Teamliquid.net - After a great first set of rounds including some tremendous upsets, The Highlander is gearing up for the quarterfinals and semifinals today, featuring some of the biggest names of the game.
The Highlander kicked off with thirty-two of the biggest names of foreign StarCraft, and now only eight remain. For Terran, IdrA, BRAT_OK Tarson and after a shocking upset, HoRRoR remain to represent the Pride of War. For Protoss, it is White-Ra and IefNaij, the ESC teammates, showing for Auir. And for the Zerg, DinOt and XiaOzI are all that remain to control the Swarm and please the Overmind.
The first match of the day will pit ESC's Zerg DinOt against the dark horse, mTw.HoRRoR. The German Terran upset ret, a heavy favorite to contest IdrA for a bid in the finals, 2-1 in the Round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals after a solid 2-0 thrashing of Old School Reborn's GoTunK. DinOt, meanwhile, had a tough road lined with teammates to make the Round of 8. The young Chilean had to deal with Strelok first in the Round of 32. His teammate had beaten him 2-1 a little over a month earlier in the Round of 16 for Valor. However, DinOt came out with a vengeance and scored a 2-1 victory over the Ukranian Terran. Next on his path was another teammate – Polish Protoss MaNa. MaNa, who had recently really made splashes on the scene, provided to be less of a challenge than Strelok, and DinOt dispatched of him with relative ease.
For this series, I'm picking HoRRoR to come out on top. The German Terran has to be riding high after his second place finish in WCG Germany (behind boy wonder Kolll) and is looking like he is playing some really strong StarCraft lately. DinOt lucked out in the fact that Strelok and MaNa don't have extremely strong vZ game, but after eliminating ret, it's a safe bet to say HoRRoR's got some damn good TvZ.
The next quarterfinal pits IdrA, the hottest foreigner in the scene right now, against XiaOzI, a strong Zerg living in Canada by way of China. IdrA, the heavy favorite in this tournament, opened up on DIMAGA in the Round of 32, winning 2-1 over the Ukranian Zerg. Then he faced Peruvian Zerg CaStrO and picked up another 2-1 win. His TvZ is possibly his strongest matchup, as showcased by his recent win in the ESL major series, where he dismantled Mondragon 3-0 in the earlier stages then beat ret in two of the three best-of-five series that they played. Meanwhile, XiaOzI, a replacement for the tournament, made his way past Shauni and NarutO in four games. He's a darkhorse in the tournament, as he is always a solid threat.
Anyone who doesn't pick IdrA for this set is foolish. The two met a few months ago in the SC2GG Star League semifinals, where IdrA came out victorious in four games in his path to winning the whole thing. His TvZ is the strongest outside of Korea, only contested by ret's right now. His gameplay in these foreign tournaments has been absolutely insane and he rarely loses anymore. Look for absolute domination from start to finish.
The seminfinal from this group should be a one-sided affair. I don't expect XiaOzI to make it to the semifinal, so it boils down to IdrA vs. HoRRoR or IdrA vs. DinOt. If he faces DinOt, he's got an easy ticket to the finals and a prize. DinOt's ZvT may be good enough to take down Strelok or even HoRRoR, but he's got a miniscule chance in a best-of-five versus IdrA. If HoRRoR makes it, the series should be interesting. While IdrA has been playing absolutely dominant in tournaments lately, he's had to deal with very little TvT – admittedly his worst matchup. While HoRRoR isn't known for being a great TvT player, he is known for being unorthodox in his play, which is something IdrA has even said is a counter to his playstyle. While I don't think HoRRoR will be able to take it all the way in a best-of-five, I think he stands a legitimate chance against IdrA.
The first quarterfinal of the lower half of the bracket sees a TvP between White-Ra and Tarson. Tarson is one of those consistently good-but-not-great Terrans of the foreign scene. He consistently makes tournaments and leagues, but he never really wows anyone. This is his chance to break out. He beat mTw.iNfeRnaL in the Round of 32 2-0, who was a stronger opponent in the tournament. Then he beat the Spanish Zerg ToT)SquaLL( in the Round of 16, 2-0 again, to qualify for the quarterfinals. His opponent, White-Ra, is a heavy favorite to make the finals. His PvT is easily described – awesome. He is a solid all around player capable of taking games off of any foreigner at any time. White-Ra faced off against G5 in the Round of 32, easily handling him 2-0. His next match was against the one and only Mondragon, the ZvP King of old. In a classic fight in the rivalry between ESC (ex-MYM) and Templars of Twilight, the two went toe-to-toe. White-Ra came out victorious and moved on to the Round of 8.
I think White-Ra is the clear-cut favorite. Like I said, Tarson is good, but not great. White-Ra is talented enough to win big, and I think he should easily overcome Tarson here and move on to the semifinals.
The second quarterfinal features a rematch of the TeamLiquid Star League quarterfinals between Russian Terran RoX.KIS.BRAT_OK and ESC.IefNaij. When these two met over a year ago, IefNaij was on a tear to the title of TSL champion, while BRAT_OK was blazing a path with his awesome TvP. Since then, IefNaij has slightly fallen off, becoming a strong clan war player for ESC, while BRAT_OK is just becoming an all around monster, but his TvP is especially deadly. His two wins have been over fast-rising opponents, taking DeSka down in three games and Kolll as well in three games. Meanwhile, IefNaij had his first opponent in Machine, whom he defeated 2-1. Then he had his teammate, Dreiven, to face. IefNaij's PvP was solid enough to take Dreiven down 2-1, moving on to the Round of 8.
My pick for the match is BRAT_OK in this one. His TvP is absolutely phenomenal and IefNaij, while playing well lately, hasn't looked untouchable recently. I think that a close series goes to the Russian Terran in the end.
For the semifinal, again, I'm not including Tarson, I think the odds are stacked too far against him, and that White-Ra is going to move on. If IefNaij is to advance against White-Ra, I think White-Ra is going to pull through and set a date with the finals. IefNaij's PvP has looked a little shaky recently, and I think a second best-of-five versus his teammate is going to be too much for him to handle. However, if BRAT_OK advances, I think he is going to give White-Ra five hard games. I'm picking him as a slight favorite over White-Ra, but the games will definitely be top-caliber and great to watch.
The later stages of The Highlander are going down today, with the first group playing at Noon EST and the second playing at 3 PM EST. Be sure to try and catch these games live at TeamLiquid, as they will be a bunch of excellent series.