Following an exciting and turbulent IEM VI Kiev MrBitter discussed the results from Kiev, the players who impressed him and even laid out the Zerg players who he'd trust to save humanity from destruction at the hands of aliens!
Most predicted MMA would win the tournament and he did. How did his performance matchup with your own expectations for him?
Well MMA was an obvious favorite coming into the tournament. I was not surprised to see him win the whole event, and his play, in general, was excellent as it always is.
I was much more happy and impressed to see Kas playing up to the level that he did. I'm a little sad that we didn't get to see a Kas vs MMA final, as I think it would have been a little closer than the games with Dimaga were, but Dima had Kas's number in Kiev. In general, I'm really happy with how the event went, and how everyone there played.
If every atom of the players at IEM VI Kiev could be recreated in a computer simulation and the tournament run 100 times how many times would you expect MMA to come out on top against that field?
Hmm... Well, even at the very top level, the best players in the world only win 60-70% of the time. I think MMA probably wins 7 times out of 10, and I think anyone in that entire tournament could have beaten him on the right day.
Others also were suggesting a Kas-MMA matchup might be one which could have seen the SlayerS Terran beaten. What were Kas' chances to beat MMA if they'd met and what dangers could he have posed?
Well in general I think mirror matchups are more volatile than the other matchups, and by default, that creates situations where a better player is more likely to lose.
On top of that, Kas has some of the best TvT, not just in Europe, but in the entire world. He absolutely owned MarineKing at WCG. Were Kas' chances 50/50? No, almost certainly not. But I do think he was maybe a 40/45% chance underdog.
You've appeared hot on Kas for quite a while, thanks in part to his online play. Likewise forums are seemingly always abuzz when he competes and people rave about his skill level, worth ethic and potential to place highly. In spite of all of that is it fair to say he has struggled to close out the late portions of tournaments? Does Kas lack anything in terms of mentality or approach?
Honestly, I think it's just damn hard to win tournaments. Like I said, at the top level, the best players win what? 65% of their games? So when you're playing multiple best of x series on your way through a tournament, it's very easy to mess up once and find yourself eliminated.
I think Kas's recent results have been nothing short of spectacular. Third place at WCG finishing behind MVP and a very hot Xigua. Third place in Kiev behind Dimaga and MMA. These are excellent results. And let's not forget his online results. Just look him up on TeamLiquid. He's got something like 10 first place finishes in the last two to three months.
Sure, a big offline win would be great for his reputation on the whole, but Kas isn't missing anything in terms of playing Starcraft at the highest possible level.
If you could go back in time and coach DIMAGA heading into the final vs. MMA, but without being able to relay MMA's build orders, what would you tell him to do differently in his games to give him a better chance of winning IEM VI Kiev? Was there a key flaw in his approach?
I would tell Dimaga to just play more loose. He did not play his best Starcraft in that series. In the first game, he used a prepared build that worked. In the second game, MMA made the right adjustments, and directly countered Dimaga's same, prepared build.
The following games were Dimaga trying to force a square block through a round hole. He didn't play the smart Starcraft that he's famous for. He played a stubborn (excellent) build that was not suited to the situation he was in. In other words, you might be the best 6 pooler in the world, but if your opponent knows that it's coming, you have got to change it up, because it just won't work. That's effectively the mistake Dimaga made. He didn't change up his strategy at all.
The crowd was massively on DIMAGA's side for the final and after he won the first map they were raucous. Do you think that environment added any unfavourable pressure to the Ukrainian Zerg?
No, I don't think so. Dimaga is one of the most seasoned professionals in this business. Any pressure he felt wasn't from the audience, but from MMA, and from his own mis-steps throughout the course of the series.
MMA told me post-game that he felt like he'd won the final after map three (Terminus). How accurate is that assessment from an observer's point of view?
I felt the same way. He won decisively on Shakuras, and on Terminus, Dimaga's play was confusing at best. MMA is clearly perceptive enough to pick up on something like that. He saw that Dimaga was unable to come up with an answer to his play, and simply kept applying pressure.
Third place decider matches can often by something of a wash, since contender-level players psychologically know they are no longer competing on a path for the title. With that said the Kas vs. Zenio series seemed to be an exception to that pattern. What do you think?
