Some days you just can’t get rid of a curse. For WCS World Champion runner-up Lee Jae Dong, Saturday was one of those days, as he fell to Kim "sOs" Yoo Jin 4-1 in the final match of the 2013 WCS season at BlizzCon in Anaheim, Calif. It was Jaedong’s fifth second-place finish of the year, another bitterly disappointing installment of his silver-medal nightmare.
With his victory, sOs earned $100,000 in prize money, the most prestigious title in StarCraft eSports and an automatic bid into Red Bull Battle Grounds. It was the culmination of three seasons’ worth of effort and a brilliant way to end a semi-slump that’s dogged him since his second-place finish at the Season 1 Global Finals.
Ironically, it was the Protoss frontrunner Baek “Dear” Dong Jun who helped give sOs motivation and focus for this tournament.
“I’m really great friends with Dear,” he said. “I helped him a lot preparing for his finals, and I was really happy when he won the [Season 3] finals. But, suddenly, I felt that he was doing too good. And I saw he was practicing a lot more than I was, so I felt the need that I should do the same. That really encouraged me.”
The cheers of the vast Blizzcon crowd were one of sOs’s favorite things about his championship-winning Saturday. “Yesterday all of my matches were backstage. And I really wanted to play on the main stage. For all the players playing on the main stage, the chanting of the crowd was huge. I really wanted that.”
He may not have received as much of it as Jaedong did, however. Following his upset win over Baek “Dear” Dong Jun Friday, Jaedong seemed like the player of destiny for this 2013 WCS title, and the crowd was absolutely on Team Jaedong throughout his games.
Jaedong looked fantastic against Cho "Maru" Sung Choo in their semifinal series, making the Terran player run in circles as Jaedong’s Zergling-Baneling play seemed to be everywhere at once. Maru managed to avert a sweep, finally winning some of the crowd’s favor back, but there was no real doubt about whose side they were really on.
When he forced Jaedong into a long, grueling siege on Frost in their final game, the crowd began cheering wildly every time Banelings started landing halfway decent connections, or whenever Mutalisks appeared over a Terran base. When Jaedong finally wrested the final GG from Maru, the audience was as ecstatic as he was as he stood at the end of the stage, pumping his arms for louder cheers.
Jaedong got off to a brilliant start against sOs as well, having an almost maxed Ultralisk army while sOs was increasingly pinned inside his base on Akilon Wastes. But Jaedong hesitated, unwilling to commit his Ultras to a final assault and letting sOs come back into the game with a disastrous, half-hearted base trade. It destroyed the advantage of Jaedong’s huge resource bank as sOs took down hatcheries and denied Jaedong the reinforcements he needed. After a painful holding action, Jaedong was forced to concede.
It got worse for him from there, as sOs cannon-rushed him to death, turning the early game into a treacherous minefield that Jaedong never managed to safely navigate in the series.
“I was really confident in cannon rushes against Zergs,” sOs said later. “And even though it was the finals, I really just enjoyed my game.” He also noted that while he usually gets nervous during major games, his Game 1 victory over Jaedong calmed him down and helped him focus.
Jaedong managed a hard-fought victory on Whirlwind, but sOs killed any momentum he gained with an Immortal-Sentry rush in Game 4 that ended the game almost as soon as it began. A quick zealot timing broke his hopes in the final game, and gave sOs the biggest championship of his career.
While sOs was elated with his victory, he understood that it was also a bittersweet moment.
As a fan, I cheered for Jaedong during the tournament,” he said. “Along with all of you, I cheered for Jaedong.
His WCS victory gives him a newfound stature in StarCraft and a possibly life-changing amount of money but, as most Korean pros do, sOs is keeping a very level head about his winnings.
“It’s a shame they’re going to take away quite a bit of tax,” he said with a laugh. “But this is the most prize money I ever got in my career, but I’m going to save most of it, and later buy my parents whatever they want when I get more prize money. But for now I’m just going to save it up.”
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