Yeon-sung “iloveoov” Choi became a star about 15 years ago, when the fervor of the 2002 World Cup moved on to the Esports in Korea. Back then, the popularity of StarCraft 1 was at its peak. At the center of the fever, there was Yo-hwan “Slayers_boxer” Lim, and Yeon-sung Choi was famous among the fans as Yo-hwan Lim’s practice partner and pupil.
Although the title “Yo-hwan Lim’s Pupil” sounds interesting, it is hard for a trainee who has not debuted as a pro yet to be as famous as a pro. Nevertheless, Yeon-sung Choi was as equally popular as a pro, because his skills were simply that great. He is still considered one of the greatest Esports players, because he is always good at something new.
Through his own style of gameplay, Yeon-sung Choi proved that the way everyone was playing was actually not the best way. The “Double” build order became the ultimate strategy after people saw his macromanagement. Small-scale controls and burst attacks on enemy bases used to be the core strategy, and the new paradigm that Yeon-sung pioneered was a huge surprise to everyone.
Yeon-sung Choi became the best Starcraft player immediately after his debut. He became a “Bonjwa” after winning 5 times in the individual league. His name is listed in the “Korean Esports Hall of Fame, a tribute to his influence and popularity as a professional Esports player. No other player has achieved what he has achieved within the same amount of time. He was full of confidence, not only in regards to games, but also in the way he moved and spoke. He has his own unique flare, a quality that words cannot describe.
Yeon-sung Choi, a former StarCraft 1 player and the current head coach of Afreeca Freecs League of Legends, had once reached the pinnacle as a professional Esports player. And now, the one who became the best is here to give a speech about how to be the best. He puts more power into his words than almost all others; his philosophy, motivation, and determination are firm and steady.
It seems like the phrase “you may go farther and fare worse” does not apply to Yeon Sung Choi’s desire for victory. His strong yearning for victory has always been his motivation, and the reason for his success.
Yeon-sung Choi is the type of person who gets straight to the point and says everything he wants to say. Although not everyone is a fan of his way of talking, it surely reflects his strong determination and his principles. He is always supportive of the players in his team. He will always be there for them and cheer for them, but does not hesitate to speak sharply if it will help them move forward.
Being harsh with someone might not always turn out positively, especially when the one speaking does not know much about being a professional gamer or about Esports. However, Yeon-sung Choi is an expert. He knows when to compliment, and when to correct. He is a head coach that can bring out a player’s maximum potential.
When practicing, head coach Choi refuses to use the typical practice method in League of Legends. Yeon-sung Choi joined Afreeca Freecs LoL as head coach in early 2017, and all teams in the LCK had the same number of scrims and the same hours of practice. Choi mentioned in one of his previous interviews that “Everyone has six scrims, regardless of your current rank. That’s how the professional League scene works right now, and that’s why the top team always stays at the top.
SKT T1 has been the top for quite a while now. They are the best players, and they have accumulated quite a bit of expertise by now. Of course, defending the title is not an easy job, but it’s a problem that there are no teams that can defeat the champion. The top team practices to defend its title, and to maintain their skills. So they usually don’t go beyond the usual practice routine, because they don’t have to. The teams who are challenging the throne have to practice more, but they don’t. That’s why an underdog is always an underdog, and the champion is always the champion.”
He questioned the methods that everyone accepted, and Afreeca Freecs did not hesitate to support head coach Choi in managing the team his way. Head coach Choi was full of confidence. He knew that he would never fail, because his method was already tried and tested successfully with Starcraft. He knew that if the team practices the way he did for StarCraft, the team would never fail.
As Yeon-sung Choi directed, Afreeca Freecs rebuilt itself with 2 sub-teams and 10 players in total. After the scrims with other teams, Afreeca Freecs had another scrim with itself. As a result, Afreeca Freecs is now one of the top teams in the LCK along with King Zone Dragon X and kt Rolster. Even though Marin, the one who used to be the star of the team, left the team before the beginning of the 2018 season and Kiin joined the team, Afreeca Freecs performance has not declined.
All of this happened within a year. After seeing the changes in Afreeca Freecs, other teams followed AF’s example and are rebuilding their teams with a 2 sub-team system. Using the “Choi system”, Afreeca Freecs is growing. Head Coach Choi is certain that his management style will light the way for AF’s bright future. He does nothing carelessly, and does not make a decision unless he is absolutely positive about it.
Inven Global was eager to have Yeon-sung Choi as a speaker for the Inven Global Esports Conference, which will be held on May 1st at UC Irvine, and head coach Choi gladly accepted the invitation. Fortunately, we had the chance to have a brief interview with head coach Choi before the IGEC and asked him about the things that North American fans might want to ask and his thoughts about being a speaker at the event. Even though he was very busy due to the LCK, head coach Choi willingly spent some time with us and talked to us with a big smile.
Q. What could be the reason that Koreans are good at games? Why are Korean pros so good?
This might be a sad story. Everyone has a different pursuit of happiness, but usually they feel happy when they know they are better than others. So they always try to be better than others, and in games everyone starts at the same condition. The fact that no one has an advantage nor a disadvantage over others is a strong motivator for everyone. I think that’s how Koreans become the best Esports players in the world.
Q. What are the things that North American teams don’t have that Korean teams have?
I haven’t coached any North American teams, so it’s hard for me to answer this question.
Q. Do you have your own special way of coaching the players?
I’m still learning as a head coach as I’m coaching them, but the fundamental way of coaching is always the same. I try to recognize the individual differences of every player. They have different personalities, environments in which they grew up, and perspectives of the game. Every player should get a different coaching style that suits him, but at the same time, everyone should have a big dream,, motivation, and the passion to reach that dream.
Q. A lot of Koreans are working for North American teams as coaching staff. Will this have positive effects on the Korean Esports industry and on the worldwide Esports industry?
I’m happy that Koreans are respected worldwide. Esports has become a culture that people enjoy, and it still has potential to grow bigger. If the people who truly like Esports can take high positions in the field, Esports will be the top entertainment in the world. If the most respected person in Esports is a Korean then I will be really happy.
Q. You have closely observed the Esports culture of Korea for more than 10 years. What is the thing that all successful Esports players have in common?
All successful people, regardless of their field, are different from others. They stand out in exertion, talent, luck, relationship with others, and in many other aspects.
Q. You emphasize practice amount and practice systems a lot. If North American teams do the same, will they be as good as Korean teams in the future?
The amount of practice and practice systems are surely important, but the most important thing is how willing you are. A good law is useless unless you follow it the right way, and a good system is useless unless you are willing to follow it.
Q. Lastly, is there anything you would like to say about the IGEC?
Hello, this is Yeon-sung Choi, the head coach of Afreeca Freecs. I'm really glad to be participating in the IGEC. I look forward to meeting all the Esports fans and related personnel in North America at the IGEC and hope everyone enjoys the event. I hope you are looking forward to it as well.
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