MSI - Group Stage
The group stage is where things took a bit of a turn. Liquid’s competition in Groups included China’s reigning World Champions, the Korean team holding the title of winningest team in League of Legends history, the re-crowned kings of Europe, and two Wild Card regions well known for routinely upsetting major region teams in international competition.
Despite the competition being fierce, Liquid would go 2-0 on their first day of Groups. This success, however, would be short lived. From there Liquid would go on to lose the following 4 games and began the last day of the Group Stage barely holding on to 4th place with a 3-5 record. They needed to win against one of the three strongest teams at MSI in order to finally advance to the Knock-Out Stage. This wasn’t something to stick one’s nose up at either. Team Liquid had lost both of their games to the Chinese and Korean teams and had a losing record against the European team coming into their do-or-die game against them.
But Liquid didn’t fail. With their fate firmly in their own grasp Liquid handed the European squad a solid defeat and finally made it out of Groups. For AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, it was a first. An 8 year goal that kept evading his grasp. And the team wasn’t done yet either. With their win against the European Kings, Liquid had solidified a rather fitting 4th place seed into the Knock-Out Stage. As such their opponent was to be the reigning World Champions. The Chinese Titans. The very team that had just gone 9-1 in Groups— Invictus Gaming.
MSI - Knock-Out Stage
To say that no one believed that Team Liquid would win their series against China’s Champions is an understatement. Only a single analyst on the broadcast desk gave a single game to Team Liquid in his predictions. While he predicted China to win the series 3-1, the rest predicted China winning in a 3-0 smackdown.
The very first game of the series showed that Liquid came to throw those predictions back in everyone’s faces. Liquid turned up the heat and surprised the reigning World Champions by beating them at their own game. Picks that had not been picked before came out on the side of Liquid and with it an aggression that had so often failed the team in the past. But instead of taking things slowly and methodically as per usual, Liquid decided to bring the fight to their opponents. Utilizing IG’s own style against them as though it were kryptonite. Only this time it worked.
Game one came as a pleasant surprise to the casters, analysts, and fans. As game two went on and Liquid began to look more and more dominant hope built. More and more people began saying “they can do this” as cheers of “Let’s Go Liquid” became increasingly audible from the crowd. After winning game 2 the discussion on everyone’s lips shifted to how Team Liquid could win the series. “Stay the course. Keep the momentum going.”
A loss in game 3 of the series didn’t slow them down either. Game 4 was just as thrilling as the 3 that came before it. And in what was a vindictive series for North American fans everywhere, Team Liquid toppled the titans. They beat the once-thought invincible reigning World Champions. They became the North American team that made it to the Finals of an international tournament for the first time in 3 years. Not just in a 3-0 series that could be brushed away as a bad series on China’s part either, Liquid did it in a hard-fought, competitive 4 game series.
Unfortunately for Liquid their road would go from gilded to gravel almost immediately. After doing the unthinkable and slaying the titans of international play, Team Liquid had to face Europe in the first ever Western/Western international final in the history of League of Legends. Though Liquid would go on to lose in what was a record breakingly fast Finals blowout, this wasn’t a failure for the team by any means.
MSI - NA’s Redemption
The crushing loss aside, Team Liquid did something special out there at MSI. By ending the tournament in 2nd place after having gone through teams that were so heavily favoured against them, Liquid did right by North America and its fans. You see, NA had been the butt of every international competition joke since failing to replicate the region’s only other 2nd place finish back in 2016. In the years following said finish NA came to be synonymous with lesser talent, unskilled play, playing for money not trophies, and choking on the international stage.
Making it out of the Group Stage isn’t something lesser teams do. Beating the reigning World Champions in a convincing way isn’t something that unskilled players do. Getting to finals is not something someone does when choking.
So while Team Liquid has been vocal about their impressive, pride-inducing 2nd place MSI run not being enough. It’s a damn good start.
Saigon Cup 2019
Team Liquid’s John Takeuchi found continued success in Vietnam at the Capcom Pro Tour Ranking event, not only in results but also in personal growth. John has had a tremendous start to the 2019 tour and is currently sitting within Capcom Cup qualification at 14th globally.
