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Name: Alex Gardner
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IEM American Championships SC2 Preview

The IEM's first regional championship takes place in New York City this weekend, with the North American Championships taking place. The StarCraft 2 tournament will be the first major regional tournament of StarCraft 2's competitive life-cycle, and Alex "AGar" Gardner previews the coming tournament.  

The Intel Extreme Masters North American Championships take over New York City this weekend, bringing with it 8 top StarCraft 2 players to compete for a top prize of $4,000 and spots in the Season 5 Global Finals in March 2011. The competition will be fierce, as all eight players are top caliber, but in the end, one will stand tall. Here's a preview of who to watch out for.


Group A

United States of America Terran Ben "MurDeR" Cardwell - vVv Gaming

Canada Protoss Chris "HuK" Loranger - TLAF-Liquid

Canada Terran Andrew "Drewbie" Mosey - Root Gaming

Canada Protoss Ryan "suggy" Hyryczynski - Root Gaming

The clear favorite in this group is MLG Raleigh champion Chris "HuK" Loranger.  Huk has the experience of being on stage in several high pressure situations, including the MLG Raleigh finals as well as playing in the IEM Global Challenge at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany earlier this year. His strong play has yet to be taken down by any North American opponents, and don't expect it to happen any time soon. The next spot is up for grabs. Ben "MurDeR" Cardwell has no major offline tournament experience leading up to this event, but he came out of a strong group in the first group stage matches that included Group B participants Kevin "qxc" Riley and Strieb "Silver" Roman. Andrew "Drewbie" Mosey is the leader of the highly talented Root Gaming, who managed to qualify five players for this stage before one player had to withdraw. His roots go back to being a dominant 2v2 player in Brood War, and he has had a decent amount of success in tournaments reasonly and a strong lan performance. Rounding out the group is Ryan "suggy" Hyryczynski, a lesser  known player on the Root Gaming roster, but a threat none-the-less. His standing on the roster is a strong enough credit to his name, but he has results to back it up. He qualified from a tough group that included group B's Jian Carlo "Fenix" Morayra Alejo among others. He scored a high finish at MLG Raleigh, making it to the upper bracket's Round of 16 before running into Huk and then losing to FnaticMSI's Payam "TTOne" Toghyan in the lower bracket.

Prediction: 1. Canada Chris "HuK" Loranger 2. Canada Andrew "Drewbie" Mosey


Group B

United States of America Terran Kevin "qxc" Riley - Root Gaming

Canada Terran Strieb "Silver" Roman - compLexity Gaming

Canada Protoss Jonathan "KiWiKaKi" Garneau - Root Gaming

Peru Terran Jian Carlo "Fenix" Morayra Alejo - FnaticMSI 

Group B, compared to Group A, is wide open. Each player in this group has his own threat to the rest of his competitors that make him a likely favorite to walk away from the group. Kevin "qxc" Riley was a top Terran player in beta who placed well in a number of tournaments, forging many of his own builds and creative play. His strength definitely lies in his mind, where he is leaps and bounds above other players. Strieb "Silver" Roman managed to qualify for the tournament when Root Gaming's Rori "CauthonLuck" Bryant-Raible had to be replaced at the last minute. However, Silver's road to qualifying was filled with upsets, as he intially took down Greg "IdrA" Fields, qxc and Huk in successive sets in his qualifier cup. He then came one game shy of qualifying for the next round, falling behind qxc and Mudrer. He surprised a lot of players with his strong play when many players hadn't heard of him prior to his run to the group stages. Jonathan "KiWiKaKi" Garneau is well known throughout the community after his strong run in MLG Raleigh, falling just short to TLAF-Liquid's Huk in the finals. His Protoss play is on par with the best Protoss players in the game, and he has some of the best practice partners in his Root Gaming teammates. Also, playing only PvT in the group stages can help his practice time quite a bit. Finally we have Jian Carlo "Fenix" Morayra Alejo, FnaticMSI's top Terran player. Fenix was a top Brood War player, travelling to the World Cyber Games grand finals several times and qualifying for many other tournaments, including the round of 8 in the PokerStrategy.com TSL. His Terran play is extremely strong, and he is consistently at the top of many tournaments and competitions. His extensive Brood War LAN experience will help catapult him through many of the pitfalls that first-time LAN-goers would suffer, and his strong mechanics can carry him past many opponents.

Predictions: 1. Peru Jian Carlo "Fenix" Morayra Alejo 2. Canada Jonathan "KiWiKaKi" Garneau


Elimination Bracket

The bracket stages are going to be quite simple, but the obvious choice would be Huk in the finals, playing whoever wins Group B. Of the other three players in Group B, Drewbie likely has the best shot of taking down whoever comes out on top of Group B, while players like Fenix and Kiwikaki have the upper-hand on many players. In the finals, Huk should be the obvious favorite. He showed an insane domination in MLG Raleigh, losing a grand total of five games as he marches through a field of players that included Suggy, qxc, CauthonLuck and Kiwikaki twice on his way to the championship. Fenix is probably the most likely to take the other spot alongside Huk in the finals, but his play is still a step below Huk's. He should put up a good fight, but Huk should be your IEM North American champion.

Predictions 

1. Canada Chris "HuK" Loranger

2. Peru Jian Carlo "Fenix" Morayra Alejo

3. Canada Jonathan "KiWiKaKi" Garneau 

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