The highlight of the StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Invitational was undoubtedly and unmistakably the test match between South Africa and Romania. Robert “PandaTank” Botha and Silvui “nightEND” Lazar battled it out in two matches in front of a packed 500 seater auditorium accompanied by energetic and entertaining commentary.
Kicking things off with some formal introductions, Grant Hinds, ceremony master hyped up the crowd, followed by words from Internet Solutions, the MSSA and Megarom. In true official and professional spirit, every one joined in for our National Anthem and stood in respect for the Romanian National Anthem. It was and truly felt like an event that exceeded the expectations of every one. I can with all confidence say that watching these cyber athletes go head to head was better than any sports game I’ve ever watched.
The first game was the calm before the storm. Both players put out their feelers to get to know their opponent. Their builds were standard and very similar to each other, both Botha and Lazar, of course, playing Protoss. Before every one knew it, it was over. Lazar won the game, but not without a fight. Botha turned out to be tough competition and played a world class game.
The second game was absolutely explosive. It was any one’s game. With Lazar and Botha averaging over 300 actions per minute, it was hard to keep track of how fast things were happening. It was a long and brutal battle, but after one mistake by Botha, Lazar took the victory once again.
The test match was of great significance to not only eSports in South Africa, but spectatorship of eSports. Almost 500 people sat glued to their seats for both games cheering on Botha and applauding Lazar’s great skill. Both players are Grandmasters in StarCraft 2 and have pro gamer status. Watching these incredibly talented gamers was exciting and entertaining for every one, whether you are a die hard StarCraft 2 fan and understood every detail or a complete StarCraft 2 newbie and understood very little. This event is the starting point of growing spectatorship in South Africa for competitive gamers and the mainstream audience, something that is seriously lacking in our community and country and by extension of that, growing eSports.
It is a real eye opener to see that South Africa’s best, Robert Botha who is dedicating his life to a career in professional gaming, match up to international standard, millisecond to millisecond. The stereotype that South Africans can not measure up to international eSports was diminished at a live event, and I’m sure inspired many gamers to not give up their dreams of becoming pro gamers.
Last Updated: March 18, 2013