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

1 comment:

  1. I think that Terran who threw that game against life on Foxtron labs was Maru in SPL round 1 :)