To fully understand the meaning of the seventh World Cyber Games the article needs to go deeper. At first, the system of the qualifiers will be explained, followed by the German finals – and that’s going to be the first part to actually cover some Brood War games.
The Qualification System
Like most important things the World Cyber Games usually appeared as mere side note on most fan pages. This first announce would tell you the location of the event, one or two years before the Grand Finals were hosted. In 2007 Monza (Italy) was the first city to host the WCG in Europe, which was a rather big news, as the other editions took place once in the United States and otherwise Asia only. Shortly after the location was revealed, the qualification systems were explained in other small articles, scattered over several pages. The WCG wasn’t known for good organization.
Most countries used own systems, almost every nation had their very unique ways to hand out the tickets to Monza in 2007. This made a lot of sense, some countries like Russia are so big, that they have seven time zones and thousands of players, compared to a nation like the Czech Republic, which had significantly less players; Russia therefore needed more qualifiers to make up for the huge distances and their incredibly big player base.
However, regardless of nationality, each country had to organize a „national“ Grand Final on its own. Depending on its size four (Baltic Qualifiers) up to 64 players (Russia), made it to these Preliminaries. The ways to get a spot at the Preliminaries was the part that varied a lot. Usually one way was to win/finish high in LANs, and the second was given with an online tournament. The East European countries and the United States focussed on LANs, while most communities had a more important online grid. This means that Russia (now for imaginary numbers) would give 60 out of 64 seeds to LAN players, while Germany had 12 of 16 seeds as prizes in the online qualifiers.
Aside from the reputation a player gained when qualifying for the preliminaries, the Nationals usually had relatively big prizes for such an old game. In Germany hardware was often given to the first three as bonus in addition to paying their travel fees/hotels. Hardware could mean anything, depending on who was the sponsor in each year. Christoph „Mondragon“ Semke for example won so many Samsung TVs over the years that, according to an IRC quote, he was able to hang up one in each room of his flat.
Russia was a bit different from the rest. Here, the prize pools were larger than anywhere else. It is not a typo when you check Liquipedia and read that the Russian winner was granted roughly 3,000$ and a spot at the Grand Finals. This needs to be put in relation. Some countries didn’t pay for the flight, the hotel and other costs, only because someone won the Preliminaries. The players had to pay the costs out of their own pockets, hence the increased prize pool. So, for Germans it was basically a free trip, for Russians it was a question if they want to spend the money on the WCG or not. In later years countries like Poland and Russia were granted three spots at the Grand Finals, but had only money to pay one player’s costs. The Polish legend Draco paid the trip on his own, the Russian Heme received money collected by the Russian fans in 2010. That’s another sign of how important it was for anyone to see their country or themself represened at the inofficial Olympics.
German Preliminaries, Part I
The German Preliminaries were hosted in Soltau near Leipzig at the end of August 2006 and lasted for two days. A total of 16 participants could qualify, twelve spots were given out for the online tournament, four more could be won by playing in WCG supported LANs.
And here’s already something which made the German WCG Perliminaries a bit unique. Germany did never really have many popular offline events featuring Brood War after 2003. Most of the LANs fitting the WCG standards were hosted in Northern Germany, while the Southerners had only few options to attend. Hence, the offline players always had a bit of a negative reputation, as their road to the Nationals was „easier“. Two players made a tradition to use the offline way – GoOdy and Uzi. GoOdy, back then, was a solid and decent Terran, nobody really disputed whether he should be in Soltau or not. Uzi on the other hand, the only German female to regularly qualify for the German Nationals, was ‘only’ an average Protoss user, by today’s standards she would probably a C Rank on ICCup, a little better than the average player. She was known to be a very mannered person, yet a ton of anon trolls tried to blame her for being ‘an unworthy participant’, some kind of attention whore or other insults, which would express their envy. The more mature audience didn’t mind and not few rooted for her, simply because she embraced the Olympic spirit of participating and taking her chances in a rather hopeless situation. In later years Der Spiegel even wrote an article about her and published it in its print magazine, read by hundreds of thousands each week. She definitely became the German WCG National mascot and a symbol of German traditions, regardless of her haters.
The Duel of the Fates article already tells a bit of the situation in 2006. Between late 2003 and mid 2005 a battle was raging in Germany. The silver medal winner of WCG 2003, Fredrik „FiSheYe“ Keitel and the Zerg Mondragon played each other quite often. Both were leading figures of the community, one was the most known and successful European player of the clan pro Gaming, the strongest international clan, the other was a newcomer, who improved so rapidly that he could literally destroy any competitor. In 2005 the rivalry stagnated, as Mondragon vanished from the big tournaments after winning the European spin off of the WCG – the European Cyber Games against the Russian mega Star and silver medal winner Androide with a stellar performance. FiSheYe announced he would try one last time to take back the throne and qualified for Soltau, and so did Mondragon.
However, that wasn’t all. Half of the scene claimed FiSheYe was only in for the money, not because he loved the game, while Mondragon was the symbol of a Brood War fanatic in the most positive sense. In late October 2005 this perception changed a lot. Mondragon took over FiSheYe’s old clan, pro Gaming, leading them, publicly stating he did that for the money and better options to help his team mates. While this was forgivable, Mondragon’s next move wasn’t, at least in the eyes of many Germans. A few weeks prior to the WCG Preliminaries Mondragon was already back at his old team, the Templars of Twilight, since pro Gaming disbanded for good, and announced a new member – the German Protoss Selector. And that caused an uproar.
Selector was argueably one of the most skilled mechanical (!) players in Germany at that time. With the exception of Mondragon and FiSheYe only few could rival his skill, as he had amazing reaction timings and a very good control. However, he was also known as former maphacker. Other than players like TreK and HayprO, Selector simply wasn’t able to play fairly and a huge narcissist. In almost every year of his so-called career the Protoss was mentioned in news. Either because he smurfed and insulted teams, or because he was caught hacking again and again. The veterans loathed him, he earned himself a permanent ban in all German events and from the National team. And this was the guy Mondragon added to his roster, giving him not a second, but more like a tenth chance to deem himself worthy. A comment shit storm followed, as the newschoolers defended the high skilled hacker and his new mentor. The drama went to a whole new dimension after the WCG 2006 Grand Finals, when Mondragon threatened to leave the German National Team (and eventually followed through) in December, if the hosting page, broodwar.de, would not lift the ban. In 2007 Selector was caught hacking for a last time before he retired.