uncharacteristic sloppy mutalisk control while harassing cost him 7 mutalisks early on. The gas expended on replenishing these delayed Jaedong's 2-2 giving Taeja a timing window to exploit with his own 2-2. This culminated in Taeja winning the game. In the final game Taeja was able to delay Jaedong's third base with hellion/reaper while Jaedong's counter harass was largely ineffective. This economic deficit was never overcome by Jaedong, and Taeja closed out the series. This victory marks Taeja's first IEM final.
Solar vs Jim
Despite Jim being the home town hero, Solar continued his relentless run through IEM Shenzhen with another 3-0 victory. Jim looked thoroughly out classed in all three games, trying desperate cannon rushes in games 1 and 3 and the popular heavy zealot pressure strategy in game 2. Solar looked effortless in deflecting all of Jim's early aggression and dismantled Jim with solid play. Jim's desperate 9 gate attack in game 3 was symbolic of the entire series; Solar was able to counter attack with speedlings to shut down his economy while picking off stray warp in pylons. It was a game where nothing went Jim's way, and ultimately Solar was able to defend with his trademark mutalisk/+1 zergling composition. Solar has gone undefeated this tournament against Protoss, and is currently 6-0 in the single elimination bracket. He is quickly making a name for himself as arguably the best ZvP player in the world and a candidate for best Zerg in the world (and wise pick for future fantasy proleague teams!).
IEM Shenzhen Grand Final: Solar vs Taeja
Fans were treated to one of the best finals in recent memory as two extremely strong players squared off for $10,000 and 750 WCS Points. The first game of the night was a hotly contested macro game on Overgrowth, both players exchanged blows but ultimately Taeja was caught out of position and allowed his army to be surrounded by Solar. Solar tore through the army and took an early lead in the series. The second game on Nimbus was a clinic by Taeja on how to use medivacs to drop to maximum effectiveness. Taeja's continual harass on Solar's in-base natural proved too much for Solar and the series was evened up 1-1.
The third game on King Sejong Statoin of the series was easily the game of the night. Another macro game developed very similarly to the first game. This time, however, neither side was willing to commit their maxed army to a fight and only small blows were traded. Eventually Solar's impressive movement about the map got Taeja out of position which he immediately capitalised on. Taeja somehow managed to hang on and grab a fifth base which dragged the game well past the 30 minute mark. Even though Solar was unable to break Taeja's defenses, Solar was able to drag Taeja across the map and eventually shut down Taeja's fifth/sixth base. This forced Taeja to attack which Solar managed to defend and take a 2-1 lead.
Merry Go Roound was the site of the fourth game, where both sides made some critical errors. Taeja bungled his aggression allowing Solar an opportunity for his mutalisks to go to work on Taeja's economy -- but then Solar lost his entire mutalisk flock to widow mines which gave Taeja a firm lead in the game. It wasn't long before Taeja attacked and evened the series out yet again. Games 5 and 6 were decided by two aggressive all ins. Game 5 on Foxtrot had Solar successfully zergling/baneling all in Taeja while game 6 on Deadwing (in the dreaded horizontal positiones) had Taeja miraculously hold a roach rush from Solar. As Solar had no intention of taking the game long, Taeja was able to close out the game.
The final game of the night on Catallena had Taeja's experience come through. Taeja utilized a cloaked banshee/hellion strategy which eliminated all but one queen of Solar's. Things went from bad to worse as Solar was unable to gain a footing in the game; losing more queens and drones to the banshees. Taeja never let up off the aggression and his follow up marine/medivac attacks sealed the game and the series for Taeja.
This is Taeja's 11th premier event win (from 12 finals appearances) and first IEM victory. Taeja now has his sights firmly set on a Blizzcon/WCS win and currently sits fifth on the WCS points standings.
Solar and Taeja are both qualified for the IEM IX Grand Finals to be held at the end of the IEM season.