American Alex "Neeb" Sunderhaft, who is 18 years old, became the first non-Korean to win a premier South Korean StarCraft II tournament in history early Monday morning by winning the KeSPA Cup. Neeb, a Protoss player, outlasted fifteen other pro-gamers over a six day campaign to take home the prestigious championship, sweeping his final opponent, Jin Air's Cho "Trap" Sung Ho in the final 4-0.
It's been 16 years since a non-Korean has won on South Korean soil. Canadian Guillaume "Grrrr..." Patry won the Hanaro Ongamenet Starleague in 2000 over South Korea's Kang "H.O.T-Forever" Doh Gyung when they played StarCraft: Brood War. Neeb was two years old at the time.
Current South Korean Starleague champions "ByuN" Hyun Woo and Kang "Solar" Min Soo both competed in the tournament, but failed to make it out of the group stages. Byun was in the same opening round group as Neeb and watched as the American upstart swept through the competition, beating two-time Starleague champion Joo "Zest" Sung Wook and reigning Proleague champion team member Lee "Rogue" Byung Ryul in perfect sets to move on to the quarterfinals.
In the bracket stage, Neeb narrowly defeated Zerg player, Park "Pet" Nam Kyu, winning the series by a scoreline of 3-2 after almost getting eliminated from his opponent's early-game attacks. The semifinals was another match against one of South Korea's best in Kim "Stats" Dae Yeob, and Neeb once again proved his strength in the Protoss versus Protoss matchup by taking the match 3-1.
The finals versus Trap might have been the most one-sided series of the tournament for the American. Neeb dominated the first three games with his world-class macro and decision making before ultimately needing to make a comeback in the fourth map of the best-of-seven to clinch the series. As he exited his booth to grasp the silver chalice awaiting him, the fans in the South Korean studio were greeted to a sight they'd never witnessed before.
After coming close but failing at the end of various international tournaments this year, Neeb's first major tournament win also became one of the greatest in the history of a game that has changed the scope of competitive gaming for almost two decades.
The KeSPA Cup was the final major tournament of the year before the world championship in Anaheim, California at BlizzCon 2016. Come November 4-5 and the World Championships, Neeb will attempt to make history once again, this time on home soil.