By Reece Flexner
Johan Lucchessi (Naniwa) just managed to take out Korean superstar Lim Jae Duk (Nestea) 2-1 in a wild and unpredictable series to earn the title of MLG Global Invitational Champion.
Naniwa, Mvp, and Idra, the three players who duked it out in the Semifinals and Finals of the two-month-long tournament, earned their berths, along with free trips to Providence, by competing in eight-man regional qualifying tournaments held for each of the three major regions. The fourth spot was meant for the winner of the 2011 BlizzCon Invitational, but since Mvp won both his regional tournament and BlizzCon, the spot was instead given to BlizzCon runner-up Nestea.
In the first match of the Semifinals, Nestea beat Idra in a fiercely contested ZvZ that went to a close third game. Naniwa won his Semifinals match over Korean Terran Mvp with a tense base trade that ended in Naniwa denying Mvp’s attempts to re-expand to a gold base.
In the pre-Finals interview, Nestea claimed to be very confident against his Swedish opponent because he beat him at the 2011 Blizzcon Invitational in October. It looked like his self-assuredness might be justified when Nestea easily held against Naniwa’s early dark templar in Game 1. Naniwa found himself down by fifty supply after Nestea killed the cloaked Protoss assassins without taking any damage, and was forced to concede soon thereafter to Nestea’s roaches.
Naniwa was not daunted by the loss, though, as he executed a gutsy wall-less one-gate expand in the second game. Naniwa followed up this greedy build with a strong gateway army supported by void rays, which were too much for Nestea’s roaches to handle.
The third and final game of the tournament was an instant classic. It started out with Nestea faking an attack with most of his drones, a bluff which persuaded Naniwa to cancel his expansion nexus and make two cannons in his own mineral line in addition to the two he made to block Nestea’s natural. It looked briefly like Naniwa would attempt a four-gate all-in to end the game, but instead expanded before pressuring Nestea’s front. NesTea tried in vain to destroy Naniwa’s sentries, losing all his zerglings in the process. This prompted an all-out attack from Naniwa that featured a rare use of force fields to block a creeping spine crawler. Nestea barely held the attack, and it looked like the game might settle down into a more normal match until Naniwa blinked a huge stalker force into Nestea’s main, taking out the natural hatchery! On their way out, the stalkers caught a sizable chunk of Nestea’s roaches in the middle of the map, and Naniwa’s expert force fields secured him a huge lead as Nestea was suddenly lacking a third of his bases and half his army. The deficit proved to be too much for the Korean Zerg, and Nestea was forced to concede to Naniwa’s ever-growing gateway army.
This win comes after a series of disappointing losses for Naniwa, including a 2-1 loss to NesTea at BlizzCon and a fall out of the first round of GSL Code A earlier this week. In fact, the unlikely Champion was knocked out of the winners bracket in the very first round of the European Invitational, forcing him to eliminate five out of the seven other player in the tournament to earn a spot in the finals here in Providence. Despite having proven himself against the best of Europe, few gave Naniwa much of a chance of winning a four-man tournament that included the deadly Korean duo of Mvp and Nestea. But Naniwa, having promised to practice twice as hard following his emotionally devastating loss in Code A, beat both of the IM giants, who have six GSL titles between them. Naniwa will be taking at least $3,000 back home to Sweden, in addition to any money he makes in the National Championship tournament this weekend.