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An opening day of upsets and surprises for StarCraft II at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice

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Hans Oelschlägel
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The highly anticipated day one of StarCraft II at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice provided us with the first four round of 16 matchups of the stacked single elimination bracket. Find out how day one played out below.

FanTaSy vs. Rain: David versus Goliath?

Coming into the series, Rain had to be seen as the favorite, looking back at his great performance at Intel Extreme Masters San Jose, which netted him a second place finish against CJ_herO. FanTaSy on the other had was more of a wildcard, taking the difficult open qualifiers route to get to Katowice with his aggressive early game Terran.
GAME ONE
FanTaSy went to work right away during game one on Catallena, doing what he does best - relentless early aggression. For a while, Rain looked comfortable defending his base by zoning out the Terran with well placed force fields. But FanTaSy remained patient during his siege of the high ground, waiting for his chance and pouncing as soon as the dissipating force fields gave a sliver of room on the ramp. Even though Rain had a lot of time to prepare for the eventual breach, his colossi failed to do optimal damage due to bad spacing in the back and FanTaSy took advantage of the clumped up backline, taking game one in his favor.


GAME TWO
Game two looked to be more of the same, with Rain having to deal with an early probe loss to FanTaSy’s scouting reaver, putting him on the back foot against the aggressive Terran from the start. FanTaSy’s follow up engagements were even more devastating for Rain, losing seven workers to just two of FanTaSy’s helions. And even though Rain managed to eventually set up a great base defense with observers all over the map, his lack of air defense in base allowed FanTaSy to backdoor him and do insane economical damage to the pressured Protoss player, resulting in a second straight win for FanTaSy.

GAME THREE
With two wins in hand, FanTaSy took the risk of setting up a bunker right underneath Rain’s ramp in game three, which luckily for him, did go unscouted for quite a while. And even though Rain did not have enough stalkers to defend his base against these marines, he chose not to cancel his second nexus. Instead he went for a defense with just one mothership and one stalker, which backfired on him very quickly, resulting in the fastest game of the series and completing FanTaSy’s 3-0 sweep of Rain!

Dark vs. TaeJa: Can tournament experience prevail?

The second matchup of the day saw TaeJa, the most successful StarCraft II player in recent years, battle against Dark, who qualified for his first international tournament by winning the tough Korean online qualifiers thanks to his stellar Zerg play.
GAME ONE
In game one of the series, TaeJa tried to pressure Dark early on to disrupt the Zerg development, focusing on pushing back creep spread from the start. But no matter which approach TeaJa took, Dark stood strong against the Terran’s advances. His investment in corruptors paid off big time, as his bolstered defense could not be broken by TeaJa. Clash after clash, Dark showed off his superior map control, sending his forces all over the map, eventually securing game one for the Zerg.

GAME TWO
Efficiency was the name of the game for Dark in game two. On top of his strong creep spread, he made the most of his economy, wasting no units while TeaJa again tried to pressure him early. While the Terran didn’t make any notable mistakes, he also didn’t manage to force Dark into any misplays either. And thanks to Dark’s strong economy, the Zerg was able to amass a force of mutalisks which did insane amounts of economical damage to TeaJa behind the lines, forcing him to tap out of game two.


GAME THREE
With TaeJa on the brink of elimination, he needed to turn the tables in game three to stay alive in the series. And TaeJa’s early SCV push did manage to take down Dark’s third base, putting him in a strong position for the rest of the game. Even though Dark managed to hold on for a while, he slowly lost control of the map while constantly headbutting with TaeJa’s forces in the middle of the map, allowed TaeJa to get a foot in the door in this series, pulling it back to 2-1 in favor of Dark.

GAME FOUR
After showing everyone in game three that Dark is indeed human, TaeJa managed to force his opponent into further mistakes in game four, which he did not leave unpunished. But at the end he could not capitalize off his early game success against Dark, who held on to his bases thanks to amazing banelings plays which pushed the aggressive Terran back and allowed him to pounce on TaeJa’s mistakes in return. And after returning huge damage to TaeJa’s base and forces in this up and down game, he closed out the series and managed to qualify for the quarterfinals as the the second open qualifier player, after FanTaSy’s earlier victory over Rain! Dark 3 - TaeJa 1!

Zest vs. Hydra: Adapting to your opponent

Zest is looking to reclaim his title as the prime protoss player, but he has been in a slump since Blizzcon 2015, while his opponent Hydra is in good form in WCS at the moment. Can Zest get back on track or will Hydra carry over his WCS form to Intel Extreme Masters Katowice?

GAME ONE
In typical anti Zerg fashion, Zest was looking to take the game to Hydra in game one, with the hopes of ending the game in ten minutes or less. But even though he was in a great position for a base siege, Hydra managed to hold on with an amazing defense, putting him in the driver’s seat after decimating Zest’s forces. His counter attack on Zest’s base would decide the first game in his favor, after Zest’s force fields stopped his own units from defending against the Zerg onslaught. Game one goes to Hydra!

