TaeJa - From the practice hall to the podium (part 1)

Part one of the career story of SC2 champion TaeJa goes from his early days to the three month run of becoming a foreign tournament monster.

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"Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body."

-Seneca

Yun 'TaeJa' Young Seo is one of the most accomplished foreign tournament players in StarCraft2 history, winner of eight notable offline tournaments outside of his native South Korea. Yet Team Liquid's monster Terran was once upon a time the player who put up results in practice but couldn't break through into Code S, a familiar sob story from the deep talent pool of the Korean scene. In SlayerS he was just another Terran, his name's meaning ("heir apparent"), seemingly more fit for MMA than him. That was all to change and the world would never look at TaeJa the same way again.

Part one of the TaeJa story covers the Wings of Liberty portion of TaeJa's career, spanning the two and a half year competitive journey that saw TaeJa emerge as a team league monster and then put together three tournament wins in less than three months. MLG champion, Dreamhack champion and ASUS ROG champion. TaeJa finished Wings of Liberty as one of the top three or four Terrans to have played that version of StarCraft2, with all of his significant accomplishments coming after the Terran era of dominance had already ended.

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A boy with a dream

"I was better than my friends at Starcraft since I was in elementary school, so my dream then was to become a pro-gamer. After I entered middle school and started studying more, I gave up on it briefly. When I was in 10th grade, Starcraft II came out and I started playing for fun. My Korean teacher suggested that I give the GSL Open Season One qualifiers a shot, and it ended up rekindling my dream of becoming a pro-gamer."

-TaeJa on his introduction to StarCraft (TeamLiquid, 2012)

As a young child, TaeJa's parents ran a PC Bang (the Korean name for an internet cafe). As a result, the young TaeJa encountered the original StarCraft, the multiplayer RTS game that had become a cultural phenomenon in his home country of South Korea in the late 90s and through into the 2000s. Born only three years prior to StarCraft's release, the game's competitive longevity meant TaeJa played it during his school days, but study eventually took over as a primary focus, as it does for many Korean youths.

As a 15 year old, TaeJa began playing StarCraft II for fun, with the game released in the Summer of 2010. He picked Terran as his race due to watching the play of Ensnare during the beta period and considering him to be almost unfairly good. After the youngster had begun placed highly on the ladder, a teacher encouraged him to try to qualify for the first GSL (GOMtv StarCraft League) Open season. So it was that TaeJa entered the preliminaries of the inaugural season, progressing through into the main tournament. After a walkover victory put him into the Ro32, he was defeated by the Zerg player Fruitdealer, who went on to win the tournament.

"Back then, I was studying hard, even staying for evening study sessions at school. I was barely able to practice, so I told myself I'd just participate for the sake of the experience. I got a walkover in the RO64, so I think I got too nervous for the RO32 match. Since then, I always tell myself not to get nervous when I play games."

-TaeJa on the circumstances surrounding his GSL Open S1 run (TeamLiquid, 2012)

Following that GSL debut, TaeJa returned to his studies, but something had changed inside of him and the academic life no longer felt like the right one for the boy who had dreamed of becoming a professional gamer back in BW. Though his parents were opposed to his decision to pursue a professional StarCraft2 career, TaeJa was supported by his brother and embarked on a quest to become a full-time professional gamer.

Learning to walk

Following GSL Open S1, TaeJa's team (NEX) merged with clan Zenith to form ZeNEX. After failing to qualify for the second and third open seasons of GSL, TaeJa's Ro32 finish in the first was still enough to put him into a tiebreaker to decide who would be granted a seed for the Code A portion of GSL January in 2011. In line with his more recent results, TaeJa was unable to qualify. The next couple of months brought no upturn in results, as TaeJa stumbled through team league losses in the Zotac Team Invitational Season 2, losing ace matches and eventually not even being fielded in the playoff rounds, as well as failing to qualify for GSL May Code A, falling to team-mate Line.

