SSL Challenge Week 1
Although, much like the SSL Premier, the SSL Challenge uses a round-robin format, this stratum of the competition has the participants split into two groups. On top of that, scheduling conflicts forced SpoTV to host the tournament online, as the Nexon Arena, whence all events by the organiser are usually broadcast, appears to have been fully booked. Another reason might be the fact that few people would turn up at 10PM on a Friday night to later struggle getting back home. The solution that has been devised makes watching convenient whilst still providing top-notch competition to players and supporters alike.
Match 1: TY vs Classic
For the former KT Rolster player, 2017 has so far been the year of his life. Having won WESG in January and then IEM Katowice earlier this month, the Terran powerhouse is poised to deliver even more results that would secure his spot as one of the most formidable pro gamers to grace the StarCraft II scene. It came as a surprise to many that TY did not manage to qualify for the SSL Premier, however with a regular schedule of games he is the most likely contender to be promoted to the aforementioned higher tier of competition next season. Classic, on the other hand, has had no recent results that would put him at the top of the Korean scene. Once regarded as the most prominent Protoss player on the scene, even surpassing Zest, Stats, and herO in skill, it seems the post-KeSPA landscape does not play into the ex-SKT T1 pro's favour. The yoke of responsibility can at the same time be a cause of distress as well as a source of motivation. Perhaps Classic has just not adjusted to the lack of an enforced training regime yet and needs more time to find his stride.
Match 2: herO vs Dear
Dear used to have some of the best PvP in Korea. But not anymore. Having just lost two bo3 series in the VSL against Zest, one can hardly argue Dear's current form in the matchup is rather unreliable. On top of that, herO, now on ROOT, formerly of CJ Entus, now has two more series to study in order to pinpoint the intricate tactical manoeuvres that allowed Zest to ultimately crush his opponent. And despite his own rather shaky performance as of late, I doubt herO feels any pressure going into this match. Historically he has always delivered consistent results, whereas Dear, after having won a GSL a couple of years back, has been on a dry spell in terms of achievements.
Match 3: Losira vs Ryung
Ryung's impressive semi-final finish in the recent GSL takes into question everything we know of the Terran player. Having lain dormant for years as a B-teamer with mediocre results, appearing in the occasional slobber knocker against top Korean performers, he has recently re-joined True eSports, a team, whose ranks he had already bolstered in the past. And although he suffered a few losses in the TvZ matchup in various online and offline events in the past few months, when it came to playing a fellow Korean Zerg in the round of 16 of the GSL, Ryung showcased solid, shrewd, bespoke builds that caught Leenock off guard. Can he do that in the SSL as well? As far as I am concerned the likelihood of that happening is quite high indeed. Losira's playstyle is in many ways reminiscent of what Leenock brought to the table when playing against Ryung. However, he does seem to be more confident in longer, drawn-out matches and unless Ryung tries to take the bull by the horns and cripples the Zerg in the early to mid-game the Terran might find himself in a spot of bother.
Match 4: Jjakji vs ByuN
Let us face the music; ByuN is struggling. He is a born winner, and frankly he has not been doing all that much winning in recent months. Even during the BlizzCon finals last November it was evident that a slump was imminent. We did not see the confident ByuN from the 2016 GSL where he dispatched sOs in nonchalant fashion and claimed the championship. We saw a ByuN, who bled. We saw a ByuN who could be beaten. Now, granted, he did become the world champion after all, but things went downward from there. IEM Gyeonggi - eliminated in the round of 8. WESG? Not a satisfactory run either. IEM Katowice - eliminated in the round of 8 again. ByuN even failed to get out of his VSL round of 16 group. Things are looking rather grim for the Terran. But, as I have mentioned, the man is a born winner. He is going to get up and start winning again. It is just a matter of time. And the opening match against Jjakji is a good chance at redemption. Very much a dark horse in the competition, Jjakji now represents team Revolution, a UK based gaming organisation. And despite going up against a player, who might not be in the right frame of mind in terms of motivation, defeating ByuN is still going to be a tall order. And in love, war, and TvT anything goes.
Headline image: SpoTV