David vs. Goliath

The first legacy series article featured a rivarly between two of Germany’s best players, Christoph ‘Mondragon‘ Semke and Fredrik ‘FiSheYe‘ Keitel. It was about more than just two skilled players, the whole idea behind their clans added something to the clashes. And this is exactly where the second part will continue, more matches and a similar question: Could Goliath be beaten?

Foreigners were always the underdogs once the Koreans entered the arena. The KeSPA professionals were able to train harder, invented new strategies, pushed the boundaries and were able to make a living off gaming. The gap between the international elite and the Asian heroes was massive, at least in the years before beta. But that didn’t mean there weren’t interesting matches between us and them!

Clarification

Most of the American readers will now expect to read something about Greg ‘Idra‘ Fields or Tyler ‘Nony‘ Wasieleski, the Europeans will remember Jos ‘ret‘ de Kroon (follow @Liquidret!). Obviously, these three were the last foreigners to engage the Koreans in their home country, tried to pursue their dreams and were argueably among the strongest players of their time. However, they’ll not be featured here. The same goes for the very first generation of foreigners in Korea: Legionnaire, Elky and Grrr…. The latter had won an OSL, but the article will ignore them as well.

Not in this article: Nony

The first generation were successful professionals themselves, they had little to no disadvantage, compared to the foreigners after them. They trained in Korea right from the beginning, participated in ProLeague and so on. It’d be a bit pointless to compare them. As for the youngest generation goes, there are other reasons. First, these have been followed by Teamliquid closely and their achievements are more or less common knowledge. It’s not useful to re-write what others already done better. Second, they were professionals already, they got a license or the opportunity to train Brood War fulltime. Don’t make the mistake to underestimate them or to talk down their skill, they earned everything that goes with their name (positive and negative in some cases), yet they had different conditions, other limitations.

The Venues

If you are very familiar with Brood War history and the KeSPA scene in general, you might skip this part. For the rest a bit of explanation is needed. Korea obviously is different in all aspects. The culture, that embraces video games instead of using it as scape goat, the politics and its history. To shorten it up, they had a professional scene and progaming is a valid occupation there, not just a hobby. In the international community only few countries have an esports scene you could compare to Korea. First and foremost is China, the sleeping dragon. They have a healthy scene as well, tons of top class players, yet they’re even more isolated than Korea – the reasons should be obvious: Language, censorship and culture. Don’t hold that against them, though.

I witnessed a lot of hate towards the KeSPA, and quite frankly, some of it is deserved. With all good they did, they also did horrendous mistakes on some parts. They never reached out for one. The isolation stayed, it was a closed scene. As a result foreigners had little to no chance to train or exchange with the professionals, even if both of the players wanted to. There were only very few occasions for an international player to try his play on a professional.

The most important thing to somewhat unite both worlds were the World Cyber Games. The WCGs were first hosted in Seoul in 2000, back then under the name WCG Challenge. After 2001 the ‘official’ WCGs were annualy hosted and after 2003 the WCGs were hosted all around the world, not only in South Korea. Korea was allowed to send three players for the annual event, while each other country had either the same amount of spots or less – depending on the size of its community and the ability to find sponsors to pay the flight and such.

Besides that, it was up to Blizzard to try to unite the worlds. And they did, back in the days fans loved them unconditionally for these small and irregularly hosted events. All of the Heart of the Swarm fans might now the BlizzCons already, but there was more, like the Sandlot tournament or the Mystery Map Invitational. While the Sandlot tournament will be ignored as well, the MMI will be covered in this article.

In later years, when the professionals played under fake nicks on pirate servers such as ProGamingTour, ICCup or FISH, some of the best foreigners had the chance to maybe get a game against them. However, these games were rare and most times a player would find out only weeks after who he got to play in an anonymous ladder game. Hence, these games will also be excluded.

The earliest Days

The year is 2002 and we’re in Daejon, South Korea, the second World Cyber Games are about to start. The infamous legend Lim Yo Hwan aka. SlayerS`Boxer` wanted to defend his title. The year before he made damn sure the foreign world knew who they were dealing with. In the group stages in 2001 he managed to display something nobody else had seen before: How to ass rape two of the best foreign Protoss players. His opponents were the Dutch Nazgul and the Canadian Smuft, he both faced them on Neo Jungle Story, a quite odd map by today’s standards. Each of its four spawning positions has a cliff (with another expansion on top) behind the mineral lines. And that was basically everything the Emperor needed. A few drops later, he fucked over the Protoss player and left them wondering how these drops were possible without having a third hand. But Nazgul and Smuft weren’t the only ones to experience what it meant to play the first Bonjwa ever: In the past article we already heard about how the Polish legend Blackman fought hard but lost to the Terran’s impeccable micro management.