Around May of 2011, TaeJa attended a try-out for team SlayerS, a StarCraft2 founded and headlined by Korean BW legend BoxeR, successfully passing his trial. Despite making it into SlayerS, TaeJa did not move into the team house, preferring instead to maintain his own practice routine at home. On May 16th the TaeJa made his first mark of significance, all-killing ZeNEX, his old team, in GSTL May. Nevertheless, he was far from established yet, on a team filled with Terran talent and unused in the final of that team league, likely due to a lost game in the semi-final.

"People who have made their splash in the GSTL seem to make it through to the preliminaries in the next season. I will try my best to get good results."

-TaeJa, speaking in an interview after his GSTL May All-Kill of ZeNEX (2011, PlayXP)

Showcasing online

At the end of May, TaeJa won CSN's CSN Clash of the Houses: SlayerS online tournament, defeating four of his team-mates. That qualified him to a main event of players from the other team house tournaments, with the first prize being a trip to MLG Columbus. TaeJa reached the final, but lost in the final game to July, missing out on the trip to the USA. That online success was followed by a momentary downturn, as rising Zerg talent DongRaeGu eliminated him from the LG Cinema 3D Special League, but from then on TaeJa embarked on a truly exceptional run of online form.

"I have time on Saturdays, and I wanted to become more known among foreigners. Of course, there's the prize money as well."

-TaeJa, explaining why he began competing in ESV TV Korean Weekly tournaments in 2011 (TeamLiquid, 2012)

Over the rest of 2011, TaeJa would continually enter online tournaments in Korea, particularly the ESV TV Korean Weekly, a tournament specifically organised to give a chance for Code A and Code B players to prove their worth. TaeJa would finish first in six of these tournaments, twice going on runs of three straight weekly wins. Adding in his two victories in MyCall StarCraft II League Seasons, TaeJa's online form for the year saw him quickly catch the eye of those looking out for rising talent within the Korean scene.

Climbing the individual league ladder

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That run all began with a second place in the ESV TV Korean Weekly Season 1 #5. A month later TaeJa added some more team league success, that would bring him to the attention of foreign players, as he all-killed the hybrid F.United team composed of famous Korean ex-WC3 pros (SocceR and Moon) and top foreign players (ThorZaIN and NaNiwa). At the same time TaeJa was able to make a run through GSL August's Code A tournament, going all the way to the semi-final, where he lost to team-mate GanZi.

That Code A run granted TaeJa the chance to compete in the Up/Down matches for a Code S spot. Defeating MarineKing, JYP and viOLet was enough to earn TaeJa his first ever GSL Code S spot. 20 days later the SlayerS Terran made his Code S debut, only to find himself immediately eliminated by DongRaeGu and Polt. Going undefeated in the Up/Down matches ensured TaeJa a second chance at Code S for the following season.

The chance to play more elite Code S level players was just around the corner, as TaeJa had been making his way through the regional qualifiers into the national qualifier for the WCG. In the Ro16 of the qualifier, TaeJa beat MC, former two time GSL champion, but fell twice to Mvp, three time GSL champion. Mvp would go on to represent Korea at the Grand Finals and win the gold medal.

Another run at GSL and the first trip overseas

GSL November began with TaeJa's first Code S win, defeating BW legend NaDa, but then had him lose to CoCa and Oz to be sent, yet again, to the Up/Down matches. The young Terran went 3-2 in his group, but a key loss to SlayerS founder BoxeR meant he missed out on a third straight Code S appearance. In February of 2012 TaeJa won the Grand Prix for the ESV TV Korean Weekly Season 2. The first prize was an expenses paid trip to the ASUS ROG Winter tournament in Helsinki, Finald. At the tournament TaeJa defeated foreign players elfi, Jinro and Adelscott, but fell to Korean Terran Polt in three maps in the Ro16, the latter going on to win the tournament outright.

In the days before ASUS ROG Winter and following it, TaeJa successfully navigated his Code A matches, earning a third appearance into GSL Code S and the hope of at last progressing from the first group stage.