I think true competitors will always bring their a-games, no matter what they're playing for. First place, third place, or to stay out of last place, players that are passionate about winning will bring their best no matter what.
The Kas / Zenio series at IEM: Kiev was proof of that, in my opinion. Both these guys played their hearts out, and the result was probably the most entertaining series of the tournament.
Did the series change your perception of Zenio at all? The online forum crowd seemed torn between either hyping Zenio as a Code S level player or saying, as a counter, that Ensnare had also played in a lot of Code S seasons and Zenio was just an all-in player who hadn't done much except beat IdrA many moons ago. What did you see from Zenio in Kiev?
Admittedly I don't follow Korean Starcraft as closely as I should. It's my job to be close to the European scene, and by choice I try to keep up with the North American scene as much as I can. This leaves me with little time to follow the Koreans and little ability to comment on what Koreans represent the pinnacle of Starcraft 2 play.
That said, from his play in Kiev, I do feel like Zenio is an excellent player, and it excites me to see someone approach Zerg play so openly. His play is, at times, all-in, but it is a very solid kind of all-in, and had he made only the slightest of adjustments, he would have finished higher than he did that weekend.
I'm eager to see how his play develops. He's very clearly not afraid to try different things, and it's that kind of openness that leads to great innovations in gameplay, and moves the meta-game forward.
There was plenty of discussion online over whether Feast could have won his quarter-final vs. MMA, and the consensus seemed to be that he could at the least have pushed the series to five maps. The Metalopolis game where MMA dropped MULEs onto the gold base was the focal point of most of this discussion. How much of the outcome of that game was down to Feast or MMA's decision-making?
It wasn't down to either player. It was down to the map pool. On a map with no gold base, Feast wins. It's as simple as that.
Feast seemed initially overwhelmed when he found out he had been drawn against MMA for the playoffs. Was he mentally prepared to face a player like MMA at that stage?
Feast is sort of a new face on the scene. He's been good for awhile, but he's only recently been turning heads. Was he mentally ready for a player like MMA? Who can really say. What I do know is that he played his heart out and very nearly won. If he was feeling nervous, it wasn't evident in his play, and I don't think he made a single wrong decision.
Feast is a player to watch in 2012. Definitely some serious skills there.
What did you think of Feast's style of play? MMA said he was good at playing a risky style with lots of econ and expansion. How does his style compare to those of other European Protoss you've seen?
His style was different from anything we see in Europe. If anything, it was more akin to what we see out of Korea. European players prefer a much more passive style. Top guys like Mana and HasuObs will sit back forever, never pushing until they're on 5+ bases and maxed out with 15 gateways supporting.
That's not how Feast approaches Starcraft 2. He likes to fight. He likes to make things happen. It's refreshing to watch and awesome to cheer for. There is some risk in playing that way, but he seems to have a great handle on it. I really hope he continues to develop.
Putting aside the lag issues of the group stage many people predicted NaNiwa would move past Zenio in the quarter-finals, where he instead fell 1:3 after a one map lead. What is your analysis of his overall play in the tournament?
I think Naniwa made the mistake of looking past Zenio. This isn't to say that Zenio didn't play well, but rather that Naniwa is capable of playing better than he did. Zenio's play is unorthodox, and confusing, and dealing with it requires a player to quickly recognize what's happening and to quickly adjust to it. Nani didn't really manage to do that.
Beyond that series, I thought Nani played very well. Aside from his disappointing series vs. Strelok, he was absolutely dominant, and I look forward to seeing him at more major events around the world. He's a great player, and one of the best foreigners in the world.
How realistic were NaNiwa's chances to beat MMA if they'd met in that semi-finals? How would they compare to Kas'?
Hmm... That's hard to say. I didn't see much of MMA's TvP. Objectively, I think Nani might have had a slightly better chance to beat MMA than Kas did, if, for no other reason than he is more familiar with the Korean styles of TvP.
Which of the following Protoss' failure to get out of their group surprised you the most: TitaN, Grubby, NightEnD, HerO or HasuObs? Nearly had been tipped to make the playoffs.
They were all pretty big surprises, honestly. Comparitively, HasuObs had a pretty easy group. He's supposed to be better than what he showed that weekend.
