Weekend Recap - IEM Singapore and Dreamhack Winter

We had a very busy weekend in Starcraft 2, with both IEM and Dreamhack holding major events. Both IEM Global Challenge: Singapore and the Dreamhack Winter Open came through with great player pools and phenomenal games, and both events had their fair share of surprises.

Sting shines in Singapore

Coming into the event, and even after the group stage where he barely made it out of Group B, no one though much of the newest recruit for Western Wolves, the ex-NSHoSeo Terran player Sting. In an event with players like MC, Grubby, YugiOh, and Nerchio, it can be hard to not fly under the radar, but Sting accepted that role. He barely slipped through the groups 3-2, and then defeated three world-class players in LucifroN, YugiOh, and Vortix 3-2 to earn a spot in the grand finals against Grubby.

image Sting celebrates his first major championship (Image Source: madcatz.com)

Sting seemed to take control of the finals, leaping out to an early 2-0 lead against the Dutch heavyweight, but Grubby would fight back to bring the series to a fifth and final match. However, Sting may have only let that happen so that he could finish the event with a 3-2 score wherever he could, taking the final map and an unprecedented major championship.

I'm not sure how many people thought much of Western Wolves recruiting Sting before this event; he was always a solid Terran player with some good games to show, but no one really knew much about him unless they watch GSTL frequently, or caught his play in TSL4. In any case, Western Wolves look like prophets now, and they will assuredly be hoping to see continued success from Sting moving forward.

Grubby, so close yet so far

A lot of people, myself included, thought that this could be the event where Grubby would win his first major tournament victory in Starcraft 2, and add the trophy to his substantial collection from the Warcraft 3 days. When he took out the Boss Toss MC in a nail-biting 3-2 PvP series, I thought there was no way Grubby could lose.

Then he fell behind sLivko 0-2, and all of Grubby's many fans felt their stomachs sink. But, Grubby just seemed like he would not let it end. He won a map, and then another, showing phenomenal multitasking and dismantling his opponent with inspired play. All of the sudden, Grubby fights his way to a fifth map and wins it, moving on to the finals, and it seemed like it would be his destiny to win this tournament; he was willing himself to series wins that defied reason. How could he be stopped?

Well, in the grand finals, he came up one map short. Grubby once again let himself fall into a 0-2 hole against Sting, and once again dug himself out to even the score 2-2. Sadly, it seemed like he had used up all of his magic already, and he could not take the rubber match, settling for a second place finish. He may not have won, but Grubby showed an absurd level of tenacity in making it as far as he did. Surely, the Dutch RTS superstar will find his first major win sometime soon.

HerO dominates an all-Liquid affair at DHW

After both HerO and TaeJa cruised through their groups 5-0, it seemed like they would be fated to meet in the finals of Dreamhack Winter, especially for HerO given his bracket draw. He easily carved through the Norweigen Zerg Snute and the upstart Austrian Protoss monchi to give himself a chance at another Dreamhack title. Liquid's Terran hope had a harder road, outlasting hometown hero ThorZaIN in a close TvT series and dominating the usually excellent Polish Zerg Nerchio.

image HerO showed once again that he is a force at Dreamhack events (Image Source: thisisgame.com)

We all expected a Team Liquid showcase in the finals; their two best players facing off in a best of seven with a major tournament title on the line. However, it seemed HerO had decided Dreamhack was his playground, and that not even his absurdly talented team mate would stand in his way. HerO just destroyed TaeJa, winning the series and the tournament with four straight map wins.

For HerO, this was a big win. I don't want to say he's fallen off recently, but his results have just not seemed to match up with his level of play. But, a win here dispelled those notions, showing that the Liquid Protoss is still a major player in the scene, especially when a Dreamhack title is on the line.

For TaeJa, this result raises some questions. He was arguably the best Terran in the world a few short months ago, and now he cannot take one map in best of seven final? Second place is still a very good finish in a major event like this, but surely TaeJa expected to win. We will have to see how he bounces back from a disappointing finish to an otherwise strong event performance.

monchi putting on a show, while Stephano disappoints

While his group was certainly not the strongest one we saw at this event, with not a Korean in sight, no one expected XMG's monchi to defeat enough of the strong foreigner Zergs like Nerchio to place first in his group and earn a seed into the quarterfinals. His only map losses in the group stage came in a series defeat to TLO, but other than that, the Austrian Protoss played a clean slate against a number of good players.

monchi did not stop there. In the bracket stage against the always dangerous NaNiwa, our upstart hero pulled out all the stops in a tense PvP series, pulling out a 3-2 series win and a place in the semifinals. While he did lose to HerO in his next match, monchi earned himself a lot of respect, some new fans (myself included), and a fair chunk of change.

On the other hand, EG's Stephano seems to be slumping a bit. Ever since his victory in the WCS European Championship, the French Zerg has not put up the impressive results we expect of him. He only reached the round of eight at DH: Valencia, fell far short of expectations at the WCS Global Finals, and could not even win the ESWC tournament held in his home country.

In the group stage here at DHW, Stephano uncharacteristically dropped three out of five series, losing to TaeJa--no huge surprise there--but also to fraer 0-2 and to Snute 2-1. When Stephano is on top of his game, he eats any other foreign player for breakfast, but it looks like the Frenchman did not come in with the hunger we expect from him.

Stephano will be looking to bounce back at IPL5 this coming weekend, but he even posted on Twitter that he is not in the best of shape lately. It is strange to see him not acting supremely confident going into an event, so it will be interesting to see how he can perform coming off of some poor finishes.

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