A change of team

On the 29th of March it was announced that TaeJa had officially joined foreign team Team Liquid. The team acknowledged the efforts of ESV staff member Diamond in helping the team connect with the young Korean Terran, the ex-SlayerS player having performed to admirably in that series of weekly online tournaments. TaeJa's plans of getting the attention of the foreign SC2 work had succeeded, even if his attempts to win over his fellow Koreans, with his GSL campaigns, had not yet.

"This feels like Liquid's biggest acquisition in history. Anyone who has followed the GSL or ESV weekly will know that TaeJa is an incredibly talented, young player. He made his first Code S appearance when he was only sixteen years old, and he will return next season for another run in the world's toughest tournament. He's already proven that he's a top player by qualifying for Code S three times, and he has the talent to do even better in the future. By showing so much ability at such a young age, it's clear to me that TaeJa is a player who will become one of the best in the world."

-The announcement of TaeJa joining Team Liquid (TeamLiquid, 2012)

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The same day of the announcement that he would be joining Team Liquid, TaeJa had, for the first time, progressed past the Ro32 of GSL Code S. Losing out to former GSL champion jjakji in the opening series, TaeJa had beaten DongRaeGu and then rematched jjakji and prevailed, earning a Ro16 group spot.

"I didn't get to practise much and after losing to Jjakji in the second match, I had a mental crisis. I really thought I would be eliminated but somehow made it. I am ecstatic."

-TaeJa, following his Ro32 group stage matches (ThisIsGame, 2012)

Before the Ro16 that could be played, TaeJa had to fly overseas to represent Team Liquid's colours in a foreign tournament, attempting to qualify for IPL4 through its open bracket. Despite a valiant run, TaeJa found himself stopped at the two points at which he would have qualified into IPL4, losing out to jjakji and Byun.

Back in Seoul, the GSL Code S Ro16 followed a similar script, as TaeJa lost to MarineKing, beat TheStC and the had to battle his first opponent, MarineKing in this case, in the final deciding match, again reversing his fortunes from the group's opening and earning a spot in the next phase of the tournament. TaeJa had reached the quarter-finals in his debut season as a Team Liquid player.

"I don’t care. I can beat anyone. I just want to avoid TvT. I hope it’s a Protoss."

-TaeJa, on who he would like to face in the Code S Ro8 (ThisIsGame, 2012)

TaeJa got his wish, being drawn against Protoss player Squirtle, but it turned out to be far from the right opponent for him, as he was swept out of the series 3:0 by the StarTale man.

The calm before the Summer storm

May ended with TaeJa attending Red Bull Battlegrounds: Austin, where he was upset by foreign Protoss SaSe and eventually went out in the Ro8 to Bomber, another StarTale player. The month had seen TaeJa bring his touch to a foreign team league, as he went 5-2 in series won in the Evil Geniuses Master's Cup Series VII online tournament. In mid June, TaeJa flew to Sweden for Dreamhack Summer. Despite another group stage loss to SaSe, TaeJa reached the playoff bracket. There he faced HerO, fellow Korean and team-mate in TL, but was defeated 2:0. TaeJa still awaited a top finish at a foreign tournament, he had been progressing at home, but something was still missing overseas.

In GSL 2012 S3 Code S, TaeJa progressed through the first two group stages, again, defeating the likes of Leenock and Mvp. Just as in the previous season, each group stage had seen TaeJa losing a series, but again he had prevailed in final matches to move on. The Liquid man had earned himself a second consecutive GSL Code S Ro8 appearance. Once more he made his wishes for the Ro8 opponent clear and once more they were granted.

"I want to take a break from TvZ for a while. I wish to face MC in the upper rounds. However, I have a feeling that MarineKing will be first in his group which is concerning. He’s such a great player and it won’t be easy to take him on. There are many great players in Group B but MKP is one of a kind."

