One of, if not the biggest, esports tournament of the year has concluded over the weekend, and history was made. Traditionally a Korean-dominated scene, the League of Legends World Championship is the largest celebration of Riot Games’ much-celebrated IP that occurs every year. Though according to tradition, a Korean team has won the tournament every year since 2013. This is no longer the case, as Invictus Gaming from China has won it all for the first time since the inception of the tournament.
The narratives surrounding this year’s global championship is nothing short of hyped anticipation. Right off the bat in the group stages, one of the Korean powerhouse teams, Gen. G, was knocked out in favor of a traditionally weaker North American team. Even the massive favorites of the tournament, China’s Royal Never Give Up, failed to impress in groups; they dropped key games to C9 and Vitality, the third seed of NA and second seed of EU, respectively.
Predictions and expectations descended into chaos with the transition into the Quarterfinals. Though Chinese LPL’s Invictus Gaming had always been a strong team, nobody foresaw them taking down the other absolute favorites to win it all, Korea’s first seed KT Rolster. Similarly, perhaps in a greater upset, EU’s own third seed G2 knocked out the aforementioned RNG, essentially destroying that side of the bracket in terms of professional analyses.
On the other side of the bracket, things fared similarly for the once-dominant Eastern titans. Afreeca Freecs, the third seed Korean team, were swept convincingly by C9. EU power house FNC also dispatched of China’s third seed Edward Gaming with relative ease, setting up a Western semifinal match for the first time since Season 1 of Worlds.
The underdog surge and critical upsets died down going into the next stages, as both FNC and iG cleaned up their respective lower-seeded opponents in dominant fashion. The Grand Finals of the tournament, which was hyped up immensely with the inclusion of a gigantic outdoor venue and a full-on Augmented Reality virtual performance by Riot’s fictional Kpop group along with their real-life counterparts, failed to deliver the Cinderella story that the Western fans hoped for.
The results were perhaps undeserving of the huge production budget Riot put into the final stage as well. iG set the third fastest Best of 5 match time in Worlds history as they proved to be the undeniable best in the world, crushing Fanatic in a mere three games.
While the final results proved that the Western regions would remain winless in international tournaments yet, the implications of the scene shifted drastically. No longer were the Koreans the overlords of the League of Legends pro scene. This tournament has proven that by adhering to their own styles and ethos, weaker teams can definitely make it far. Huge props to Invictus Gaming as well, who despite all odds, have become the first ever world champions to come from China’s LPL region.