3-1 Was the Scoreline of Choice
If there’s one theme that dominated the conversation surrounding the first round of the World Championship Bracket Stage, it’s that the Quarterfinals were littered with matchups that could have gone either way across the board. From an Invictus Gaming-Griffin set that featured two elite contenders from two of the best regions in the world to a FunPlus Phoenix-Fnatic series that put two of the most inconsistent, yet threatening teams at the tournament against each other, it was inevitable that we were going to see some close series. And, we kind of did.
On both days of the quarterfinal round, it was obvious that the teams in each series were evenly matched to the degree where they’d challenge one another, but on the other side of the set, one team was able to showcase dominance and emerge as a clear winner.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why each series ended with a scoreline of 3-1. Teams were adapting to each other and playing to their strengths. And while there were disparities in each series this weekend, the playing field was level enough in each sequence for a clear favorite to emerge by the halfway point of each set.
Take Damwon Gaming vs. G2 Esports for example. After the second game, Damwon was showing signs of dominance and even carrying those shades over into the early stages of Game 3. However, by the time the dust settled, G2 had played well enough to emerge as the clear victor.
This was often the case this weekend, as shades of doubt were instilled at points throughout each series, but when the time came to walk away from each set, it was clear which team had played to a stronger degree.
We Are Guaranteed a Chinese Team in Finals
With Invictus winning 3-1 over Griffin and FPX taking their set over Fnatic in similar fashion, we are now guaranteed, for the second straight year, an LPL team in the Grand Finals of the World Championship. If anything, this showcases the fact that China, as a region, is still a threat that can not only shake things up at international events, but set the standard of play for tournaments to come.
Last year’s World Champion, Invictus Gaming, hasn’t quite had the same success they experienced during regional play this season, especially towards the latter portion of the Summer Split, but is still a genuine contender in the running for a repeat title. Really, any team who’s made it to the top 4 at Worlds has the chance to win the whole tournament. No one can be counted out this late in the game. Not even IG’s LPL counterparts, FunPlus Phoenix, who have looked unsteady at points during the tournament thus far. However, after both teams righted the ship in the quarterfinals, it’s safe to say that whoever walks out of this matchup will be a force to be reckoned with come November 10.
SKT is Still the Favorite to Win the Tournament Outright
Moving off of the claim that all four teams present in this year’s Semifinals are serious contenders, it’s still fair to say that there’s a clear favorite among the four. While every remaining team has made a case why they should be the ones to raise the Summoner’s Cup, SK Telecom T1 is by far the clear favorite moving forward. Ever since the first day of the tournament, SKT had been touted as the early pick to win the whole thing, but now, as we’ve seen more and more of the team, it’s clear why.
Against Splyce, SKT showcased the fact that they have playmakers at every position and don’t have to rely solely on Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok to win games at Worlds. Sure, Faker’s Group Stage performance this season certainly ranked among some of the greatest stretches of games in Worlds history, but in the Quarterfinal round, the star mid laner took a step back and the team’s top laner, Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, took the series by the reins and controlled the pace of the set with aggressive, carry-oriented picks such as Lucian, Fiora, and Quinn. Alongside Park “Teddy” Jin-seong’s KDA of 6.8, Khan and company proved that SKT is strong all-around and has the potential to run away with the tournament.
Containing Faker is only half the battle, as Splyce proved. It’s an entirely different challenge to contain all five heads of the SKT hydra at once. That’s going to be the challenge facing G2 this weekend and whoever is unlucky enough to face the Korean titans in the Final should they advance.
“The Gap” is Reopening
With all of this being said, it’s clear that with 2 Chinese teams and one Korean team in the semifinals this year, the gap between the East and West is quickly reopening. The LPL and LCK have established themselves as the dominant regions here at Worlds, showing a ridiculously fast turnaround from last year’s tournament which featured 3 Western teams in Semis. Sure, it’s reasonable to claim that last year was an outlier, but it’s undeniable that China and Korea have bounced back and have returned to form. Only G2 Esports stands in the way of a LPL-LCK Final, the only team to beat SKT in a Best-of-5 this season.
So while G2 might just pose a serious threat to the LCK champions, it’s obvious that the West as a whole has fallen off a tad since a breakout performance at last year’s Worlds. The gap is reopening, and if the West doesn’t invest in their own talent before it’s too late, we could see this dynasty of Chinese and Korean teams dominate international League of Legends for years to come.
Photo Credit: Riot Games, Lolesports, League of Legends