-TaeJa, on who he would like to face in the GSL Ro8 (ThisIsGame, 2012)

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Despite another loss to HerO, TaeJa qualified online for the MLG Summer Arena. Three days later it was time for him to make his second run at reaching the GSL Code S semi-final. His opponent would be the very same MC he had requested in his post-Ro16 interview and, just as with the previous Ro8 attempt, that proved not to be the match he needed in that moment. This time it was a much closer affair, going down to a deciding fifth game, but the former GSL champion Protoss was the one on the winning end of the crucial game, forcing TaeJa to settle for another first round GSL playoff loss.

Unbeatable

Just over a week after his GSL Ro8 disappointment, TaeJa flew to New York City for the MLG Summer Arena tournament he had qualified for. At this tournament TaeJa would unleash an unbeatable run of form, blitzing through seven straight series and to the title. Along the way he dropped only four maps total, making his map score 14:4, and defeated the likes of GanZi, LosirA, First and Alicia. The latter, his finals opponent, had made the final of NASL3, the previous week, and was equally considered to be in blistering form. With a 4:2 win over Alicia in that final, TaeJa secured his first ever offline SC2 trophy.

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Less than two weeks later it was back over to Europe, attending the ASUS ROG Summer, the Summer edition of the tournament that had kicked off his foreign tournament experience. The format of the tournament had been changed to see every series a Bo5. Over the first two group stages, TaeJa went slayed foreign names like IdrA, DeMusliM and MaNa. In the quarter-final, he would face team-mate HerO and for the first time win out over his Liquid brother, beating the Protoss 3:1.

The semi-final opponent was another Korean, Terran ForGG, but that enemy fell by the same score as the last. In the final TaeJa found himself presented with a prime opportunity to exact some revenge, facing MC, the Protoss who had eliminated him from the GSL Ro8 less than a month prior. Just as Alicia had been unable to summon PvT capable of stopping TaeJa, in the MLG Summer Arena final, so MC had no answers against a fearsome new TaeJa, falling 1:4. TaeJa had racked up two foreign titles in a fortnight.

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The team league monster is unleashed

If TaeJa's individual form over this time period was scary, then his team league form ensured SC2 fans around the world knew the Korean Terran was entering a zone of form few SC2 pros had ever experienced. Back in late June, TaeJa had all-killed Prime in the IPL Team Arena Challenge 3, bodybagging some of the team's finest talent, such as Creator and MarineKing. In early August, days before his ASUS ROG victory, TaeJa put up four kills against SlayerS, his former team, defeating players like Genius, CoCa and Puzzle.

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That SlayerS win had put Team Liquid into the final of the tournament, where they were set to face Incredible Miracle, the Korean team that boasted three time GSL champions Mvp and NesTea, as well as newly crowned GSL champion Seed. Coming from the lower bracket, TaeJa's Liquid needed to win two matches to take the title. In the opening series TaeJa continued to be an unbeatable master of the game, all-killing IM. Among his victims were the aforementioned Seed and NesTea. Liquid were now one series from winning the tournament, all on the back of exceptional play by a single player.

In the second final series, TaeJa won the first two games, beating First and YongHwa, but this time was stopped by Seed. The other Liquid players could not put a win on the board and IM took the team league title. TaeJa's performance had been so superlative that fans quickly took to derisively nicknaming Team Liquid to "Team TaeJa", as he had been the sole force carrying them to within any distance of the title.

Hitting boiling point again

An unexpected outcome of trying to win the IPL TAC3 tournament for his team was that it may well have cost TaeJa a deeper run in Team Liquid's own individual league tournament, the online TSL4, and perhaps even more. The day after the IPL TAC final, TaeJa had to face First, the IM player he had beaten in the opening games of the second finals series, in the Ro16. The Terran had also beaten First back at MLG, but this time the IM Protoss had enough with him to find a way to come out on top, taking the series 3:2.

