DreamHack Open 2013 in Stockholm: Retros
By Artem "Fairon" Bykov on 07.05.2013
Last weekend saw DreamHack Open: Stockholm 2013 in Sweden. It's one of the biggest and most important tournaments in StarCraft 2. Two players of team Natus Vincere participated in this event: Eugene "Strelok" Oparyshev and Jon "BabyKnight" Andersen. Artem "Farion" Bykov and two Korean ex-mates Leenock and Gumiho came along the way. The Koreans represent the ranks of FXOpen, by the way.
In this review, you'll find out the details about the performance of Natus Vincere at Dreamhack, about Sweden, about the lucky ones and those not so lucky. Also, Artem Bykov (the author of this article) will share his experience working alongside the professional SC2-players from South Korea. Let's get started!
We landed in Sweden very late at night, about 11:00 p.m. local time. We gathered really quickly in the airport and without wasting time headed towards our hotel in taxi. By the way, the taxi price in Sweden is pretty high: the trip to the hotel cost us around 90 EUR by the flat rate. Anyway, the public transportation isn't too cheap either. Considering the fact that there were five of us, the total didn't seem like too much at that moment - we were eager to get to the hotel to get enough rest and get ready for the upcoming test.
The first group stage out of three started at 11:00 a.m. This is probably unique for Dreamhack. This is event isn't only about the best of the best gathering in the same place in order to compete head to head like mad by controlling their units, doing the macro-management, building barracks, etc. Dreamhack is a real marathon-like tournament which forces you to play more than 12 hour non-stop and also keep your focus as sharp as possible because every loss could be your last. The Korean tournaments aren't like that at all. Oftentimes, you know your opponent weeks before the match and have enough time to adjust your game accordingly. After several weeks of practicing hard you play like 1.5 or 2 hours and then can be free to go back to your training base to get some rest and start practicing for your future matches. This is the very reason why even many Korean players don't make it to the play-offs at Dreamhack. Anyway, our mates had the winning mindset.
Unlike Strelok and BabyKnight, Leenock and Gumiho spent 16 hours on their way to Dreamhack. They went to sleep at midnight. The Korean players got higher seeding because of which their matches started only at 4:00 p.m. When I asked them about the time they wanted to come to the tournament, they unanimously responded without a second of hesitation: "We're supposed to be behind our desks at 09:30 in the morning." Strelok and BabyKnight, in their turn, said that 40 minutes of pre-game warm-up would be enough for them.
The first group stages didn't cause any major problem for our players. BabyKnight didn't have any considerably strong opponents in his group while Strelok had to work a little bit harder as the famous German zerg XlorD from team XMG made his way through quite tough. Eugene lost the first game of the match only to take the remaining two with ease. Warmed-up, eh?
After the first group stage we headed towards the stand of Kingston HyperX in order to take some promo-photos for some small contest. These photos prove that the mindset for the games was right:
While Strelok and BabyKnight were getting ready for the second group stage, I decided to take a little tour around the venue and the exhibition center of Ericsson Globe. As Wikipedia suggests, "Ericsson Globe is currently the largest hemispherical building in the world and took two and a half years to build. Shaped like a large white ball, it has a diameter of 110 metres (361 feet) and an inner height of 85 metres (279 feet)." This hemispherical building really impresses! It was also very nice to discover many different shops and cafés in the big shopping mall nearby. Half an hour later, the video overview of the venue was ready to be published:
The second group stage started at 4:00 p.m. I will start with performance of Jon who is our protoss from Denmark. He got a really tough group draw. The best terran of the European region (ForGG), the Korean "evil genius" (Oz) and one of the most famous cheesers in SC2 (Fuzer). Jon lost his first match with a 0:2 score. ForGG was just above his head. This player was particularly strong even before HotS came out. Having new items and additional opportunities at his disposal, the Korean became almost invincible. Disappointed by the first defeat, Jon lost his second match against the second terran in his group - the loss versus the Finnish terran Fuzer didn't leave any chance for BabyKnight to make it through this group stage. Despite having this disheartening losses, it's too early to get really upset because there's some WCS to play in a week. More than that, the PvT match-up needs some real hard work to be done about it. That's why Jon started practicing at the ladder immediately. In my turn, I went on to cheer for Eugene but before that I recorded http://youtu.be/hgsVcKuZj6A:
As for Strelok, his group stage draw wasn't an easy one either. The first opponent of the ambitious terran was the Korean zerg YugiOh who came to the European event for his first time and was really motivated to win. The next game was against an arguably most talented and hardworking terran outside the borders of South Korea, Lucifron. Everyone's head of him. The third opponent, fortunately, was a grandmaster from Sweden.
The action plan was as follows:
Burn all the drones of the Korean
Fight the Spanish armada
Prove to the Swede that getting into the grandmaster league means nothing.
