Saturday, November 21, 2015

White House Finally Responds to Match-Fixing Scandal and Arrest of Yoda

About time, I hope he'll be brought to justice.

Monday, November 2, 2015

2015 WCS Global Finals - Round of 16 Recap

DISCLAIMER: When I was still actively playing SC2, I never got beyond rank #1 in my Diamond League, so I'm clearly not good enough to really understand the nuances between the players at the very top.
However, I'm also Honorary Chairman of the League of the Ultra-Opinionated Gentlemen, and as such I'm always happy to share my point of view.

As I spent most of yesterday watching the events at WCS Ro16 unfold, I greatly enjoyed the high level of play yet at the same time came away a little disappointed because of the many one-sided series. Here are some of my impressions:

Fantasy - Hero
After a super-exciting first game, the series turned the way everybody including myself expected. Hero was too strong for Fantasy, and let's face it, Hero simply belongs in a WCS final, at least Ro4

Classic - Byul
I've been following the Korean SC2 scene for a long time, but for some reason I've always been pretty much indifferent about these two players. Whenever that happens, I usually root for the player whose advance would keep the race balance intact, Byul in this case because there were only 4 Zergs at this tournament, and I expected Maru to beat Rogue.
Decisive victory for Classic - I didn't know that apparently this always happens when they meet in a tournament, but it seems to me Byul sold himself short in this series. I'm not really sure what went wrong for Byul, but losing 0-3 just doesn't do him justice.
I recently read an interesting article about "The Strongest Chess Players Who Never Became World Champion". I hope Byul won't one day become the topic of a similar article about Starcraft.

Innovation - Zest
It's almost a shame that the WCS finals are so stacked because this match was definitely worth of the WCS final, especially ~6 months ago before Zest fell into a slump. Given all the hype around this series, the outcome was pretty disappointing. 3-0 just isn't good enough for players of this caliber. I'm always rooting for the terran, but in this case I felt sorry for Zest.
Yes, this was an excellent performance by Innovation, but where I seem to differ slightly from a lot of other commentators and observers is that I don't think this has made Innovation the favorite to win WCS just yet.

Life - Lilbow
I don't like Life because he beat Parting in the GSL final, and I don't like Lilbow because he's French ;-) Given the race distribution of this tournament (way too many Protoss) I was rooting for Life. Also because Life's the bigger name and would make for more interesting matches later on.
Other than that, again somewhat of a disappointment, 3-0's just aren't very exciting. Obviously Life was the clear favorite to win this series, but considering that he's no longer the UBER-ZERG he once was, I was hoping/expecting Lilbow to win at least one game. And yet, for the life of me (pun intended) I don't understand why Life's opponents always play as if they didn't know that he's known for early ling aggression.

Polt - Rain
Pretty clear cut on paper: Rain, a recent 2015 GSL champion the heavy favorite vs. Polt, who's fallen off the radar a little bit in recent months. And yet I think Rain was the lucky one here and advanced when Polt was playing slightly better. I guess this is one of those times where you can play better than your opponent and still lose the match.

SOS - Parting
I know SOS's results are pretty solid overall, but I do feel that people are giving him too much credit because he won those $100,000 a while ago. At the same time though, Parting is also no longer the dominant force he once was. Maybe his lifestyle is finally catching up with him. Anyway, my money was on Parting because I thought that his superior micro would prove decisive. Parting has always been one of my favorite players ever since I started enjoying Protoss games. 
Parting's Immortal Micro Making Headlines  
Oh well, at least I can look forward to more unorthodox strategies from SOS.

Dream - Hydra
Well-deserved win by Hydra, though it was a shame to see another terran eliminated. I think Hydra played well beyond expectations and should be proud of making it to the next round. 

Maru - Rogue
What can I say. I'm a huge Maru-Fanboy, and I hate saying it, but: As I have said many time, Maru is overrated. He didn't deserve to go down 3-0 like this, yet at the same time he's had a few too many disappointing results this year - especially in Proleague - to be conveniently explained away.
At the same time, hats off to Rogue, beating Maru 3-0 in a Bo5 will forever be a highlight in his career.