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In late August, TaeJa flew out to the USA again for the MLG Summer Championship, having qualified for it thanks to his MLG Summer Arena victory. The format of the tournament had players beginning in "groups" that were basically small brackets. TaeJa's unstoppable form seemed to have finally deserted him, as he lost the opening series 1:2 to former SlayerS team-mate CranK. Defeating all others in his path, TaeJa reached the final of the group bracket and again lost to Crank, this time falling in an extended series 3:4.

Moving over into the main tournament bracket, TaeJa beat LosirA, aLive, Revival and HerO to reach the semi-final of his second straight MLG tournament and his third straight offline foreign tournament. Here his opponent would be the very same First he had beaten at the previous MLG and who had bested him in the TSL4. First once more proved capable of stopping TaeJa, beating him 2:0, eliminating him in 3rd-4th place.

Back in Korea, TaeJa ran through his GSL S4 Ro32 group with two straight series wins, defeating MaNa and Mvp. In the Ro16 he fell to new Protoss talent Rain, but defeated DongRaeGu and Polt to progress to a third straight Ro8 appearance. Before he could put together a third run at a semi-final spot, TaeJa had to return to Europe, flying to Spain for Dreamhack Valencia.

"I really liked it. I've been getting called the top Terran lately but it felt like it wasn't an official title unless I beat the other top Terrans. But there are still a lot of players I haven't faced yet so I can't say that I'm the top Terran player yet.

[...]

Since my TvTs are fundamentally solid, I really need to do well in my TvPs now since Protosses are rising right now. Right now, since Terrans aren't doing so hot right now, we Terrans need to stick together and instead of focusing on championships, we need to focus on proving who we are as a race and making a statement. It'd be much better of course if we did win championships, but right now that seems too hard to do."

-TaeJa, on facing a group featuring famous Korean Terrans Mvp and MMA (ThisIsGame, 2012)

In Valencia TaeJa's form looked a little shaky, as he lost to Romanian Protoss NightEnD 1:2 in the first group stage. Protoss had been TaeJa's weak spot during all of his falls that year and now proved no different. While TvP was troubling him, TvZ seemed no problem at all for TaeJa, while other Terrans were tearing out their hair trying to figure out a way to win against opponents from the Swarm. As if to highlight this, TaeJa won a three map series against Stephano, the master of the nightmarish infestor-broodlord ZvT style of that era, in the second group stage.

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Three straight playoff series wins over European opponents saw TaeJa move on through to the final, including a win over SaSe to settle some old scores. In the final he faced ForGG, the man he had beaten 3:1 almost two months prior, at ASUS ROG Summer. This time TaeJa looked more than beatable, finding himself down 0:2 after the opening two games of the series, at the brink of elimination. TaeJa was not going to win this tournament as an unbeatable monster, but he was going to win it nonetheless.

"After losing the first two games, I thought about trying an all-in or cheese, to end it. But then I got confidence and thought I could win three games. That's the reason I didn't try an all-in."

-TaeJa, speaking about his victory over ForGG in the Dreamhack Valencia final (Team Acer, 2012)

The Liquid Terran won out in three convincing games, using his standard style and seemingly not fearing cheese from his opponent. Over a span of two months, TaeJa had won three foreign titles and made the top four of four foreign offline tournaments in a row. Headed back to Korea, now seemed like the perfect time for TaeJa to make that GSL semi-final. His run had begun shortly after falling out of GSL in the Ro8 and now he would enter the next Ro8 with the experience of having won big series numerous times in the last two months.

A deeper run and the return of a rivalry from the minors

TaeJa was facing Leenock in the Ro8, a young Zerg player who had won MLG Providence the previous year and only just recently triumped at the same MLG Summer Championship. Had TaeJa won his series against First at the previous MLG, then he would have faced Leenock in the final. Now fans would get a chance to shadowbox what would have happened in said final. The result again suggested that if Zerg was overpowered then TaeJa was just that good in the match-up, as the ex-SlayerS man bested Leenock 3:1 to reach his first ever GSL semi-final.

