This Week in Competitive Gaming – August 1

Naniwa on the move, Evil Geniuses prevail, Moscow 5 en route to GamesCom, Seed wins GSL, and what to watch this weekend.

Quantic Releases Naniwa

Swedish Starcraft II superstar Johan "Naniwa" Luchessi has once again found himself looking for his next move, as he has been released from his contract by the Quantic Gaming team. The departure from Quantic marks an end to an 8-month rollercoaster ride that saw Naniwa controversially removed from the GomTV StarLeague (GSL) just days after being signed and subsequently reaching the Quarterfinals in back-to-back events in the highest "Code S" league.

Quantic was Naniwa's fourth team in less than two years, having been transferred over by Complexity in December of last year. His time in Complexity saw him earn second place at the Major League Gaming 2011 Championships main event, while at the same time beating GSL multi-time champions Jung "Mvp" Jong Hyun and Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk in the MLG Global Invitational. Dignitas was his home before that, where he made his first big splash at a major event by winning MLG Dallas going undefeated. He has also seen time in teams Empire, Meet Your Makers, Serious Gaming and others during his Warcraft III days. Now, the search begins once again.

"Despite people's popular belief, I have no ill feelings towards Quantic, nor do they have any ill feelings towards me" Naniwa told GameSpot. "Usually when people say these words, they don't mean it, but I believe I'm known as a guy who's 'no bullshit'. I'm very grateful for the time I had in Quantic, but I felt that I wanted to value my own happiness above not doing anything about it, so I decided to try my luck other places. Quantic kept everything they promised me and me to them. I sincerely wish them the best!"

Naniwa's track-record of bouncing from team to team, and potentially abrasive personality has made him a tough fit for teams to sign, including Quantic. One team executive told me that Quantic had been trying to sell Naniwa for the last 4-5 months. As of this moment, teams Complexity, Team Liquid, Fnatic, SK Gaming, Mousesports and FXOpen are not bidding. Sources have one of Naniwa's former teams, Dignitas, as the lead team in the chase right now, as Naniwa still has a good relationship with Dignitas Owner Michael O'Dell. Evil Geniuses were looking to make a move themselves prior to his release, but did not come to terms with Quantic. They are said to be completely out of the running now.

If I had to guess, I would go with Dignitas as the final landing spot for Naniwa when this is all said and done. He and Michael have kept a good relationship since his departure, which is saying a lot considering the situations that Naniwa has found himself in over the course of his career. Although Dignitas just picked up World Championship Series UK breakout star Paul "JonnyREcco" Whyte, they could use a punch to their lineup which has seemed stale as of late. Beyond the pickup of JonnyREcco, Dignitas staples Jeffrey "SjoW" Brusi and Ryoo "SeleCT" Kyung Hyun have not performed as of late, and Samayan "BlinG" Kay has had his own issues. Naniwa was Dignitas' biggest player when he was on the team, and he would be instantly again if he returned. The main issue I could see preventing the move would be whether or not Dignitas is able and willing to pay Naniwa's value, which is quite high right now as a result of his stint in the GSL.

With Evil Geniuses having a foothold in Korea, that was most likely the ideal choice for Naniwa, but will not be happening anytime soon now. Naniwa hasn't made so many friends over the years, and helped kill his chances with EG, among a number of other team. He will be returning to Korea, but doesn't have a home to go to as he will not be staying at the StarTale house. Where does he go now is the question; hopefully we'll have an answer soon.

Evil Geniuses Kickoff Street Fighter 25th

The first major tournament after EVO 2012, The debut event on the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Tour kicked-off this past weekend in Austin, Texas, featuring Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition, Street Fighter X Tekken, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, and Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix. Evil Geniuses duo Justin Wong and Ricky Ortiz won 3 of the 4 tournaments--teaming together for Street Fighter X Tekken--and have booked themselves a spot for the Championships in San Francisco later this year.


Street Fighter IV Grand Finals on TwitchTV

"The tourney in Austin was a successful tournament for Team Evil Geniuses as we qualified for three out of four games," Austin winner and multiple-time EVO Champion Justin Wong told GameSpot. "It was a hard road for all of us, and it will be a grind all the way until the Grand Finals in San Francisco."

This is a good motivational win for both Justin and Ricky, who had such high expectations going into EVO 2012 after CEO 2012, only to both disappoint. Justin, who took both the Street Fighter and Marvel title at CEO 2012, dropped toward the bottom of the top 16 in Street Fighter at EVO, and top 8 for Marvel. Great results for most players, but not where Justin wanted to be at the end of the weekend. Ricky didn't make the top 16 in either game, and although the pair earned second place in Street Fighter X Tekken, they were smashed in the Grand Finals by Korea's Lee "Infiltration" Seon Woo and Ryan "LAUGH" Ahn.

Justin didn't play Marvel in Austin, but he will take the win and the emotional boost into Super Battle Opera 2012 this weekend in Japan, where he has the opportunity to bring the US home a SBO title that they've never been able to accomplish before. With the Olympics currently in full swing, that would be a bigger stamp on the competitive fighting game community than anything he could have done at EVO.

