Ahh, the patented South Korean trophy kiss. In six years of professional StarCraft II, no non-Korean has had the opportunity to smooch any of the nation’s (lip) glossy StarCraft II trophies, let alone the prestigious KeSPA Cup. Until yesterday, that is. The American StarCraft II Protoss player, Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft, surprised even himself, becoming the first foreigner to French the heck out of a major Korean tournament trophy. (Maybe ‘French the heck out of’ it is a bit too generous, but it was a solid kiss. Soulful even. If metal could get hickeys … ). Some would even say he made it to first base.
The last time a non-Korean player has touched their lips to a StarCraft trophy was 16 years ago, when Neeb was two years old and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” topped the Billboard charts.Canadian Protoss player Guillaume “Grrrr…” Patry (handles were shit back then) won the Hanaro Tongshin OnGameNet StarLeague (OSL) tournament back in the StarCraft: Brood War days.
It was a solid kiss.
“I’m honestly surprised that my first tournament victory is a Korean tournament, because I haven’t even been winning WCS tournaments,” Neeb said during his winner’s interview at the KeSPA Cup. His opponents likely were surprised too, but maybe they shouldn’t have been given how volatile StarCraft II has been lately. I mean, they probably should have factored in just how good Neeb has been playing too. He had a perfect run in his group stage, where even formerly teamless GSL Code S winner ByuN didn’t move through to the bracket stage (though they didn’t face each other). No kissies for Puppy boy.
Neeb’s secret? He’s really really good at Protoss versus Protoss. English StarCraft II Proleague caster Brendan Valdes called him the best in the world at PvP. But Neeb said he’s just doing the same build he’s been doing all along. “I’m good at the macro play, though,” he said. (Snogging, too.) “My opening gets into the mid-game and even with [my] opponent every game. I always practice the mid-game, and a lot of Koreans—I think—try to kill you early on or something.” So, PvP is fine, but the real question as far as I’m concerned is “does he practice kissing”? Neeb didn’t say. In any case, Neeb pushed through the mid-game and into the macro-style games he prefers. There were very few times in the KeSPA Cup playoffs where another Protoss player got a second Nexus before Neeb.
Things are looking pretty good for Neeb.
The only matchup where Neeb seemed to falter (he was dreaming of that kiss, I hear) was his first bracket set against Zerg player Pet. Neeb took the first two games from Pet fairly easily, sticking to his standard style of play. Pet turned toward aggression—an early pool and a zergling drop—to snag two wins back from Neeb. But once Neeb got a handle on Pet’s switched up play style, he ultimately emerged the winner. Baneling all-in? Nothing for our casanova.
All in all, things are looking pretty good for Neeb going into the 2016 World Championship Series Global Playoffs and Finals at BlizzCon in November. He’s been placed in a group with two Protoss players, Korean players Zest and Patience, and one Zerg, the Norwegian, Snute. Neeb started to get a bit more confident about his chances as his KeSPA interview went on. So how will he do? “I think I can beat any Korean player at BlizzCon,” Neeb said, blowing a kiss to his fans.
(Okay, he didn’t blow any kisses.)