Written by: Nick Dawes, Theresa Gaffney and Mona Zhang
*Photo credit to: GHOSTCLAW, silverfire, and Carlton from ESFIWorld
After months of buildup, the AZUBU Collegiate Champions for Starcraft 2 culminated in an amazing display of showmanship, blood, sweat and tears on Saturday, February 16th. Not only was it a groundbreaking moment for the CSL, it was a pivotal moment for Azubu as they debuted the event live on the new AZUBU TV streaming platform.
Hosted at the Petersen Automotive Museum, fans began streaming in at 10am, clearly eager to see what would happen. Some came by word of mouth, others heard from TeamLiquid.net or Day9.tv, and there were even a few that came because of sheer curiosity after exploring the museum downstairs. Using this picture as a backdrop, you can imagine the kind of nervous anticipation in the air throughout the day.
Enter the Arena
Four semi-finalist teams journeyed from around the world to compete for the $40,000 top prize. Aarhus University came from Denmark to represent collegiate EU talent; Chunnam Techno University flew across the world to make Korea proud, and U.C. Berkeley and U. Washington traveled down the West Coast to face off for the right to be America’s Starcraft 2 pride. Each team had a different story, but all led to the same point here in LA.
In the Booth – Semi-finals
Berkeley vs. Aarhus – Coming Out of Hibernation
“Proxy” was the word of the morning. In game one the Danish Aarhus University’s Hjalte “Hjalte” Flyger (P) opened with a proxy robo on Cloud Kingdom. UC Berkeley’s Alan “Abstinence” Yao (T) opened with a standard 1 rax fast expand. Unfortunately for Yao, the robo was on the high ground, on the right-most edge of the map. This placed it just out of the vision of the Xel’naga, and any scouting units on their way to the other base. Flyger pushed with three immortals, zealots and sentries. Yao had a pair of bunkers prepared, but Flyger’s forcefields blocked off any SCVs from getting in to repair, and both bunkers fell. Flyger forced Yao to lift his natural and retreat into his main. A single zealot warped into Yao’s main hitting the mineral line allowed Flyger’s followup push to break Yao’s defenses and enter the main. Yao, without enough of an army to defend, had to gg.
Game 2 was a typical TvP: Tom “Hesla” Laugesen (T) and Fan “bnyfan” Yang both opened with fast expand builds. Ultimately it was Yang’s infinite supply of forcefields which allowed his colossi to rain death upon Laugesen’s bio, which put the Terran on the backfoot. With one key engagement where Yang’s zealots obliterated the rest of the bio, Laugesen tapped out, allowing Berkeley to tie the series.
In game 3 every player took a fast expand and went into the early mid-game. Clean engagements and amazing coordination on the part of Berkeley gave them a leg up. Ultimately a solid roach, bio army surrounded and consumed a Protoss deathball, which ended the game. Once again “proxy” was the word on everyone’s lips. Berkeley’s Hyunjae “PulsetwooneJ” Lim (T) sought revenge for the proxy in game 1, and chose to proxy all his tech outside Daniel “Defex” Kornum’s (T) main.
What followed was a back-and-forth struggle over the tiny space at the back of Kornum’s main by the smoke. Both players opened with a marine, hellion timing with a single medivac. But Lim’s hit significantly sooner due to the proxy. Lim then transitioned into tank production from the proxy location and began to siege Kornum’s main from the low ground. Kornum, backed into a corner, attempted a hellion runby on Lim’s main. With all his production proxied, Lim’s only defense was three supply depots and repairing SCVs. But that was enough. He kept the hellions from barreling down his door, and destroyed Kornum’s starport and barracks, leaving him with only a single factory. From there Lim elevatored into Kornum’s main, and Kornum’s only recourse was to pull workers. Though Kornum’s effort was valiant, his SCV pull was not enough to break Lim’s siege line, and Kornum gg’d.
In game 5 Berkeley sent out Conan “EG.SuppyRC” Liu (Z) against Aarhus’s Thor “Thorminator” Bagge (Z) on Daybreak. Bagge teched for roaches, and Liu took an earlier lair and got a spire for mutas. Everything was going fine for the Aarhus Zerg until 9:10 game-time, when Bagge inexplicably cancelled his infestation pit mid-morph. Bagge tried to pressure Liu with roach runbys into the third and natural, but Liu was undeterred. Meanwhile, Liu’s ling runbys forced Bagge to cancel his third twice. With no infestors and no third base, Liu’s mutas ran the map unoppsed. By 13:40 Liu was up 45 supply, and he had speed roaches and infestors of his own to match Bagge’s infestor, roach force. There was one key engagement in the center. Both players threw down infested terrans and tried to fungal the enemy roach line. But Liu’s splitting was superior and he overwhelmed Bagge’s army. With Bagge’s army gone Liu pushed toward his opponent’s third and forced a gg, giving Berkeley a 4-1 victory over Aarhus.
University of Washington vs. Chunnam Techno University – Did they learn their lesson? Preparation Against a Dark Horse?
Last season, the University of Washington’s strategy was simple: Adrian “KawaiiRiceLighT” Kwong and Patrick “CaliberLighT” Coury had to win, and then someone else would probably win. They lost.
So this season, things changed. UW ran winter-break bootcamps . They scouted their opponents, laying fake smurf trails and keeping google docs of barcode accounts. But when asked about Chunnam, UW laughed — Chunnam, a Korean university with an unknown skillset and two barcode players, was “just a warmup.”
