The legend of odd-year INnoVation continued in 2019 as the Korean Terran player won his tenth major championship, defeating Finland's Serral 4-3 in the finals the World Electronic Sports Games. The victory signaled a triumphant return to championship form for INnoVation, whose poor 2018 campaign had seen him fail to qualify for the WCS Global Finals. The WESG victory also gave INnoVation his single largest prize-money haul of his career at $150,000, pushing him to third place in the all-time prize money rankings.
Serral had bested INnoVation twice in 2018, sweeping him in the quarterfinals of GSL vs. The World and winning 4-3 in the finals of HomeStory Cup 18. However, INnoVation had won their most recent clash in the IEM Katowice group stage, using his Ghost-Liberator style to outlast Serral in two marathon games (granted, the match had no competitive stakes due to group rankings already being determined).
The series from IEM may have been on both Serral and INnoVAtion's minds to begin the WESG finals, with the two players splitting the first four maps 2-2 with a succession of cheesy strategies including proxy-Hatcheries, proxy-Barracks, and Ravager busts.
INnoVation broke the tie in game five in vintage INnoVation fashion, slowly wearing Serral down with endless waves of Terran troops after seizing the early game advantage with an incisive Marine-Tank attack. However, Serral tied the series back up at 3-3 with a spectacular late-game victory on Cyber Forest, where his experiences from his IEM loss seemed to bear fruit. Drawing the defensive lines to include just a single extra mining base on his side of the map, Serral held out against a relentless barrage of tactical nukes to outlast INnoVation in a brutal match.
With the series and championship on the line, INnoVation opted for another powerful Marine-Tank attack, similar to the one that had won him game five. Once more, Serral took significant damage while defending, and once more, INnoVation ruthlessly snowballed his lead. After a final, last-ditch engagement, Serral gave up the last GG of the series, crowning INnoVation the WESG 2018 champion.
After a poor 2016 where he admitted to taking too much time off, INnoVation bounced back with an amazing WCS 2017 campaign that saw him win four major championships during the tournament cycle. StarCraft II fans will be eager to see if 2019 will be a repeat of the same story, with INnoVation reminding everyone that one fallow year means nothing to one of the game's greatest champions.
In the third place match, Maru overcame a 0-2 deficit against Scarlett to win in a reverse sweep, claiming the $20,000 3rd place prize (Scarlett won $10,000 for 4th place). Scarlett's game one victory was one of the bizarre highlights of the tournament, with Maru leaving an otherwise tie-able game due to being unaware of Terran's building float spots on the map. Though Scarlett was able to take a second game with a Nydus all-in, Maru rallied back to win the next three games.