The 2017 League of Legends World Championship concluded earlier this month, featuring an upset no one expected and a riveting Grand Final that kept fans on the edge of their seats. It also saw the return of two rivals from years past who connected so explosively that it will be talked about for years to come.
The World Championships featured 24 teams from across the world. Three teams each were invited from China, Korea, Europe, North America, and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau. Two came from Southeast Asia and the remaining six teams came from Brazil, Russia, Japan, Latin America North, Latin America South, Oceania, and Turkey.
Leading the charge was fan-favorite and Korean three-time world champion SK Telecom T1. With half of the world championships under their belt, they looked to be a shoe-in for an expected fourth win. On the other side was Samsung Galaxy, another Korean team who had fought against SK Telecom T1 the year before during the 2016 World Championship Finals. They were looking to make a comeback after walking away empty-handed.
Games and Brackets
The World Championship series ran from September to November in four locations across this year’s host country China. The Play-In and Groups matches were held in Wuhan, Quarterfinals took place in Guangzhou, Semifinals competed in Shanghai, and the Finals concluded the Championship in Beijing.
The first stage ran for a month and teams competed in groups to decide who would move on. Over the course of two weeks, 12 teams competed in the Play-Ins and the four winners moved on to the next round. The Group Stage also last for two weeks, with the top 4 of the Play-Ins adding to the remaining 12 teams. The top two teams from each group then moved on to the Quarterfinals. The Semifinals took the top four teams from that bracket, sending the remaining two best teams into the Finals.
Samsung Galaxy wasn’t rated highly at first, until they blasted their way through all of their games leading up to the Final, making it to the final round with ease. On the other hand, the reigning champions, SK Telecom T1, struggled through their matches with a couple close calls where it seemed they would be knocked out of the running. They always persevered though, coming through in the end and making their way to meet Samsung Galaxy once again in the ultimate match for the world title.
In an upset no one was expecting, Samsung Galaxy swept through three straight wins in the final games to claim the world title and the Summoner’s Cup. They dominated from the very first game, staying calm and controlling the map. When SK Telecom T1 set up plays to capture the middle and spread out, Samsung Galaxy took control of the edges and closed in. SK Telecom T1 was known for doing well in team fights on the map, but Samsung Galaxy quickly countered them and gained leads. The third game saw a resurgence from SK Telecom T1 as they held their own, but a slight mistake led to the team falling one by one and Samsung Galaxy closed in for the kill and destroyed their Nexus.
On top of all the prestige of beating the reigning three-time champions and the matching adrenaline rush, a lot of money was up for grabs as well. The total prize pool was almost $5 million — the base pool was $2.25 million and fan contributions more than doubled it with 25% of special championship skin purchases added to the pool. Riot also matched these sales to donate to charity, with fans voting which of three causes to support. Half of the funds would be sent to the highest-voted charity and the rest would be split between the other two.
As winners, Samsung Galaxy walked away with 37% of the prize pool for $1.5 million. SK Telecom T1 took home 13% for $550 thousand. The rest was divided up between the remaining teams based on their final placement.
The Human Element
One of the most poignant images from the championship came not from Samsung Galaxy’s joy at obtaining the coveted title, but at SK Telecom T1’s utter loss. The team had dominated the past several championships so thoroughly that fans loved to hate them. But when their star player showed his despair as they lost and the title slipped from their grasp, hearts shattered.
Renowned player “Faker” lay his head in his hands, struggling to contain his heartbreak and emotions. Support immediately rang out across social media, commending his skill and passion for the game. While fans reveled in Samsung Galaxy’s unexpected win, they also cried with SK Telecom T1.
Given the nature of esports, SK Telecom T1 will very likely bounce back much like Samsung Galaxy did from last year and next year’s World Championship may be just as exciting.