Make it past the group stage.
The fortune had the other plan. Strelok unexpectedly lost to YugiOh with a 1:2 score but took over seemingly unbeatable Lucifron with 2:1. The Swedish player lost all his matches 0:2 and headed to take some rest. This said, a weird situation occurred: all three players had the equal number of points by maps played - 5:3. The admins of the tournament ruled to play some extra matches which... didn't solve anything. More games were played in order to resolve this situation, but they couldn't. It's worth mentioning that every extra match lasted about 40 minutes which didn't fit quite well into the plans of the event organizers. Every participant of the three played 200% of his abilities not willing to give up.
After the first set of extra matches highly LAN-experienced Strelok offered his opponents to flip a coin by making a point that after these unnecessary matches the players would be too tired for the next (and the hardest) group stage. The Korean found this offer to be quite reasonable while Lucifron didn't want to pass up his destiny in the hands of happy-go-lucky scenario. To his great dismay, the organizers decided to flip a coin after the second set of fruitless extra matches. Here's how it went:
The most funny part was that Strelok delegated such an important moment to witness to me while taking a walk himself just for the sake of saving some emotional energy and not overreacting. He returned right before the second piece of paper with a name on it was revealed:
After this situation with a coin flip Strelok got the name of a "lucky bastard" while Hellspawn - "the most hated person in Spain". Unfortunately, the third group stage was too much for Eugene as he was really tired. He lost his first match 1:2 to the strongest zerg from Sweden - SortOff. The reason, as trite as it may sound, was the tiredness. Worn out Eugene just couldn't keep up with the fresh and strong zerg. The next match was against the Korean protoss. It also concluded with a 1:2 score forcing Strelok to leave the competition. After such an intense day we had no choice other than go back to the hotel.
Despite having no more chances to continue competing in the tournament, all our players got up pretty early and headed to Dreamhack. The reason turned out to be the games of Leenock and Gumiho which were about to start as early as 10:30 a.m. Strelok and BabyKnight decided to go ahead and practice online. As for me, I took a little walk for an hour down the streets of Stockholm.
There aren't really many European cities as beautiful as Stockholm, so I really enjoyed my walk in the morning. Few places have so many clean basins and wonderful architecture in the center of the city. It's always a pleasure to walk in Stockholm because of the ideally clean streets and the calming effect of walking down its seashore. Don't just take my word. See for yourself.
On arriving at Dreamhack, the manager of team Empire asked me for an interview. We decided to do it outdoors because the weather was just so amazing. During the interview a lot of little girls and their parents gathered around us and started to grimace, wave hands towards us and walk behind the camera. After the interview was finished, they asked me if I played for any Russian hockey team. Without thinking for too long, we decided to take a little "revenge" for the inconvenience they gave us during the interview, so we played a joke on them:
I spent the rest of the day interviewing the players. First, I decided to make some good stuff for our English-speaking fans by recording an interview with BabyKnight and the other famous protoss - Grubby. Strelok couldn't get away from my camera either.
The highlight match of the tournament was the game of the sole European player who made it to the semifinals (which is quite big itself), Naniwa, against the legend of the Korean Brood War scene - Jaedong. After losing the first game, Naniwa decided to get risky and go for classical all-in: 2 proxy gates at the base of zerg. I think you can imagine what emotions ran through the audience after the Korean zerg finally wrote precious "GG".
Then there were the finals. Almost all of my buddies were saying that Leenock would overcome the Swede in less than 30 minutes, but Naniwa showed the unbelievable level of play and finally claimed two victories on two maps against the Korean star. I reckon this might go in the honor of the support of the audience who cheered for Naniwa during all five games. Never before in his career was Naniwa so close to win Dreamhack (a tournament which has some special place in a life of every Swedish player). The final score was 3:2 when Leenock from the Korean FXOpen became the champion of Dreamhack Open 2013 in Stockholm. After the awarding ceremony we took a taxi and headed towards the hotel altogether with the trophy and a 60,000 SEK (~ 9,200 USD) paycheck. The first words that came out of Leenock in taxi were "OMG, Naniwa's SO GOSU". Everybody had a good laugh.
With all this said, I would like to add that I was happy to have a unique opportunity to get to know such high level players like Leenock and Gumiho as well as to help them on their way to the champion title. They turned out to be fun and kindhearted guys who supported our team during the whole tournament. Special thanks goes to Gumiho for helping Eugene with analysis of his weaknesses and strategies. I believe that our European and American players (and not only them) really do have something to learn from our Korean colleagues. Their approach to the hard work, to other people (like managers and organizers who make players' living off gaming possible in first place) impresses me a lot.
Their diligence, hard work, and dedication cause true respect from the community. I hope that in the future I will be given an opportunity to acquire some of their experience and try to implement it in my own work dealing with the European and CIS-players.