Artur Bloch, known to fans of StarCraft II as ‘Nerchio’, is coming into the International Extreme Masters Shanghai (IEM Shanghai) fresh off a major win at Dreamhack Open: Valencia, where he swept the finals with a 4-0 win over Alexis “MarineLord” Eusebio.
For the preceding nine months, Nerchio was consistently ranked among the world’s best players, but hadn’t landed a championship title. This wasn’t necessarily a bad; his disappointing results during professional competition of Heart of the Swarm meant that he entered Legacy of the Void with relatively few expectations. “I think it’s better to be at the top all the time which means consistently getting top eight and higher results as opposed to winning a tournament once and then being remembered forever as a one-time champion,” Nerchio recently told ESL Gaming.
Even so, Nerchio is a clear favorite going into IEM Shanghai; any result besides the top spot would widely be seen as underperforming. But the prolific Zerg player has admitted he hasn’t performed especially well in previous tournaments held in Asia. “I need to break my curse of bad results in Asia because I’ve been there like three times already and the best result I had was top eight, as far as I can remember,” he added.
This may come as good news to Nerchio’s underdog opponent Huang “Cyan” Min in the round of 16. Statistics give Nerchio the edge in the matchup, but, Cyan, a Chinese player, is on his home turf and he has a lot to prove. Together, that might give him the motivation he needs to depose Nerchio early in the tournament.
“I need to break my curse of bad results in Asia.
Should Nerchio make it past Cyan, it’s likely that he’ll come across Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber—a Protoss player who has become of Nerchio’s most frequent rivals. ShoWTimE took two games from Nerchio during DreamHack Valencia, but was ultimately bested by the Polish Zerg. Still, Nerchio holds ShoWTimE in high regard: “I consider ShoWTimE to be the best Protoss player in the foreign scene, so playing against him is always a challenge I look forward to,” Nerchio said. “We both had great wins and tough losses against each other so I think there is quite a bit of story to this rivalry.”
ShoWTimE was originally set to take on Juan Carlos “MajOr” Tena Lopez—a Zerg player from Mexico—but passport issues forced MajOr to drop out of the IEM Shanghai. ShoWTimE will now face Zhou “iAsonu” Hang, a relatively unknown professional Chinese Zerg player. MajOr’s exit from the tournament comes just days before IEM Shanghai is set to begin; both players are at a disadvantage when it comes to the first round match-up.
There’s a notable lack of fierce Korean competitors at IEM Shanghai—though this is an intentional move on the part of the World Championship Series circuit. Strict regulations limit Korean StarCraft players from participating in foreign WCS tournaments, unless they’ve met specific guidelines. Only two Korean players, Zerg players Shin “Hydra” Dong Won and Kim “viOLet” Dong Hwan, met those requirements and will appear in Shanghai.
If you’re looking for more Korean talent, you’re not entirely out of luck. IEM Shanghai is actually hosting Round 3 of StarCraft Proleague, Korean StarCraft’s most prestigious team league. It’s the first time in history the Korean tournament has been held outside of its home country. Two top Korean StarCraft II teams, KT Rolster and Jin Air Green Wings, will take the stage for a best-of-seven Grand Final for Round 3 of the Proleague.
IEM Shanghai begins Thursday, July 28 and runs through Sunday, July 31. The StarCraft Proleague Final will be held Sunday, July 31. A $50,000 prize pool is up for grabs, alongside 5,000 WCS Circuit points.