Ranking events are supposed to be ‘easier’ than premieres, but the lines continue to blur as pro tour points are far too valuable to pass up. We see more and more pro players attending each and every event possible rather than simply relying on doing well at ‘premieres’. For instance, John bested Oil King, Fuudo and his longtime demon, Tokido in his top 8 path to grand finals. That is absolutely stacked and could be a top 8 run at any premiere event.
While John fell to Tokido in the bracket reset, he showed tremendous growth. Tokido has been a thorn in John’s side for years, gatekeeping him out of top8’s fairly regularly last year. John was able to defeat Tokido in Winners Finals and kept it close in the finale. A top 2 finish and a strong performance against his rival are good looks going into Combo Breaker at the end of the month, one of the biggest and most prestigious stops on the Capcom Pro Tour.
Texas Showdown 2019
Evil Geniuses NYChrisG is no stranger to the podium. He is one of the winningest FGC competitors of all-time and at Texas Showdown, he added to his collection.
NYChrisG went undefeated through his bracket in Dragon Ball FighterZ beating some of the best NA players the game has to offer. His run included a close 2-1 win over Echo Fox’s Dekillsage in winners semi finals but after that, he dominated. Following Dekillsage, NYChrisG went on to sweep NRG’s HookGangGod, a fan favorite and Summit of Power champion 3-0.
Dekillsage was able to make it back to NYChrisG in grand finals but NYChrisG utilized the data he downloaded in the first set to tweak his play and put Dekillsage down 3-0 to claim victory.
If you’ve followed the fighting game community, you know that NYChrisG plays it all and DBFZ wasn’t the only game where NYChrisG made a splash. NYChrisG also won the retro classic, Street Fighter Alpha 2, as well as claimed a spot in top 8 for Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (4th) and perhaps the most surprising result, (5th) in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.
It’s exciting to think about NYChrisG applying his ridiculous fighting game knowledge and experience to Super Smash Brothers and we sure hope he sticks with it. We want to see the fireworks.
EPICENTER Major Qualifiers
Epicenter will be the last Major of the year before TI9 and EG, PSG.LGD, Team Liquid, and Fnatic have all qualified once again. Each of these teams have no need for the DPC points that they will collect from being at the Major as every single of one of them have secured their invite to TI9 already. Na`Vi and Alliance were each only one game away from qualifying as well, with Alliance giving TL and OG a run for their money, sadly losing both series 2-1 while Na`Vi took down VP in the upper bracket of their qualifier only to lose to them 3-2 in the finals. The positive of these losses is that they showed incredible resilience against three of the best teams in the world and they should be able to make it to the Minor where they will have one more shot to make it to the Major and hopefully qualify directly to TI from there.
EG, PSG.LGD, Fnatic, and TL did not face any particularly difficult challenges through their qualifiers, which lives up to their status as the strongest teams in their respective regions. With less stress on the players to qualify directly for TI they can focus single-mindedly on winning Epicenter and heading into the final stretch before TI with some strong momentum. It would not be a surprise for any of these teams to win in Moscow and we can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
Pro League Season 9
Season 9 of the Rainbow Six Pro League has wrapped up, this time in the beautiful city of Milan. The Finals came down to Evil Geniuses against the likes of Team Empire. A good portion of the finals, EG looked to become the ultimate victors, even taking a tournament point on the second map, yet Team Empire had no intentions of quitting. Through a spectacular comeback, and stellar performances across the entire lineup, Team Empire crowned themselves Pro League champions after a 7-3 win on the third map of the series — a devastating loss to Evil Geniuses.
Of course, in doing so, the European lads of Team Empire stashed a $75,000 prize check into their pockets. Before facing EG in the finals they also met with Fnatic in the semi-finals where Fnatic also put up a good fight, narrowly losing 2-1. Fnatic had taken down the Japanese team PET Nora-Rengo in the first round 2-0 where both maps went to extra rounds. Coming up soon is the Six Major, which will take place in Raleigh, North Carolina, and will run from August 12-18th. With their performances here, both EG and Fnatic have already qualified for that event.