Moscow 5 charge into GamesCom

Russian League of Legends team Moscow 5 won the European Challenger Circuit in Poland this past weekend at the famous Zolte Tarasy mall, taking home $15,000 with a win over their European rivals, Counter Logic Europe. The win puts Moscow 5 back in the driving seat for the next major event, the League of Legends European Championships at GamesCom in just two weeks. They know they still have to work to do, and that CLG Europe is right there, among other teams.

"We didn't consolidate the number one spot by beating CLG Europe in Poland," Moscow 5 Captain Alexey "Alex_ich" Ichetovkin told GameSpot. "If beat them for example at three LAN tournaments in a row we can say 'Moscow 5 is better than CLG' but at the moment it's just 1:1. They are really one of the best teams and we can't underestimate such a strong opponent."

Just a few weeks ago at DreamHack Summer in Sweden, CLG Europe got the better of Moscow 5, sweeping them in both the finals and the group stage. The loss lit a fire under Moscow 5 to try some different things this time around. They may not consider themselves the best team, but many people do.

"I guess I'd have to say yes they are the best right now," said League of Legends Broadcaster Leigh "Deman" Smith. "They've won 3 LAN's now and overcome CLG, the only team to ever beat them offline to date."

That only loss came a few weeks ago at DreamHack Summer. Moscow 5 is widely considered to be the best of the North American and European teams, but we'll only find out once they start attending more international events. They haven't been at an MLG, IPL, or OGN event, and because of that it's hard to judge where they really stand. After what I expect to be a great performance at the European Championships at GamesCom, we won't have to wait too much longer.

Seed crowned GSL Champion

The third season of the GomTV StarLeague 2012 Code S Championships wrapped up on the beaches of Busan, South Korea. In the end, Korean Protoss Ahn "Seed" Sahng Won of Incredible Miracle took out fellow Korean Protoss SK Gaming's Jang "MC" Min Chul winning 4-1 in a surprisingly quick grand final set. With the win, Seed earns his first GSL Code S Championship and 500 Million in Korean Won, worth roughly $42,500. This is his first major event victory in all of StarCraft II, and he is also the first Protoss GSL Champion in 10 seasons, breaking a long streak of Terran and Zerg domination.

Apollo: "I think his series went perfectly to plan."

"I think Seed came into the series more prepared mentally with his build choice," StarCraft broadcast analyst Shaun "Apollo" Clark told GameSpot. "The way he would execute everything, I think his series went perfectly to plan and caught MC off guard who may not have expected a fast aggressive style approach. I think MC could have provided a better fight, but I think he was caught by surprise and wasn't expecting this, especially in a matchup that can be very difficult to come from behind in."

The win gives his team Incredible Miracle a spectacular eight GSL Championships, and they're now the first team to win with each race. Four-times champion Jung "MVP" Jong Hyun and three-times Zerg Champion Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk had been holding it down for the team throughout the last year and a half, but individual performances as of late from Seed, Hwang "LosirA" Kang Ho, Choi "YongHwa" Yong Hwa, and Kang "First" Hyun Woo have made IM a scarier team than they've ever been.

SK Gaming Shut Down Counter-Strike 1.6 Division

Team SK Gaming has officially shut down its legendary Counter-Strike 1.6 team, having supported the game and the community for over a decade. The decision was made due to the declining popularity of CS 1.6. The team has won dozens of international titles over the years, dating back to the historic squad consisting of Emil "HeatoN" Christensen and Abdisamad "SpawN" Mohamed, along with newer stars Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Patrik 'f0rest' Lindberg. They left the following statement regarding CS, and the potential for CS: Global Offensive:

"There is not much to say at this point, really, but to thank each and every player that wore the SK jersey in the past to play CS 1.6 for us. As an organization we are one of the most successful teams of all times and all those names contributed to this. With that being said, the community can rest assured that we are looking deeply into CS:GO right now and will have players for that game in the future if it makes it into eSports just as 1.6 did. Let's wait and see what the future holds."

CS:GO will almost certainly be the title that brings the Counter-Strike community back together. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, and Valve has a lot of weight on their shoulders.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND:

QuakeCon 2012 – One of the last major international tournaments for Quake Live, as defending champion Shane "Rapha" Hendrixson will look to square off against 2010 Champion Alexey "Cypher" Yanushevsky and longtime American rival Tim "DaHanG" Fogarty of Evil Geniuses. Stream will be free, details announced soon: Quakecon.org

Super Battle Opera 2012 – The Tougeki Super Battle Opera 2012 Grand Finals in Tokyo, Japan, featuring the world's best fighting game players. Potentially the only event in the world featuring more skill than EVO; players from across the globe are traveling to Japan to try their luck. The US is sending Justin Wong and KillerKai for Marvel vs Capcom 3, with Eduardo "PR Balrog" Pérez, Abdullatif "Latif" Alhmili, and Kevin "Dieminion" Landon for Street Fighter 4. You will have to pay to watch.

ASUS ROG 2012 – Finland's premier StarCraft II tournament, featuring players Taeja, Huk, Sase, Hero, MC, Puma, Idra, and Korea's ForGG making his first appearance on foreign soil. Detailed schedule and stream info can be found at: teamliquid.net

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