by Patrick O’Neill (Chobopeon)
In an effort to shed some light on the mammoth event that is MLG Providence, we’re previewing the entire Championship Bracket in a three-part series. Today's players, the ones being seeded into the middle of the Championship Bracket at MLG Providence, are in a unique position– and they know it. The top four seeds are at such an advantage that it may take as few as four games for one of them to take home the $50,000 1st Place prize. The group we’re focusing on today, seeds 7-11, are as few as six games away from the Championship Grand Finals. They're not quite sitting pretty, but victory is within spitting distance.
Each of these five players has been in a position to win an Event at one point this year. The question is whether any of them will be able to hit their strides at the most challenging Event of the year.
Last year went wonderfully for Select at MLG. The Terran player placed well at every 2010 Event and ended the Season as the highest-ranked Terran player in competition.Things even started off well this year for him, as he placed 3rd at MLG Dallas to kick off 2011.
In Columbus, the Koreans arrived and the effect was immediate. Select finished 0-5 in Pool Play during that Event and 1-4 in Anaheim. It took until Raleigh for Select to go an excellent 4-1 in Pool Play, but he dropped out of the Championship Bracket immediately afterwards. However, his finish was enough to earn him a Code A seed and send him overseas to Korea. His time in Korea has served him well. After a quick but respectable run in Code A, Select's exposure to the Korean game led directly to an excellent Blizzcon tournament where he took Mvp to a full three-game series. In last week's Stars Invite in Finland, Select managed to make it to the Finals before falling 4-2 to an in-form Idra.
Select's lackluster 2011 Season has set expectations low for the Dignitas Terran, but his recent results have suggested that there is much more to his game than what we saw in his 0-5 finishes. When you take into account his relatively winnable slice of the Bracket (including Boxer, Slush and Naniwa), it becomes entirely possible that if Select is on form, he can make a run deep into the upper Championship Bracket.
Although he enjoyed primacy in 2010 as one of the best European Terrans around, Sjow has simply not been a part of that discusion lately.
His 2011 MLG Season started well, just like it did for his Dignitas teammate, Select. However, a 3-1 Pool Play finish in Dallas led to a quick elimination from the Championship Bracket. A 2-3 Pool Play finish in Columbus yielded similarly disappointing results. Although he did nab 8th Place in Raleigh, Sjow's results overall have been mediocre in Pool Play and his finishes have depended on the luck of the draw in the Championship Bracket. Thanks to his finish in Raleigh, Sjow did participate in Code A and managed to advance one round before being eliminated. Recently, he took the IeSF Championship for a serious sum of $12,500, but did so against a weak field that garnered the attention of very few.
Sjow may simply be overmatched in his slice of the Bracket. Puma, Ret and Huk are all favorites, and despite the exposure to Korea, it will take a significant turnaround for Sjow to advance.
In a serious upset, Bomber just dropped to Code A from his perch in Code S.
But not to worry, Bomber fans. His past performances in the US bode well for him. Bomber's MLG Raleigh Championship, as well as his 6th Place in MLG Orlando (during which he lost only 2-1 to Idra after a marathon set of games), mean that he knows how to perform on this stage. One has to wonder if the drop to Code A will, if anything, make the Korean Terran hungrier for a victory.
The talent is there and the resume is long for Bomber but in the end, he's got one of the most challenging Brackets in the tournament to deal with. Behind him is Rain, who Bomber ought to beat handily. However, sitting ahead of him are MC and Idra, two of the best players in the entire tournament, two players who have demonstrated their ability to win over Bomber and two players who, judging by their MLG past, seem fated to meet here.
It will take more than a hunger for revenge for Bomber to get past MC and Idra; it will take a step up in play from a Terran who is entering a tournament in which Koreans are simply no longer the presumed favorites.
What a ride MC has been on. The Code S Champion dropped to Code B, then rocketed back to Code S once more after a wild 2nd Place finish in MLG Orlando. And he put in a stellar performance in GSL November. MC has ridden the highs and lows through and through and, at this point, might not be content with anything but a top finish.
MC will have to pay attention to Rain and Bomber, but the true matchup to watch is the potential MC vs. Idra match. This will be the continuation of a rivalry that has spanned the entirety of the 2011 Season. In Columbus, the two traded matches, with MC eventually taking the series that mattered and advancing to 3rd Place. And we're sure you've seen the subsequent taunting.
Both Idra and MC have been undergoing something of a renaissance as of late, with MC returning to Code S and Idra posting numerous top finishes at global tournaments–including a win a IEM China. On the eve of Idra's return to Korea and, one presumes, eventually Code S, this match will provide fireworks and a preview of what is to come.
As far as MLG is concerned, Ret's results have been middling. He's hovered around a 50% win rate all year and has had trouble advancing deep into the Championship Bracket. Outside of MLG, Ret has managed to produce both excellent performances and lackluster ones, becoming one of the most unpredictable Zergs on the scene to watch. Will he live up to his reputation as one of the strongest players in Europe, or will he be unceremoniously knocked out once more?
Considering his Bracket, Ret will have to be at his very best to win a single game in this tournament. He ought to be able to beat Sjow, but Puma and the question mark from the Open Bracket will undoubtedly present signficant challenges. It's hard to not consider Ret an underdog versus both. If he does take a series against that player, he will have to face Huk, the MLG Orlando champion and one of the very best Protoss players in the world.
If Ret takes that series, we might have to shave Slasher's head all over again.
Slush is yet another player whose results have withered over the course of the 2011 Season, from a hit in Dallas to a dud in Orlando. Outside of MLG, Slush has been a part of some of the most entertaining games on record (particularly against Kiwikaki) but that has done little to boost his final placement in tournaments.
Slush's slice of the Bracket is possibly the weakest in Providence, and he is in fact capable of beating everyone in it: Boxer, Select and Naniwa are all susceptible to early exits. However, Slush remains a significant underdog against most of his potential opponents, and his long 2011 slide may have no end in sight.
Keep your eyes on the site over the next few days, as we wrap up the Championship Bracket preview and bring you much, much more SC2 coverage in the buildup to the National Championships.