"I figured out Leenock's style so it was a breeze."

-TaeJa, on his GSL Ro8 series against Leenock (ThisIsGame, 2012)

The semi-final opponent awaiting TaeJa on the 10th of October was Life, a 15 year old Zerg player making his debut run in GSL Code S. While Life was a rookie in Code S competition, he had history going back with TaeJa, as the Korean Terran had defeated the Zerg on every occasion they had played in online competitions. With TaeJa's Zerg-slaying prowess over the previous months, even stating earlier in the tournament that if he avoided a Protoss he would win the championship, one might have expected him to overwhelm the rookie and seize his first trip to the GSL final.

Instead, it was Life who defied expectations, turning the previously one-sided rivalry with TaeJa around in their first offline meeting, thrashing the Terran 3:0. Life would go on to take the crown from Mvp in the final, becoming the first rookie to ever win GSL Code S in his first attempt. TaeJa had improved upon his past two seasons of Ro8 eliminations, but been able to go no further than the semi-final this time.

A four foreign tournament finish

The quick turnaround in GSL tournaments meant that Liquid's Terran foreign tournament titan was playing in his next GSL Code S Ro32 group stage less than three weeks later. Losing to finale and Polt, both in straight 0:2 series, TaeJa failed to reach the Ro16 for the first time in four seasons. That quick elimination had to be immediately put out of mind, as TaeJa was flying off to the MLG Fall Championship in Dallas mere days later.

Beating Crank was a little revenge gained from the MLG Summer Championship, but two series later TaeJa fell a second time in an offline series to Life. Beating viOLet set-up a third opportunity to beat Life offline, playing him in the final of the group, but Life not only won the extended series, but had yet to drop a map to TaeJa offline, sitting at 7:0 in maps. TaeJa would beat Soulkey in the playoff bracket, but lose to Protoss phenom Rain, to be eliminated in 7th-8th and see his streak of foreign tournament semi-finals come to an end at four. TaeJa would have to watch as Life took the tournament title and the world looked to the Zerg as the best tournament player.

A couple of weeks later it was back to Sweden for Dreamhack Winter. Going undefeated in his group, including another win over Stephano, TaeJa moved into the quarter-finals. Facing Swedish Terran ThorZaIn he found himself facing elimination, down 1:2, but fought back to take the series in five maps. The semi-finals opponent was Nerchio, a European Zerg who had put together a number of impressive tournament placings that year, but TaeJa found little to truly bother him, dismissing the Pole with a 3:0 sweep.

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With Team Liquid team-mate HerO reaching the final from the other side of the bracket, spectators could be forgiven for imagining TaeJa was going to add a fourth foreign title to his haul for 2012. The previous two times the two had met offline, at ASUS ROG Summer and the MLG Summer Championship, TaeJa had beaten his fellow Korean. If Protoss had been a bane for TaeJa in key moments in 2012 then this final would prove the ultimate embarrassment against the sons of Aiur. TaeJa was swept out of the final in a 4:0 stomp by HerO.

The final was over so fast, by virtue of a seemingly never-ending string of build order losses, that the event was left more embarrassed than TaeJa, with the final having begun early and thus some fans not having arrived to the finals venue yet, and other fans even suggesting the two Team Liquid players had agreed to split the prize money and gotten it over with as quickly as possible. That conspiracy theory only lasted a couple of weeks, as at the NASL S4 offline finals the two players met again, in the quarter-final, and HerO once more swept TaeJa, this time 3:0, and again went on to win the title.

"Since I didn't really have any experience in a team-kill finals situation, I thought of it too lightly. I was thinking 'Oh, 2nd place is good too' and then got 4-0'd."

-TaeJa, on how he got beaten to easily by HerO in the Dreamhack Winter final (Team Acer, 2013)

The last tournament of the year was another American adventure, as TaeJa headed to Las Vegas for IPL5. His first foreign tournament for Liquid in 2012 had been his IPL4 open bracket run, this time he would get to start ahead of the rest of the pack, entering the tournament at the upper bracket round four stage, due to having won the International Qualifier back in June. Losing in two straight three map series, to Creator and Sniper, both Code S players, TaeJa went out in 17th-24th place.

