One of the best StarCraft: Brood War players of all time is returning to the game that made him a legend.
Hong "YellOw" Jin Ho, whose prime lasted for several years in the early 2000s, has been invited to the Gomtv Classic, one of the first major televised Brood War tournaments in years, scheduled for Feb. 9 to March 9.
Brood War, an expansion to the original StarCraft, was released in 1998. It quickly rose to dominate the eSports world, especially in South Korea, where the game’s top tournaments were broadcast on national TV. Gomtv's new tournament, just announced this week, is meant to take advantage of recent surge of interest in Brood War in Korea and around the world. Bringing Hong out of retirement should help fuel that revival.
Hong, 31, is known best for his rivalry with Lim "BoxeR" Yo Hwan, one of the most famous eSports stars of all time. Fans labelled Hong the “The King of Silver” because he repeatedly fell to Lim, known as “The Emperor,” in the finals of the game’s top tournaments. The rivalry came to define Brood War in its early, ascendant days.
Lim would go on to become the most successful eSports player of the era. Hong, Lim’s dramatic foil, earned a 30-33 record against him but lost in the finals of the 2001 Starleague, the 2002 Korean Pro Gaming Association Tour, and the 2002 World Cyber Games grand finals.
One of the best matches of either players’ career came in 2004, in the semi-finals of the Ever Starleague, at the time the world’s most prestigious eSports tournament. Both players fought to the semifinals, despite recent downturns in both their careers. The eternal rivals didn’t disappoint: Lim, in wildly aggressive style, launched a fast Terran bunker rush against the Storm Zerg in three straight games to sweep his opponent out and advance to the finals.
When it was over, Hong looked almost amused.
Despite those memorable losses, Hong won 11 major gold medals and reigned as one of the top Zerg players in the world for five years. Hong might be known most for his silvers, but he’s still got a trophy case full of gold.
Today, expectations are much lower. It’s been nine years since Hong was a top player and three since he retired. He’ll be facing some of the world’s best Brood War players next month, a daunting prospect. It’ll be incredible if he can pull off a single upset. But just seeing the old King of Silver in action will be enough for many Brood War fans.
Since he retired in 2011, Hong has made numerous appearances on Korean television including shows like The Genius, a Korean game show, and Saturday Night Live Korea where he appeared in a sketch with Lim, his longtime rival—and friend.
Correction: The Genius is a Korean game show, not a variety show as previously reported. We regret the error.