Throughout the 20 year history of the StarCraft esports scene, there is a player that has given consistently staggering persistence. He’s been striving for the championship for a while, and on his 8th attempt, he finally claimed the IEM World Championship trophy. His name is ‘Eo “soO” Yoon-soo’.
There are many people who have fallen right before they reach the summit; most who do simply collapse and stay trapped under the weight of the frustration and devastation. However, there are some, like soO, who are not taken down so easily. Like wild grass, soO got back up every time he was seemingly cut down. Eventually, his 12 years of hard effort earned him a title, a $150k prize, and a guaranteed spot for the Blizzcon tournament.
20 Years of Struggle and Cultivation Bears Fruit
“I promised myself that I wouldn’t cry if I win… but I still did. It felt like a dream. After the victory ceremony, ‘Dear’ joked, “Hey, this is all a dream! If you wake up, all of this will disappear.” When he said that, I actually got scared. “What if it really is a dream?” Everything just felt so surreal.
I needed to win a title. The title was far more important to me than the prize money. The money was just something subsidiary.
After my win, I immediately called my mom. She began crying, so I couldn’t help but cry with her. As for my little sister, she watches almost all my games, and she started tearing up, too. The three of us were crying over the phone on speaker.”
A Miraculous Probability - Reaching the Finals
“During the early open brackets, I told the other players, “I’m not a player that should be here, I’m at another level.” I was very confident in my abilities. But when I entered the group stage, I immediately lost 3 games. Realistically speaking, if you are 0-3 that early on, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be eliminated. I thought I was done for. I boasted so much to the other players, so I was very embarrassed with how I was performing.
I took a large hit to my mentality, so I decided to just play carefree, as I expected a quick elimination. However, when I defeated uThermal, I bought myself a chance to make it through. In the end, I managed to defeat Scarlett and advance to the next stage with a 2-3 record. I was able to advance to the round of 12.
When I entered the round of 12, I faced Zest on stage. I told myself, “I was going to be eliminated anyway,” and tried my best to play without any concerns. Then, I ended up defeating Zest with a set score of 3-0. I played with the same mentality in the round of 8, against Serral, and I managed to defeat him, too. The same thing happened during the semifinals. It felt amazing how I managed to climb to the Finals this way.
In addition to that, the players that would’ve given me a lot of trouble playing against - Maru, INnoVation, and Rogue - were eliminated fairly quickly during the tournament, so I was a lot more relaxed throughout it. TY is also a fearsome opponent, but he was on the other side of the bracket, so I didn’t feel any pressure. I loved how the matches were arranged. (Laughs)”
A Bold Victory
“During most of my matches, I played reactively, observing my opponent before I make my move. Now that I look back, I think that was the reason why I always landed 2nd place. I played reactively during the 2019 IEM as well, but when I was losing 0-2 during the Finals, I changed my mindset to play more proactively. Thanks to that, I was able to bring the match score to a tie.
Nowadays, against Zerg, it’s a trend for Protoss to go for a timed rush, not giving the Zerg a chance to reach late game. Because of this, Zerg don’t have the leisure to even press an upgrade. So aside from the 6th set, I wasn’t able to boldly expand.
But during the 6th set, I did exactly that. When Stats took notice of this, he formulated a plan to rush me. However, his build wasn’t optimized at the time, so the timing of the rush was a bit awkward. As a result, I was able to defend against his all-in with a number of Hydralisks and win the set.
In reality, it’s very uncommon to see a Zerg successfully fending off against a Protoss all-in with Hydras.”
The “Finals Trauma,” Moments Where He Wanted to Give Up.
“Back when I placed 2nd three different times, my mentality took a big hit. I think I was able to overcome my struggles thanks to other professional players that are close to me. FanTaSy’s help was the most significant. He’s a player that finished 2nd four consecutive times before winning a title, so he was able to understand how I felt. “With persistence, I know that you can win,” he said.
But most importantly, my fans didn’t want to let go of me. They constantly cheered me on, so I couldn’t get myself to quit - not until I won something at least. Their love drove me to play. It was a big help to me. There were also some fans that did their best to make fun of me. A part of me - my pride - wanted to prove them wrong, so that’s another reason why I couldn’t quit. “I can’t just retire after being mocked like this!” My pride kept me going.
As for my trauma of the ‘2nd Place Curse’, a lot of my friends and acquaintances gave me tips to overcome it. Some of them told me to meet a psychologist, but I didn’t take it that far. One day, in 2017, when Rogue was winning tournaments left and right, he said during an interview that he, “ignored the pressure and played comfortably. That’s how I won.” What he said left an impression on me, and I did what he did. It turned out well. I’m planning to continue to play like this.”
28-years-old. He’s Not Considered Young in the Esports Scene.
“I always thought that my mechanical skills wouldn’t deteriorate as I get older. But I feel it happening. My reaction speed and APM have been declining. That means I’m not as good as I used to be, but that doesn’t mean that I’m worse than other players. (Laughs) Some of the ‘better’ Zerg players have insanely good mechanics. I think my mechanics are just a tad bit worse than theirs.
During the interview after my victory, I told the interviewer that this might be my last IEM. It’s because it gets harder to enter international tournaments as you get older. ‘Classic’ is currently 29-years-old (Korean age), and he said that it’s extremely difficult for him to get a spot. I’m now guaranteed to play at Blizzcon, so I’m not planning to go to the military just yet. I think I’ll end up going next year.
Not too long ago, I envied all professional players that finished their mandatory military service ahead of time. However, now that I won, I don’t envy them - at all. (Laughs) I didn’t know I was capable of feeling such an emotion, but the world seems more beautiful than before. (Laughs)”
Fell Seven Times, but Came Back on His Eighth
“I’m on my 12th year as a professional gamer. I was worried and ashamed at the thought of retiring without winning anything. But after placing 2nd seven different times, I was finally able to win. A lot of those who watched my struggle saw my story as an inspiration. I received a lot of congratulatory messages when I won. The moment I won, I felt very proud of myself. I finally felt like an accomplished professional gamer.
I don’t know if I can say this, but I’d like to humbly say that I have a life motto. “Whatever it might be, if you absolutely give it your all, you’ll eventually get positive results.” When I constantly finished 2nd, I had my doubts, believe me. When I turned 28, and my wrist started hurting, I had moments where I simply wanted to give up. But in the end, my efforts brought success.
After the Finals, Bunny told me, “When you won, I cried. When I saw you win the title, I felt that I could eventually do the same.” There are a lot of players who consider retirement when they fail to make results. It felt good that I was able to give them a little bit of hope.”
To the Fans Who Were Happier Than He Himself
“Many people made fun of me and mocked me when I constantly placed 2nd. But as they insult me, they said that they are my fans. At first, I didn’t believe them. However, when I won, instead of getting salty like I expected them to, they were just as happy as I was. I began thinking that maybe, they made fun of me to motivate me. That thought made me very happy. I’m now on my 12th year as a StarCraft pro, and I have fans that have been cheering for me from the very beginning. I want to sincerely thank them.
I find the beginning - of anything - the most important. The ‘beginning’ of my career was in 2nd place, so I believed that I’d finish my journey in 2nd place. But now that I won, I came to realize that you don’t always need a good start to find success. But I began this year with a victory, so I’ll do my best to end the year with a Blizzcon title.
I secured a spot in Blizzcon, and I can be more at ease financially now that I won a major tournament. I’m not as desperate to win anymore, but there isn’t anything that I can do about that. (Laughs) There are still 7 months left until then, so I’ll continue to practice and aim for that Blizzcon title.”