For a player who had seen such elevated highs, winning foreign tournaments; crushing team league competition and reaching a GSL Code S semi-final, the year had seen him end on a down note, even if his defeats had come at the hands of big named competition. He at least managed to get through his first Code A match and earn an Up/Down spot for the next season's Code S.

Going out of WoL with a bang

The only WoL tournament of 2013 for TaeJa would be the first GSL season of the year. On January 7th TaeJa played his Up/Down group and 4:0'd it to earn a Code S spot. At the end of the month he beat NesTea, lost to Soulkey and beat Noblesse, progressing to the Ro16. In the Ro16 a loss to ever-rising Terran power INnoVation started things poorly, but TaeJa defeated Bomber and DongRaeGu to reach the final GSL Code S Ro8 of Wings of Liberty. The Terran who had perhaps been the best player in the world at times in 2012 had yet to even reach a GSL final, so that title would always be the one whose absence on his resume seemed conspicuous if he wished to be considered an all-time great.

"This is the final WoL tournament and I have yet to win a tournament in Korea. I wanted to put on an awesome performance this season and I am so happy that this kind of result came out."

-TaeJa, speaking after his Ro16 group (ThisIsGame, 2013)

In the quarter-final TaeJa met the same Soulkey who had lost to in the first group stage that season. This KeSPA pro was making his second straight Code S Ro8 appearance, so the prospect of a Bo5 against him was a little worrying, this still being Wings of Liberty ZvT and all. TaeJa went up 2:0 in the series but found himself pushed to a fifth map. The Liquid titan took the decider and reached his second GSL Code S semi-final. The opponent was another KeSPA player and Zerg, KHAN's RorO.

"I saw Soulkey play against MKP in RO16 and at the time, I was desperately hoping for him to lose. It was because he's a Zerg and a great one at that. When I saw him advance, I learned what despair truly felt like."

-TaeJa, after defeating Soulkey in the Ro8 (ThisIsGame, 2013)

Despite resurgent GSL form, a different problem plagued TaeJa's mind: the health of his hand. In early January news had leaked out that he was suffering from wrist pain, with the problem even causing him issues with his mental composure and his tournament performance.

"Until yesterday, my hand was hurting so badly that I could hardly play. Then, last night, I had a dream where I was playing against Soulkey. I was worried about my hand the whole time but somehow I played without any trouble. It felt so real for a dream. So when I woke up, I tried holding my mouse and it just felt so much better compared to the day before. In the match itself, I became nervous after giving away two sets but that just makes the victory that much sweeter."

-TaeJa, after defeating Soulkey in the Ro8 (ThisIsGame, 2013)

Hands problems or no hand problems, the final GSL Code S semi-final of Wings of Liberty arrived on the first of March and TaeJa had to face his destiny. Despite winning the first map, the Terran found himself lose four straight maps and the series to the Zerg who would go on to take the title. TaeJa's final Wings of Liberty GSL Code S campaign had come to a close in a similar turn of events, losing out to a Zerg who would then win the tournament in the next round.

"It's just that I'm not the type of player who really practices for a match. I'm more the type that practices by laddering. So when the preparation time gets longer, I don't do as well.

[...]

I do well in the 2-3 day foreign tournaments but I don't do as well in the longer tournaments."

-TaeJa, answering why he always fell out of GSL Code S before the final, despite being very good in foreign tournaments (Team Acer, 2013)

In the final part of the TaeJa career story, TaeJa's return to foreign tournament dominance will be told, taking us from late March of 2013 to early 2014.

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Photo credits: Silverfire, Helena Kristiansson, R1CH, Ana Douglas, Jan Vehrenkamp, Vincent Samaco, Brita Jonsson

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