The first tournament of 2015 is almost here! With many fans and players alike having taken time off during the recent Christmas period, it’s now time to kick off the 2015 StarCraft circuit with a bang.
Even though this is the start of the year, Season 9 of Intel Extreme Masters is just coming to an end as the World Championship in Katowice draws closer. Intel Extreme Masters Taipei is the last stop and the last chance for players to earn their spot in the grand finals before we travel to Poland to see who will take the title.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the competitors who stand out for me beginning with the open bracket, where we have 16 players looking to grab themselves one of four slots available into the main tournament.
Jens “Snute” Aasgaard (Zerg)
An obvious standout when surveying both open brackets, Snute has competed at every Intel Extreme Masters this season. He is by far the best-performing non-Korean player with his triple top eight finishes at each stop. Snute has the potential to beat any Korean at this tournament – if we just look back to Toronto, he eliminated three-time Intel Extreme Masters champion herO in the open bracket before finally being stopped by Flash, who went on to win the tournament.
Snute needs to rely heavily on his Zerg versus Zerg matchup in hopes of qualifying for the main tournament, a matchup that he’s good at and usually very comfortable playing. There are two Protoss players in his bracket, Daisy and Patience, but I don’t really foresee these two causing our European too much trouble.
ESLGaming.com interviewed Snute before Intel Extreme Masters San Jose last year – see what he had to say here.
Lee “Leenock” Dong Nyoung (Zerg)
I want to highlight one more player from the open bracket, and it has to be Leenock. As much as I wanted to talk about TRUE, Leenock has playing well recently. If you haven’t been paying close attention to the scene of late, Leenock has started putting in results again after a diffícult 2014.
He was the first player to qualify for the top eight of the Naver StarLeague, and while he isn’t dominating in all areas of his game, his Zerg versus Protoss specifically is looking great. If he has been able to work on his other weaknesses in preparation for this tournament, I think he can challenge to have a deep run.
Now let’s take a brief look at the main tournament. We already have 12 players who’ve either qualified or been invited as WCS Wild Card players. These players are now awaiting the results of the open bracket to find out who will join their group to compete for the trophy. I want to highlight two players in particular who I’m very excited to see compete over the next few days.
Cho “Maru” Seong Ju (Terran)
Source: Jin Air Greenwings
Maru is making his debut at Intel Extreme Masters Taipei. He was meant to travel to Canada to compete in the open bracket but now he will finally grace the Intel Extreme Masters stage. Maru played through the Korean qualifier. Not just played – he dominated the Korean qualifier. He had an undefeated run to qualifying, going 7-0 in series and 14-2 in maps.
Maru has been doing very well in all of his competitions so far this year. He is still competing in the GSL and Naver StarLeague while also being a key player in Proleague for Jin Air Greenwings. He should absolutely be looking to challenge for the trophy at this event, going up against the likes of herO and Life, who are also strong contenders.
Lee “Life” Seung Hyun (Zerg)
Life is the current WCS World Champion with his BlizzCon victory, and he has carried his success into 2015 well. He is also a former Intel Extreme Masters champion, having won Intel Extreme Masters New York 4-2 versus Naniwa back in 2013.
Like Maru, he has found himself still competing in both GSL and the Naver StarLeague while also being a key member of Startale-Yoe in Proleague. Life is probably one of my favorite players of all time – his aggressive playstyle and lovably cheeky attitude just makes me want to cheer for him at event opportunity. However, as much as he should be doing well during this tournament, he has one big weakness – he seems lost in Zerg versus Protoss, and this could bring him down at this event with opponents such as herO, Parting and Rain.
You can also check out an interview ESLGaming.com did with Life in the leadup to Intel Extreme Masters Taipei here.
This tournament has some of the best players in the world competing, and to be honest this Intel Extreme Masters season has created some of the best moments to remember to date – the Taeja versus Solar grand finals in Shenzhen were incredible, as well as Flash winning Toronto, Snute consistently doing well against Koreans and herO winning his third Intel Extreme Masters trophy.
The leadup to the World Championship in Poland is epic, so let’s have a great tournament and kickstart 2015 with an event to remember.
See you on stream!
Don’t forget to check out our Intel Extreme Masters Taipei StarCraft II survival guide!