A few general observations:

- I don't like one-sided series. Even when I have a clear favorite, I want "my" player to win 3-2, and not sweep the series 3-0. It's like that cheesy Stallone line "It's not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and still move forward". Or something like that.

- Where are the high level terrans? Yes, there's Innovation, but who else? As I stated above, Maru is overrated, and there's simply no other terran with the stature of Innovation in sight. Too bad Taeja and Bomber in particular aren't around anymore.

- I expect Hero, Innovation, Rain and Rogue to make it to the semi final. It's clear already that names like Zest, Byul, and Maru are sorely missed at this point. No offense, but it just wouldn't feel the same if "second-rate" top players like Classic or Hydra were to win WCS 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Starcraft 2 Match Fixing Scandal - Or is Nathanias the real "scumbag"?

Over the past half hour or so it has emerged that 11 players (unclear if SC1 or SC2) have been indicted for match fixing. That is very troubling, and I hope the players will be brought to justice.

What's equally troubling though, and here I'm singling out Nathanias is that some e-sports "personalities" have already taken to Twitter with inappropriate comments:

I have no sympathy for the alleged cheaters whatsoever, but I'd like Nathanias to get off his high horse here. SC2 personalities in particular - due to their (sometimes undeserved) large followings have a special responsibility to be moderate and even-handed in their public comments. Or they might as well apply for a job at Fox News.

Especially when all that's known at this point is that there seems to be a scandal. Already calling for draconian punishment when really there aren't any facts on the table yet in my opinion is character assassination.

At least wait until the names of the players are released, and more details about their actual or alleged crimes are given.

Therefore, even if only to protect my own image as a competent commentator of the Starcraft scene, Nathanias shouldn't rush to Twitter all that quickly.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


The second issue of the STARCRAFT 2 ENQUIRER has just been released:

Remember: You read it on the internet, so it must be true!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hot off the Press: The Starcraft 2 ENQUIRER

SOON coming to supermarket checkout counters everywhere: the STARCRAFT 2 ENQUIRER!!

Everything you always wanted to know about Starcraft 2 but were afraid to ask!

I saw something similar on a chess site recently, and wanted to share it with the SC2 community...

Monday, March 23, 2015

2015 Season 1 GSL Final - Reflections on Life and a Few Parting Words

Photo Credit:
For a long time I've wanted to write something about LIFE, and because history repeated itself this past weekend, I'm finally "annoyed" enough to write this blog:

I really enjoyed the 2015 GSL Final between LIFE and PARTING. I live on the North American West coast, and this tournament was the first time in a long while that I stayed up late for an SC2 tournament. I'm glad I did, the series was excellent and worthy of a final of what's arguably the most prestigious SC2 tournament in the world.
Congratulations to both players, they can really be proud of their achievements! I couldn't have done it better myself :)

DISCLAIMER: When I was still actively playing SC2, I never got beyond rank #1 in my Diamond League, so I'm clearly not good enough to really understand the nuances between the players at the very top.
However, I'm also Honorary Chairman of the League of the Ultra-Opinionated Gentlemen, and as such I'm always happy to share my point of view :)

LIFE has had an impressive run over the past 12 months or so. He's won many major tournaments recently, and generally gets pretty far in almost any tournament he plays in. Most notably, he won 2014 WCS Global Finals, and just this past weekend the 2015 GSL Season 1:

Source: Liquipedia
He is obviously an extremely strong player, and when casters these days refer to him as "the strongest Zerg" and "the best player" in the world, I think they are probably right for the time being.

At the same time though, and this is the reason why I'm writing this blog, I've always been surprised how much "help" LIFE gets from his opponents. What I mean is that it's a well-known fact that he is a hyper-aggressive player who much more than other top Zergs likes to make a ton of lings in the early-to-mid game for some major harassment that quite often ends the game right away.