stolen from SCLegacy.com: Boxer vs. Didi8

However, in 2002 a Bulgarian Protoss with the name Dimitar ‘DIDI8‘ Aleksandrov showed that even Boxer can be beaten. You probably haven’t heard of him, but DIDI8 is some sort of superbrain, GosuGamers once titled him as “RTS Legend“. He did qualify for the WCGs 2001 and 2002 in Brood War, but also for WarCraft III in 2006 and a year later for Command & Conquer 3. Aleksandrov does know what he is doing, he is a guy good enough to be considered world class. Still, in Brood War he was still rather unknown, at least to the casuals out there, not someone you expect to make a stand against a guy like Boxer. But he did. Both met in WCG 2002’s group stage for a single set, the map was Lost Temple. Usually Boxer steam rolled lesser opponents, but DIDI8 wouldn’t agree, he had a good day. To make it short, the Protoss and the Terran played for more than 30 minutes, before some sort of stable situation kicked in. The Protoss had half of the map, the Terran the other half. But Aleksandrov slowly gained the upper hand, when he built more than a control group of carriers. The Emperor didn’t give in, even though it seemed that a defeat was inevitable. He dropped seven medics near DIDI’s fleet and casted the spell Optical Flare on each of the Protoss’ Observers. Few seconds after, he chased away the Protoss with cloaked Wraiths. He nearly made the come back, but lost in the long run.

The plays against Nazgul & Smuft from WCG 2001 got a place in SCLegacy.com’s first Pimpest Plays as ‘Honorable Mention‘, while the game against DIDI8 was voted on Place 6 of the same edition. The same old problem with old replays & VODs kicks in – I got none of it. However, thanks to David ‘dyo’ Schaack we got a highlight clip of the Pimpest Plays 2002/2003 – all games, at least the key moments, are in. I highly recommend to watch it.

WCG 2004

We’ll fast forward a bit, since the duel between FiSheYe and ogogo from WCG 2003 for the first place was already covered in the last article. The year 2004 and its World Cyber Games were especially disappointing if you were German: Methos was in a group he couldn’t possibly survive, FiSheYe was defeated by Korean Terran Midas in the Round of 16 and Mondragon played relatively sloppy against Russian Advokate and got knocked out in the Round of 16 as well. Speaking of Koreans, this time the KeSPA professionals did their best to show the world again, that they wanted all three medals for their country. Too bad the grid wouldn’t allow this, as Midas had to face either Xellos or ForU in the Quarterfinals – regardless of his position in group stage. Theoretically speaking, most games weren’t that great to watch (foreigners vs. Koerans that is), except one pairing: Canadian Nick ‘Testie‘ Parentesis vs. ForU.

Testie was a really strong player back in 2004. He was an exception to the rule, he played random instead of focussing on a single race. Furthermore, he had a really good knowledge about the game, he was able to get a 100-0 winning streak (on the second attempt) on the semi island map Forbidden Zone in Protoss vs. Terran, just to deliver proof that these types of maps are unwinable.

Update: It was brought to my attention that I wrote a bit like a hypocrite. That’s true. Usually, I leave out several remarks about a player’s personality, if I’m not a 100% sure, the good old subjective bias you have. I did know that Testie was caught hacking in his early career (2002), but I wasn’t aware, that he apparently (if the sources can be believed) also acted like an idiot, like many other cheaters, and did so for a longer time frame, or was caught more than once. Hard to judge sources in hindsight if you were not involved. Hopefully the note will be enough. After all, he could not have hacked in a WCG offline finale and more importantly, the upcoming report is about an outstanding series.

His opponent in the Round of 16 was aforementioned ForU, a member of Greatest Ones (which should later become CJ Entus), a Proleague veteran and a Protoss vs. Terran specialist. Ironically, Testie spawned as Terran vs. Protoss on Gorky Park, a semi island map, in their first set – and defeated his Korean opponent rather easily. The Battle Reports for Game 1 and 2 will be skipped, especially this initial map wasn’t too great to watch. Testie basically went for a fast expansion and outmacroed ForU in the long run, great battles were missing for the most part, nor were any outstanding strategies displayed. The second set on Korhal of Ceres was a lot better, since it was Zerg vs. Protoss now  – but again, it was a few minutes of Zergling vs. Zealot fights, before it turned into a long drawn macro battle without any interesting peaks.

