The second stop of Intel Extreme Masters Season 9 began today at FanExpo in Toronto Canada, with an explosive open bracket. The line-up for the open bracket wouldn’t go amiss in the playoffs of any premier tournament, with players like Jaedong, Snute and herO in the mix. Scattered amongst the StarCraft II elite were Canada’s best, hoping that they could gain the home ground advantage. Due to a particularly long match between Snute and herO, the lower bracket final of both brackets will be played out tomorrow, deciding the final two players to make it into group stage.
Bracket 1: Freaky Friday moment for foreigners
Both Bunny and HuK had an impressive run today, surprising everyone by meeting each other in the upper bracket final. Bunny managed to inch out ahead of crowd favorite HuK to make it into the group stage. HuK will have a chance to join him tomorrow when he will face off against Leenock once again.
The pressure was on for Canadian player HuK in the first match of the day against Leenock, desperate for a win on his own soil. The match was extremely unconventional indeed, with Leenock setting the tone of the series by aggressively taking HuK’s gold base at the beginning of the game. Although it was scouted by HuK, Leenock overcame the Protoss player with burrowed Roaches. HuK quickly evened out series with an extremely dedicated cannon rush in the second game, forcing Leenock to pull a lot of Drones off of mining as well as losing his Hatchery at his natural. In the final match HuK quickly took the game with an unscouted 7 Gateway all-in, which allowed him to handedly take the game and the set.
If you watched Bunny play at Gfinity G3, it might not come as a surprise to you that he managed to make it out of the bracket. He took matches off of HyuN and Snute with ease and so his open bracket in Toronto might not seem as daunting in comparison. The Danish Terran player took his first two matches in fast 2-0’s, against Kane and Oz respectively, finding himself in the upper bracket final against HuK.
The last match of the day was a short and sweet PvT, in an unexpected upper bracket final between Bunny and HuK. Bunny was entirely caught off guard by an early Robotics Bay from HuK, and simply did not have anything to answer the multi-pronged aggression from the Protoss, allowing the Canadian to take an extremely quick first game. Things tooks a downward turn for HuK after this, with Bunny deciding to become the aggressor. In the second game he managed to get HuK to use his Photon Overcharge on a small Widow Mine drop, allowing him to drop shortly after and kill off all of HuK’s units. The third game was over equally quickly as Bunny extended the early advantage he gained from his scouting Reaper. He then built Hellions, significantly damaging his opponent’s economy, which meant that HuK did not have the numbers to defend Bunny’s final drop.
Bracket 2: Life is a rollercoaster
Life had yet to replicate any of his success from 2013, saying in his interview that he only recently just found the motivation to dedicate himself fully to StarCradt II. He certainly seemed to be back on top of his game, not dropping a single game against Stardust, Revival or Snute.
Snute vs. herO was the tensest match of the night, with all three games ending up being very drawn out – a style which is very much suited to Snute. In the first game we saw both player constantly switching tech paths and trying to take small engagements on the map. Eventually Snute managed to prolong the game long enough to starve out herO economically and built too many Swarm Hosts for the Protoss player to deal with. Both players went for similar army compositions in the second and third game, settling for Swarm Hosts, Vipers and Corrupters for the Zerg and a Mothership, Tempests and High Templars for the Protoss. In the second game herO kept up with his aggressive play style, constantly warping in Zealots to take out Snute’s hatcheries. This consistent denial of mining from herO allowed him to effectively bankrupt the Zerg and win the game after 55 minutes. Snute focused more on static defense in the final game, building over 50 spore crawlers in the game. By the end of the game both players were short on minerals and gas, however Snute was simply able to make more cost efficient trades and took the match.
Snute’s game against Life was over much more quickly, with Life winning the match convincingly. In his post-match interview he claimed that he was extremely confident coming into the set against a non-Korean Zerg player. In both games Snute tried to put on early aggression, choosing to build his Spawning Pool before his Hatchery. It seemed to pay off in the first game when he managed to kill off Life’s second base. However, the Korean was able to hold and followed up with aggression of his own, overpowering Snute with a deluge of Roaches. Snute’s early Spawning Pool in the second game was much more ineffective, with Life reacting quickly with a wall of Queens. The game devolved into the quintessential Roach vs Roach, however Snute decided to travel off the beaten path by making Hydralisks for additional damage output. He fatally made too many Hydralisks, meaning that his army died very quickly to that of Life, as he did not have enough Roaches to tank.
Snute will face a rematch against herO tomorrow as they both fight for the chance to win those ever important WCS points. Both players are currently tied in WCS points at the moment, and have amassed enough points to edge into a spot at BlizzCon. However, Snute was knocked out of WCS Europe and herO did not even manage to qualify for GSL Code S this season, and so both need to do well in other tournaments in order to secure their BlizzCon qualification.
Tune in tomorrow at 10.30 EDT (16.30 CEST) where we will find out the results of both upper bracket finals and the majority of the group stages will be played out. Make sure you also follow Intel Extreme Masters on Twitter to keep up date with everything that is happening in Toronto!