And yet, even though this is clearly his trademark, his opponents seem to simply ignore that possibility time and again. Two examples:

2015 GSL Final vs. PARTING, Map 7 on Iron Fortress: PARTING goes nexus first and loses pretty much right away because even though he miraculously survives LIFE's initial zergling onslaught, he takes too much damage and never recovers.
I think just BECAUSE it is so seemingly unlikely that the zerg would rush on the largest map in the pool, PARTING should have expected it. Or at least chosen a slightly safer build than the "naked" nexus first.
Yes, LIFE deserves praise for his balls of steel to pull this off on the final map of one of the most important series of his entire career. But still, I chalk this up as a build order win thanks to a certain amount of luck, and avoidable carelessness on PARTING's part. In fact, I found PARTINGS's initial hold in game 7 much more impressive than LIFE's win.
I've heard ARTOSIS and the other GSL/Proleague casters say many times that the best players in the world don't really cheese all that often partly because by NOT cheesing. they are sending the strong message "I don't need to flip a coin, I'm gonna beat you in a straight game. I'm better than you, and we both know it". I thought it was interesting that in game 7 with everything on the line, LIFE chose to flip a coin rather than play a straight up game.

The second example is even more striking to me. For the life of me (no pun intended) I can't remember all the details. It was a pretty important game in a recent top-level tournament. The map was Foxtrot Labs. LIFE was top left, his terran opponent was bottom right. I thought it was FLASH, but I don't seem to be able to find that game, so the opponent may have been someone else after all.
Anyway, the point is that the terran went for a super-greedy 3rd CC, and lost pretty much immediately because he didn't have a wall and clumsily lost his few hellions in the middle of the map to a ling surround.
If a top-level terran (who has surely studied LIFE's games in great detail) goes for an ultra-fast 3rd CC, doesn't wall off, and throws away his hellions, he really deserves the loss. At the same time though it seemed to me that LIFE just got lucky again.

These are but two examples of how I see a lot of LIFE's opponents lose games. They play as if they didn't know that LIFE is one of the most aggressive zergs out there...

Zest and Innovation at some point also held the distinction of being considered "best player in the world".
Photo Credit: Liquipedia
Take, for example, ZEST and INNOVATION. They were also considered "best player in the world" for some time, and might re-claim that title sooner or later.

INNOVATION, for example, is usually referred to as "robot" because he's extremely good at executing his standard builds. Doesn't matter as much what the opponent does, INNOVATION is a very solid all-round player, who doesn't really count on his opponents making major mistakes. He just executes his macro-strategy very well, and sooner or later just overpowers the other player without relying on lucky punches.
An even more extreme example in my opinion is ZEST. When he was at the top of his game in the first half of 2014, he was more dominant during his "reign" than any other "best player in the world" before or after him. And unlike LIFE, these two players didn't seem to depend as much on their opponents throwing away maps.

SUMMARY: I don't want to detract from LIFE's achievements, but he does seem to be a bit "luckier" than other champions because all too often his opponents are completely unprepared for what they should know is LIFE's trademark move: early ling aggression.
I know, you can't play too cautious against LIFE because then he's just going to be greedy and get too far ahead, but I don't understand how so many top-level players seem to have their guard down when they play LIFE, the most aggressive zerg out there...

And now, at the end of this article (if anybody is still awake and made it this far...) a few "PARTING words" (pun intended!). PARTING really has a bad "talent-to-tournament-wins" ratio, and I seriously hope he's going to get the recognition - and tournament wins - he deserves.
I'd be grateful if anybody could point me to an interview in which he reflects in some detail on his career, his strengths and weaknesses (if such interview exists).

Despite losing the 2015 GSL Season 1 Final to LIFE, PARTING struck me as the more impressive player of the two.
Photo Credit: Liquipedia

Monday, February 23, 2015

Garry Kasparov on Greatness in Chess

Kasparov in typical pose

"Enormous self-belief, intuition, the ability to take a risk at a critical moment and go in for a very dangerous play with counter-chances for the opponent - it is precisely these qualities that distinguish great players"

The five (!) world championship matches between Kasparov and Karpov produced produced some of the best games ever played
Kasparov definitely hit the nail on its head with the quote above. Especially the part about risk taking definitely applies to amateur players, too. One of the biggest obstacles for improvement is a player's natural tendency to avoid risk, and too greedily hold on to his pieces