League of Legends: Vindication

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There are moments in sports when you can see a game be won. A quarterback makes a game-winning touchdown pass, a baseball is hit for a grand slam or a basketball player goes for a three-point shot at the buzzer; Those are the big moments, the win-or-lose attempts that go down in history. But what gets forgotten are all the moments that led to that one. It’s the smaller plays; the passes that got the quarterback to the position he was in. The shots that kept the basketball game close until that game-winning basket. There are ten, twenty, fifty moments in a game that change its entire course. 

In North American and European League of Legends this weekend, there were numerous moments where you could almost see the game hanging on a thread, where one step forward or backwards from any team would be the difference between victory and defeat, between going down in history for being a team who won it all, or for being a team who only almost did.  

In Europe, it was once again the Caps Show. The Summer MVP, Caps spent most of his split carrying G2 through difficult game after difficult game, giving incredible performances on carry champions like LeBlanc and Zoe. In the lower bracket finals on Saturday, his performances on Zoe and Syndra were key to getting G2 a hard-fought 3-2 series win over Rogue. While his team did show some impressive plays (Perkz had solid performances on both Ashe and Senna, and Wunder showed off good Shen play), it was clear throughout the series that Caps was the winning moment for G2. If he showed up, they could take it all. If he didn’t, they almost certainly would have been defeated. 

On Sunday, G2 played in the Grand Finals against the upper bracket winners, Fnatic. Fnatic defeated G2 last weekend in the upper bracket finals, meaning they were the favorite heading into the finals to face off one last time this split. Despite this, G2 beat Fnatic in three consecutive games, claiming their fourth LEC title in a row. The games in the finals were not blowouts; Fnatic had plenty of moments in every game where it looked like they had a chance. They were never able to capitalize on these moments and turn them into wins, momentum and victory.  

This was in large part thanks to Caps once again dominating, ending the series with a truly terrifying 27/9/19 KDA. He claimed the player of the series award and his sixth title in a row, since he won two-in-a-row on Fnatic before joining G2 for this four-in-a-row streak with Europe’s kings. Now, G2 turns their eyes towards Worlds, looking to replicate their impressive 2019 run and maybe, just maybe, actually finish it out. 

In North America, for a few hours, it looked like history might be repeating. To set the stage, you need to look back to the 2019 LCS Spring finals. TSM was taking on Team Liquid, who had won the last two LCS seasons in a row and were a favorite coming into the season. TSM, on the other hand, had struggled in the 2018 season and missed Worlds after a gauntlet loss to Cloud9. But in the Grand Finals, TSM was up 2-0 over Team Liquid, and it looked good for the decorated North American veterans. 

But Team Liquid came back. They won the next three games in impressive fashion, claiming their third LCS win in a row and completely wrecking TSM—especially their ADC Zven, who was picked off near the Baron during game five in a play that effectively handed Team Liquid the series victory. 

On Sunday, TSM took on FlyQuest. TSM jumped out to an early lead, winning games one and two, but once again FlyQuest took games three and four, putting TSM on the ropes. It looked like history was repeating, like TSM was once again going to collapse just inches from the finish line, inches from a split victory for the first time since franchising. 

But this time, TSM showed up. They fought back in Game Five, drafting aggressive champions and letting their star midlaner, Bjergsen, carry them to success after several years of downsliding and failures for the LCS’s most winning organization. This time, at the end of Game Five, it was TSM who were victorious. It didn’t look the same as their first six split victories; there was no crowd cheering them on. It was just them, and their support staff, but it was enough. TSM claimed the first North American seed at the World Championship. Perhaps more importantly, it was vindication for TSM, for Bjergsen, that they once again were on top of the mountain. They reclaimed their crown, and they’ll take it all the way to Worlds.  

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