NightEnD very nearly advanced. His situation was a little bit unique...
Grubby is, in my opinion, sometimes over-hyped, but recently he's been in amazing shape, and seeing him go out early also struck me as strange.
TitaN not advancing is the one that really surprised me. I think he's a player that represents a great deal of potential, and I thought Kiev would be his breakout tournament.
And obviously HerO not going through was unexpected, though his group was very difficult.
MMA said after practicing vs. TitaN he is surprised the Russian Protoss player isn't more well known. Did getting fellow Eastern Europeans ( Strelok and White-Ra) as replacements into his group play any role in his inability to progress? Was he a favourite to progress in your mind?
I think Titan is a little bit better than 2/3 of his group. But being 5% better than somebody when you only win 65% of the time does not give you the best odds at advacing. If the group stage was bo5 or bo7 I think Titan may have done better. The fact that his opponents were from Eastern Europe had little to do with his showing, in my opinion.
The third map of the NightEnD- Zenio final group stage series caused a flurry of debate back and forth over who would have won the major engagement had computer issues not plagued NightEnD. The Romanian says he was ahead and would definitely have won the game, HerO said if he had been playing in that situation he would have won, RotterdaM said it's far from certain NightEnD would have won and I've observed others on forums even say they thought Zenio was ahead at that point.
Based only on your own analysis who was ahead and how big was that player's chance to win?
Honestly, I don't think it was a definite win for Nightend. Even if he wins that fight, I'm not convinced he could have won the game. If it were my decision, I would not have granted him the re-game unless he had asked for it during the pause.
In the future, I hope players and admins will be more open with one another, and approach these situations more aggressively, rather than allowing so much time to pass between the problem, and the reaching of a conclusion.
NightEnD was upset with the decision to play out an extended series the next day with Zenio starting 2:1 up. He said he wishes he had refused to play under those circumstances, as a form of protest. What do you think of those statements and the decision to go with an extended series instead of a regame of the third map or the entire Bo3?
In my opinion, and I don't speak for any of the admins or referees at IEM, the only way I would have given him a regame would have been if he had asked for it during his initial pause. Once he agreed to play out the game, he was accepting the outcome of that fight. If he had gone on to win the game, there would have never been a protest filed.
As far as protesting the extended series goes: I just don't see any argument for that. By giving any sort of regame at all, we're already taking a win away from Zenio. If Nightend refuses to accept some sort of handicap in the regame, then I think its completely fair and just that Zenio advances anyway.
What are RotterdaM's strengths as a caster?
RotterdaM is a great caster for a million reasons. He's a great speaker, he's easy to joke with, he plays at an incredibly high level, and he loves Starcraft 2. Alongside all of this, he's a rockstar, man. He loves to live life, and that comes through in his casts. It makes him a joy to work with, and a ton of fun to listen to.
Did you notice any changes in his casting of Zerg matchups since you did the 'The Grass is Always Greener' show where you each played the other's race and were coached by him?
The Grass is Always Greener was more of a funsy comedy show. We both got to experience the offrace from a different perspective, but it takes thousands of games to develop a true understanding of a race and the racial matchups. Kevin's insights are exceptional in all the Protoss matchups, and quite good in all the rest. Playing off race for a few weeks probably didn't change that too much.
If aliens invaded the Earth and created a StarCraft2 match for the fate of the human race, with you as the coach of Earth's team, which five Zergs would you put in the lineup to ensure the survival of the species?
NesTea is obviously the Zerg every player aspires to be. Even if he's not in top shape he's an invaluable resource, and a tremendous player.
DongRaeGu feels like the most consistent top level Zerg right now. He'd probably be my ace, and a definite Terran sniper.
Idra is a guy that you want to have for the star power. It helps that he's pretty good at Starcraft.
Stephano represents the best Zerg player in the foreigner scene, so he's a must have.
And my last spot would go to Ret, because I feel like he is the most talented Starcraft player in the world, and when he's in top shape no one can beat him.
Would you like to say anything in closing?
Just thanks to you for taking the time to talk to me. 2012 will be a great year for e-sports. I can't wait to get started. ;)
(Photographs courtesy of ESL, Zerg Lair and others)
@Thooorin on twitter.
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