During IEM Kiev there was a short match in round 1 of the Starcraft 2 playoffs between Millennium’s Feast and Slayers MMA. After the game Mr. Bitter, a commentator at the event, interviewed Feast and we had a chance to hear about his qualification for the tournament, the games versus MMA, and his hopes for IEM Sao Paolo.
During the interview Feast explained why he thinks he lost to MMA, discussing how his prediction of MMA’s possible strategy did not pan out and left him trapped in an all-in situation:
[2:11] Feast: I think, uh, yeah like on pretty much every single game of the series I was expecting him to all-in me because he did like hellions and stuff like that. So I almost never went into high-tech units like high-templars or colossus. So when he took expansions after that I pretty much had to all-in. So it was a pretty short series, and I’m not used to that style of play. So I’m (unclear) I lost but, I also think, um, I had my chances and um, if we play another series I might win it. So I’m pretty happy overall. (Mr. Bitter interview with Feast at IEM Kiev)
Since this was Feast’s first tournament there was not much expectation for him to do well. Regardless he managed to play strongly in the group stage and defeat two of the world’s top players, Team Liquid’s Her0 and compLexity’s QXC. During those games he showed excellent control and strategy while playing very composed games. However, that superiority did not carry over into his MMA match.
Part of the issue for new tournament goers is the experience difference compared to long-time tournament attendees. In a tournament, unlike ladder, athletes are playing a specific person, who comes with a history of common strategies as well as a reputation. The best players know their opponents and try to exploit their weak points, but this can backfire easily if you begin to fear their strengths. Feast said during the interview that he was expecting an all-in based on his early skirmishes, and I think that he ended up playing his opponents game instead of his own. Going into a match aware of your opponent’s history while still managing to maintain your own playstyle is an ability that develops best by playing live competitions.
The second problem Feast encountered was the game just ran away from him, “it was a pretty short series, and I’m not used to that style of play.” Almost all sports players are familiar with the feeling of losing the momentum. Matches seem to speed by, nothing seems to work out like you want, your opponent manages to control the situation despite your best effort, and sometimes small things get on your nerves. In Starcraft 2, just like other sports, momentum has a scoring side and a mental side. Casters usually provide us with all the information that tells us who is winning and losing based on the numbers. It is also pretty easy to see when mental momentum doesn’t seem to match the score though. For example, in Feast’s first game versus MMA when he had a resounding forty-supply lead he was still being backed into a corner and trading at a loss with MMA’s army, “[11:40] RotterdaM: Even in such a bad spot MMA is making this close. How is MMA making this close!?”
Momentum is a complicated situation that is hard to control. First of all, it exists outside of any individual competitor, occurring in the interaction between them, but it manifests itself in mistakes and emotions from each player. Also it only happens over time as a score or playstyle fluctuates. Sometimes it can be very durable, or other times shatter with the loss of a single point. When momentum is with a player, they describe the sensation as: feeling in control, relaxed with sharp mind and senses, lucky things seem to happen, lack of worry about losing points, and a feeling of inevitability about winning. Despite the difficulty of creating or reversing momentum, there are certain things anybody can try in order to have an effect on their situation.
When you are dominating!
- Stay away from dangerous, risky play
- Understand your score lead and how to abuse it
- Keep in mind how you achieved the momentum
- Keep your competitive spirit fully on
- Win the first encounter (or next encounter) at any cost
- Watch for their changes in tactics and expect them
- Take it up a gear
When you have an edge in momentum
- All of the above as well as:
- Control your reaction to point loss or mistakes. It’s not what goes wrong that matters, it is your reaction to it
- Take small bites out of your opponent to wear them down more
- Minimize any opportunity for rest, especially between games or engagements
- Don’t choke (easier said than done)
When your opponent has an edge in momentum
- Keep up your competitive spirit
- Control your body language
- Scout more often and heighten your map awareness to spot potential turning points
- In your mind, put yourself in the lead to help keep a relaxed play style and reduce mistakes
- Review your tactics
When you are getting dominated
- Do not lose hope
- Treat each encounter as a new fight, take your time and play slowly (methodically)
- Have a cunning strategy ready for last ditch efforts
- Take extra time between games and spend it going over your strengths (and not your mistakes)
I think the best advice for new tournament players is to choose their best game/playstyle and stick to it no matter who your opponent. It’s far easier to control the momentum when you play your favorite way. For new competitors, their biggest strength is that the opponent does not know them, and their biggest weakness is their ability to be unsettled; so they shouldn’t think outside the box (unless that’s their playstyle). In this week’s Funday Monday, Day9 showed a fantastic example of TCPMathmick sticking to his game [10:30] through to the end at all costs.