South Korean Starcraft II professional gamer Lee Leenock Dong Nyung won Major League Gaming's 2011 Championship in Providence on Sunday in a surprising surge, taking out titans from both in and outside South Korea.
The 16-year-old Zerg player will take home $50,000 of the $120,000 prize pool, which is MLG's largest to date.
I can't believe I just won the tournament. I thought it was a dream, Lee said through a translator. He added that he would try to continue to attend tournaments outside of Korea.
Lee's run culminated with a 4-1 victory in the finals over Johan NaNiWa Lucchesi, a Swedish Protoss player that had been dominant until their final series. Lee punished Lucchesi with quick Roach and Zergling agression, at times taking his opponent, who focused on economic build orders, by surprise.
Lucchesi was seeded into MLG's Championship Bracket, thanks to his strong performance throughout the year. In April, he had a breakout performance at MLG Dallas, in which he went 26-2 in games, going undefeated until the finals. Lucchesi seemed poised to win Providence afer crushing a number of Korea's top Zergs, including Lim NesTea Jae Duk and Park DongRaeGu Soo Ho.
In contrast, Lee was playing in his first MLG and fought through a brutal open bracket that had one of the strongest player lists in any tournament to date. After securing his spot in the final bracket, Lee defeated legend Lim BoxeR Yo-Hwan, Paul-David SLush Pagé, and two of the best non-Korean players in Greg IdrA Fields and Chris HuK Loranger. Lee also bested the two most accomplished Korean Terrans, Jung Mvp Jong Hyun and Moon MMA Sung Won, who had both won MLG events earlier in the year.
On Friday, Lucchesi bested NesTea and Mvp to win MLG's Global Invitational, a smaller tournament that would foreshadow his dominance over the next two days. Protoss in particularly performed well against the other races. A recent patch change reduced the price of upgrades and pushed many to adopt a double Forge style against Terran, while a number of games against Zerg were won with Sentry drops in the main base.
Although a slew of dominant Korean Terrans attended the tournament, including Choi Bomber Ji Sung and Lee MarineKing Jung Hoon, Mvp was the only Terran to make it to the top eight. And while a Korean player ultimately won the championship, a number of European and North Americans placed highly, once again suggesting that the skill discrepency is narrow among the top players.
The events capped MLG's explosive growth in 2011. Although viewership numbers weren't immediately available for the event, which was broadcast through multiple online video streams, there were 181,000 concurrent viewers for MLG's Orlando tournament in October -- comparable to viewership for some cable channels. There have been rumors that MLG is seeking to bring Starcraft II to television -- an unprecendented move outside of South Korea, where its predecessar, Starcraft: Brood War is broadcast on multiple stations.
MLG will return next year for another series of tournaments.