Chunnam’s barcode Toss proceeded to take the first set easily, but UW wasn’t concerned. “We expected it,” said Kwong, unphased. Everything was going according to plan (even if it was an early loss, it was a calculated loss) and nothing shook their confidence. After all, they had all Grandmasters 1v1 players and what they called a game-changing new meta for 2v2.
But UW lost another set to another barcode, and it was time for the unusual 2v2 team to execute the new meta. UW didn’t disappoint. John “Rawls” Perez started off the game with an early Command Center while Thomas “Chemist” Edwards placed five warpgates, a robotics facility, and a twilight council: it was a feeding strategy.
Sungjae “CTUSungJae” Park and Chan Eun “Rex” Park across from Chemist and Rawls
The new meta was a little too unconventional. CTU, ignoring Edwards’ growing immortal numbers, waltzed over to Perez’s unprotected base with continuous drops and pushes until there were no SCVs left to feed. Perez went hungry.
Chunnam, ahead 3-0, entered the fourth game only to meet a snag in their road to a flawless 4-0: Jinhyeok “eins” Ju lost all his marines from an aggressive 2rax push. UW erupted into cheers and Victor “Hwangpo” Po celebrated with a manner hatchery – but it was far too soon to call, and Ju fought harder with a new driving force behind him: anger. Kwong and Coury, their earlier cheers dying, could only watch as they warmed the bench. The game was officially over.
This was the first time we witnessed a Korean university in a full Bo7 in the world of collegiate StarCraft. Chunnam played with a quiet confidence, and Berkeley watched the entire series in awe as they realized who their real rival was in the AZUBU Collegiate Champions.
Game review – Finals
The team photos say it all: the Berkeley team is young, energetic, and carefree. If you watched the broadcast you would have seen their smiling faces, and even a few peace signs between matches. In stark contrast, you have the Chunnam Tech team, who came in matching uniforms complete with backpacks and windbreaker pants. The Koreans looked deadly serious in their team photo. They had one goal this weekend — to triumph and take home $40,000. So when the two faced off in the Grand Finals, the room was electric.
Everyone in the venue discussed their predictions for the match. Could UC Berkeley win against the previously-unknown Chunnam, who displayed skills not previously seen at the collegiate level? Would StarCraft’s history repeat itself, putting another notch in the belt of Korean dominance? The buzz around the venue seemed to predict a 4-1 victory for Chunnam, though most people qualified their bet with a faint hope for a Berkeley victory.
The first two games seemed to confirm everyone’s suspicions: Chunnam Tech took two games, and seemed to be on the easy road to a $40,000 paycheck. In the 2v2 Berkeley played a fantastic game — putting their team on the board, and swinging the momentum in their direction. Richard “Reach” Xue (T) and Luke “Sunshine” Lalor (Z) came out of the player room shaking with adrenaline and gasping for air after they surely held their breath through the back-and-forth game.
Game 4 almost seemed like a foregone conclusion because Conan “EG.SuppyRC” Liu’s turn had come. He played as well as one would expect, crushing through his Protoss opponent, Doo Rang “Nosredblack” Bae, with a traditional ling, infestor, corruptor with delayed brood lords.
In the intermission a realization dawned upon the venue, and word spread quickly: if UC Berkeley could win one more game, then they were guaranteed to play the ace match. Liu could play again as their ace. Berkeley had a chance to win.
The stars seemingly aligned to make this a reality. In game 5 Chunnam’s In Yong “Nosmyfortic” Jin opted for a 5-rax all-in, which David “MnMDayaL” Lu scouted. He prepared spines, four queens, and held the push with ease, bringing Berkeley their quickest victory of the night. This win guaranteed Berkeley the ace match, regardless of game 6’s outcome. It was fortunate that Lu won that game, because Fan “bnyfan” Yang lost a frenetic TvP in game 6, where Jae Heum “Nossave” Go peeled his defenses apart with multi-pronged attacks and drops in his third and main.
And so the ace match came. The venue was alive with cheers, because Liu, whom everyone was sure would ace for Berkeley, was about to face off against Jae Heum “Nossave” Go. As it turned out, Go was a member of the B-team for KeSPA’s CJ Entus. The foreign pro was facing off against a Korean B-teamer on Ohana.
Go opened with a conservative reactor hellion expand and attempted to muscle a gaggle of blue flame hellions into Liu’s natural. Liu had a sim-city prepared on his ramp with two evolutiion chambers and four queens in between to block the hellions. The hellions tried to focus down a queen, and almost killed one with a single volley, but Liu got off a clutch transfuse to save it forcing Go to retreat. Then Liu sprung his trap! An army of 1 speed roaches came barreling out of his base, across the map, and burst Go’s depot wallin at the natural. They forced their way up the ramp into Go’s main, breaking that wall, too. With a dozen or more roaches in his main, and only a few hellions to fight back, Go couldn’t win — and he knew it. He typed gg and bowed out of the ace, giving Berkeley a 4-3 win, and the title of Azubu Collegiate Champions.
The fourth floor of the Petersen Automotive Museum erupted when the crowd saw Liu’s roaches engulf Go’s base in his last push. Before “gg” was even typed, Berkeley jumped up and down in the aisles, high-fiving and hugging and tripping over themselves as they ran out of the audience in several false-starts before the game actually ended.
Suppy did the same.
It was a storybook ending for a long day of hard-fought battles, and the culmination of a season of preparation on Berkeley’s behalf. News around the internet spread quickly after the win, with Liu’s EG teammates and Berkeley fans congratulating the champions on a job extremely well done.
Check out azubu.tv today for more action from the League of Legends side. Will North America claim victory again, or will Europe or Asia take the crown?
Good night and good morning from the CSL Staff.