Isn’t it always frustrating when someone cheeses you at the very beginning of the game and you start to see photon cannons crawling closer and closer into your main? It is very common nowadays for people to use this strategy to win an early game even in the diamond league, because not many people know how to counter it. This kind of strategy is known as “cheesing” as the plan is to sneak a probe inside a base without getting discovered by your opponent. Before you even build your first pylon, a probe might already be inside a corner of your base standing by.
How to counter it?
Always scout early. No matter what, in every game you play you should always get into the habit of scouting at your enemies base. Timing of the scout is either after you drop your first pylon, or you can send your probe straight away at the very start of the game. Swing by a watch tower (i.e. Xel’naga tower) to see any incoming unit and see the direction where it is coming from. As soon as you discover the position of your opponent’s base, search for their buildings. You would expect at this time there would be a pylon and then a Gateway. However, if you see there is only a forge before a Gateway, you will know there could be a chance of a cannon rush, so you should start scouting around your own base to try spot for the probe or pylon.
If the opponent’s pylon is already up near your base and a photon cannon is on the way, get a forge immediately. You want to make sure the probe does not get a cannon near your workers so you will need to go face to face with your cannons to stop it. Timing is very important here so you should try to build cannons faster than your opponent to stop the probe from warping in more cannons. If your cannon is about 2 to 3 secs slower to completion before your enemy’s cannon is up, pull out a couple of your probes to deal extra damage to the near finishing enemy cannon so your cannon can just about blast it off in time when it is completed.
Form a line of cannons to hold your guard. Try not to overbuild on your cannons. You just need to set a boundary for yourself to prevent the enemy probe to sneak any closer into your base and cause anymore harassment. If your enemy intends to build more cannons within your cannon range, it will just blast it off.
Now you should start focusing on getting your gateway units. At this point, your enemy shouldn’t have much in his own base so it will be a good chance for you to strike. Don’t bother trying to go head on against the cannons near your base if there are too many to deal with, because you’re just going to be wasting money on getting your units killed. if there are not that many, then I suppose you can try destroying them with a bit of micro on your units. Aim for the pylon first to shut down the power. I would strongly advise you to get four gateways transform to warp gates, and then a robotics facility. Get a warp prism, but careful try not to get revealed by your opponent too soon.
Fly your warp prism around the edge of the map, go straight to your opponent’s main nexus where all the workers are, drop all your units there and summon two zealots and two stalkers on each cooldown (or just all four zealots if you don’t have enough gas). Your counter strategy here is to strike when your opponent is vulnerable, and stop your opponent from mining. There could be other better strategies out there, but this is how I would normally deal with early cannon rush in a 1v1.
Alternatively, if you want to go head on against your opponents cannon at your base, get immortals because they are super strong against building and can withstand the cannons strike with their hardened shield. It only takes a few shots for the immortals to blast off any building so mass up a few of those plus a combination of stalkers, zealots and a few sentries for its guardian shield to reduce incoming damage to your units.
What if it’s too late to stop the cannons firing at your base?
Well in most cases, it would be a GG, but do whatever you can to mine the minerals and gas as much as possible (at least over 400 minerals to get a Nexus) and then start expanding elsewhere during the harassment. However, this will all depend on your luck because at this point your opponent would have a higher economic advantage. Your best chance is probably to try stay hidden and defend yourself first at your new expansion as long as you can. Build a few cannons around your base and then concentrate on macro. Get as many units as you can and try to catch up with another expansion.