Crowning a Champion in Katowice

  • Blizzard Entertainment

After a week of thrilling competition, the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championship in Katowice, Poland has come to an incredible conclusion. As the first StarCraft II World Championship Series (WCS) Global Event of 2017, IEM Katowice sported some of the best Legacy of the Void—if not WCS—matches we've ever seen. For complete results, including brackets and VODs, check out the IEM Katowice page on the WCS site.

The Year of TY

After a decade of playing StarCraft professionally, Jun ‘TY’ Tae Yang won his first premier tournament in January of this year at the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) 2016. A win at IEM would continue to push his career even further. He absolutely delivered, taking home the championship, $100,000 USD, and a guaranteed spot at the WCS Global Finals at the end of the year.

TY arrived in Katowice seeded directly into the Round of 24, but struggled in his group. He dropped sets to both Han ‘aLive’ Lee Seok and Kim ‘Stats’ Dae Yeob, managing to survive the group in third place. These same two were the players he eventually faced in the semifinals and grand finals, respectively.

While he may have had difficulty advancing from the group stages, TY was warmed up when it came to the bracket stages. He looked unstoppable against Joo ‘Zest’ Sung Wook, dropping a lone game on Abyssal Reef to a well-timed Psionic Transfer from Zest’s Adepts that trapped his army and forced a pivotal engagement. He showed weakness to Koh ‘GuMiho’ Byung Jae’s aggressive style, but pulled ahead and took that series as well. After that, rematches with aLive and Stats were all that stood in his way.

TY has a very streamlined style and he executes his builds cleanly. Other than his signature trick of starting an Engineering Bay in his opponent’s natural mineral line, he is primarily known for his exceptional containment of enemy forces. He won many games over the course of this tournament by slowly pushing a sieged force on the enemy base, never letting hostile forces leave to attack him back. His second game against Neeb in the group stages is a particularly good example of this unrelenting pressure.

Solid Stats

Although Protoss was the least represented race in the Round of 12 and beyond, Stats proved just how powerful it can be. He lost his sets against aLive and Kevin ‘Harstem’ de Koning, but really ramped up in the playoffs. Stats ended his series with Artur ‘Nerchio’ Bloch in convincing 3-0 fashion, and he took down 2016’s world champion, ‘ByuN’ Hyun Woo, after dropping one extremely tense game.

Unlike most Protoss players in this tournament, Stats defended against the unrelenting multi-pronged harassment from his Terran opponents perfectly. He was even able to do so without necessarily going for an Adept and Phoenix style. While most Protoss players in this tournament relied on the extra mobility from these two units to react to drops in multiple locations, Stats managed to rely on map awareness and game sense to deflect attacks proactively instead—a particularly impressive feat. Although he ended the tournament as the runner-up in Katowice, Stats is definitely going to continue making waves this year. He has already advanced to the semifinals for GSL Season 1, so make sure to check out the GSL channel on Twitch to see him take another run at securing a premier championship title starting Tuesday, March 15.

A New Level for aLive

While he struggled to make the Round of 16 in GSL Season 1 before dropping unceremoniously to TY and Han ‘ByuL’ Ji Won, aLive showed up in rare form for IEM Katowice. He was absolutely on fire in this tournament, crushing the group stages without losing a single set. Even Lee ‘INnoVation’ Shin Hyung, considered by many as the favorite to win IEM Katowice due to his recent victories and near-perfect gameplay throughout early 2017, fell to aLive in a crazy five-game series.

Until he came up against TY in the semifinals, aLive seemed unbeatable—though even the eventual champion had to pull out every weapon in his arsenal to take aLive down. aLive is going to be a player to watch throughout 2017. If he plays like he did during the IEM World Championship for the rest of the year, he’ll be a serious contender for the Global Finals.

The Power of Dark

After his second-place finish at the 2016 Global Finals and a tough elimination in the Round of 16 in the first season of GSL in 2017, Dark came to Katowice with a purpose. He brought his best and dominated his group stages, finishing in first after losing only one series to the tournament favorite, INnoVation. As he moved into the bracket stages, he took down fellow Zerg players Kang ‘Solar’ Min Soo and Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala in two convincing 3-0 sets.

While Stats brought his run to a close in a decisive 3-1 series, Dark used this tournament to show he’s working hard toward another run at that Global Finals championship. Watch for Dark to make strong showings at the GSL Super Tournament and GSL Season 2, starting April 6 and April 19 respectively.