The deciding set was played on Dahlia of Jungle, a four player map with in-base mineral only expos. Since this map was already covered in the Mondragon vs. FiSheYe Battle Reports, I’ll skip a detailed explanation. Again, the match up was Zerg vs. Protoss. Testie knew this match up by heart, he was training a lot with Mondragon and his team, the Templars of Twilight, even though he wasn’t a member of them yet (he joined them around 2005). His style was a lot like Mondragons, massing a lot of units, trying to control the map, flanking armies, faking attacks and mass dropping, containing and starving our opponent to death. ForU on the other hand was a seasoned Korean veteran, it was not his best match up, but his control was far better than the average foreigner’s. Two opponents who could, in theory, compete on eye level.

Testie spawned as purple Zerg on the 12 o’clock position, while ForU spawned as brown Protoss on the 6 o’clock. Both went for relatively standard and safe openings. The Canadian opened with a 12 Hatch 12  Pool opening, expanding to his in-base mineral only, while the Protoss opened with a 2 Gate. The Zerg’s third hatchery was placed near his ramp in order to spread enough creep to raise sunkens near this choke point. Since the Protoss was able to scout well enough, he saw that he had no chance to attack his opponent’s base early on. Consequently he started to tech for Corsairs and Leg Speed, while building a Forge for Cannons. A few minutes later, the Protoss prepared an expansion. For this he put down a Pylon in between his ramp and the closeby temple walls. To cover this expansion, he tried to move out, threatening Testie. Brown found out soon enough, that Testie had a shit ton of Zerglings ready to not only force him back, but to also almost kill off the warping defense. Thanks to a single DT foru was able to hold back the attack.

Meanwhile Testie expanded to the top right gas expansion and started to switch to mass hydralisks. With enough Cannons ready, Foru slowly moved his growing army over the map. At this time he already had a few High Templars, Archons and masses of Zealots, while Testie was still relying on masses of Zerglings and a handful of Hydralisks. Testie couldn’t move into the middle, while Foru had to be careful, as his opponent’s army was positioned very well – a perfect arc would welcome his incoming forces, if he dared to cross the bridges. After a few more minutes and some re-inforcements, Foru finally attacked and nearly broke into Testie’s main base.

Testie switched in time to Mutalisks to pick up what his lings had left over – while Foru placed marvellous storms, blood was everywhere. Both used the attack to transition into different things. The Zerg went for Hive and had 3-3 upgrades for his army ready, the Ultralisk Den was on its way, while the Protoss took the bottom right expansion and fortified it with tons of cannons, while massing Corsairs. After this initial big attack some more smaller fights happened all over the map. Slowly, but steadily Testie was able to overthrow the Protoss army thanks to the upgrade advantage. Insanely good storms didn’t help anymore. Around the 16 minutes the Canadian moved into the Protoss territory and attacked the Nexus on the bottom left spot – and killed it. Meanwhile, he took the 9 o’clock main base.

However, Testie did lose all of his big army during this attack. Foru had seven Corsairs ready, backed up by the same number of Dark Templars. Now it was Foru’s turn, he could completely dictate Testie’s every move. He constantly denied any Zerg movement, killed a great number of Overlords, but wasn’t really in a position to actually destroy one of Testie’s bases. After 23 minutes Foru finally felt safe, since he was back up to 170 supply. He prepared a massive attack towards Testie’s main. The attack was successful, he broke into the Zerg main base – at least for a few seconds.

However, the Canadian did pay attention and went all-in. He could have defended his expansion, but half of his army was elsewhere – in Overlords, headed for Foru’s in-base mineral  only. The mineral only was defensless and went down in a few seconds. However, the forces were too low to cause more damage in the Protoss main, while the Protoss main force still destroyed a couple of hatcheries at Testie’s home. Interestingly enough, the situation was still not over – Foru was low on minerals, his other bases were almost empty, while Testie was down to less than 80 supply vs. 150, but had plenty of minerals left and was able to kill the entire air fleet of his opponent.

the last big battle

To make it short, the next five minutes were deciding set and match. Foru got his act together and made very good use of his army. He kept moving it across the map, constantly scouting for new bases of the Zerg, which he eventually found in the top left corner. Thanks to his incredibly good storms he almost never lost a unit, while Testie, regardless of his good arcs, lost almost every unit. The game was over, even though the Canadian tried his best to drag on as long as possible.

Continue on Page 2: MMI, BlizzCon, WCG 2005, WCG 2006

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