GAME TWO
In game two, Hydra was not phased by Zest sieging his base early on and invested in mutalisk production and swarm hosts to counter the aggressive playstyle. This resulted in a back and forth game, with both players churning out big plays left and right. The momentum looked to shift towards Zest for a moment after he managed to take out lots of swarm hosts with his blink stalkers, but he would not be able to hold on in the end, leaving himself one game away from elimination.


GAME THREE
At this stage, fans and casters saw Zest adapting to his opponents play, taking a more defensive approach to the game, which worked out really well for him. By leaving Hydra to make the first move, he consistently forced him into offensive mistakes on which the experienced Protoss capitalized right away. After two dominant victories from Hydra, he looked to underestimated Zest in game three. And instead of getting a clean 3-0 sweep, Zests was handed a lifeline and a chance to even out the series in game four.

GAME FOUR
After both players were unsuccessful playing aggressive styles in the matchup, game four kicked off to a slow start. Hydra opted for four hatcheries while trying to contain Zest to just three bases. The strategy paid off at first, allowing Hydra to take down a nexus after Zest didn’t manage to wrap his defense around the attackers. But Hydra was then baited into overextending with his large group of mutalisks and corruptors and ended up losing his entire forces to blink stalkers and phoenixes, forcing him to call gg, taking the series to an all deciding game five.

GAME FIVE
With both players’ tournament lives on the line, Catallena was the showplace of the final game five. It has become very clear that Zest had adjusted his game to Hydra’s playstyle over the course of the series, again allowing the Zerg to be aggressive early on. Hydra lived up to his name, amassing hydras and gaining a large advantage over Zests while sieging his base for what seemed an eternity. Even though this left the series well in Hydra’s hands, Zest managed to yet again bait him into terrible trades, thereby wrestling the advantage away from the Zerg and winning the important last game with a thrilling counter attack. Zest comes back from 0-2 and advances to the quarterfinals after defeating Hydra 3-2!

INoVation vs. Life: The biggest round of 16 showdown?

This match is what everybody had been waiting for! For many fans and casters, this could well have been the final of Intel Extreme Masters Katowice, but instead INoVation and Life meet in the round of 16 already. But who came out on top?

GAME ONE
All the little things matter in a series like this and INoVation managed to get an early advantage thanks to a big drone pickoff in Life’s base at the start of map one. Life, known for being a very greedy Zerg player, was on the back foot from the get go. While he tried his best to put up a defense against INoVation’s aggression, his lack of baneling speed proved costly, leaving him unable to fend off the Terran’s forces. 1-0 to INoVation!

GAME TWO
In game two, INoVation set the tone early, again getting important drone pickoffs. But this time around, Life managed to put up a fight, counter attacking the Terran at every chance while spreading creep all over the map and keeping INoVation contained in his base. The banelings especially did a lot of work for Life, decimating INoVation’s forces and allowing Life to push into his base and do huge economical damage. And even though the match went back and forth for a bit afterwards, Life’s overwhelming numbers would prevail, squaring the series at 1-1!


GAME THREE
Hellbats were the name of the game for INoVation in the early stages of every map and game three would be no different. His overwhelming hellbat and banshee aggression left Life unable to get momentum off his map two win. With a huge economy and army advantage, INoVation’s constant attacks on Life’s base took their toll on the latter’s economy. The icing on the cake for INoVation was the destruction of Life’s baneling nest, which left the Zerg unable to mount a passable defense, handing game three to INoVation.

GAME FOUR
Inferno Pools made a rare map appearance on day one of StarCraft II at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice, after being banned in every other series. Not only that, but the players got handed cross spawns as well, which worked out perfectly for Life, who used the size of the map to his advantage, constantly striking out with counter attacks while spreading his creep as far as possible. Over the course of the game he accumulated an insurmountable army and economy advantage and after a final push with ultralisks in tow, he yet again evened out the series.

GAME FIVE
Of course the highly anticipated matchup between Life and INoVation goes to game five. How else could it be!
The all deciding game five was a very fast paced affair, with INoVation being able to dish out constant harassment on Life’s bases over the entirety of the match. The potentially game winning play of the series was one of the Terran’s medivac drops, which caused Life to lose out of a crucial upgrade, effectively setting him back for the rest of the match. With the advantage in hand, INoVation tightened the containment on Life and aside from one impressive counter attack by the Zerg, the reigning Intel Extreme Masters and World Champion saw no daylight towards the end and he will have to watch the rest of the tournament from the sidelines as INoVation takes the series 3-2!



You can watch the VODs for all games, including Zest vs. Hydra and INoVation vs. Life (as soon as they are processed), as well as many more StarCraft II videos on our official StarCraft II Intel Extreme Masters Katowice playlist.

Day one kicked off with a bang, but the round of 16 is not over just yet! Tune in tomorrow at 13:00 CET for the next four Intel Extreme Masters Katowice StarCraft II matchups!