Last week, the four quarterfinals matchups of the League of Legends World Championship took place. There were eight teams remaining: three from both China and Korea and two from Europe. After those games, there were only four remaining.
First, Damwon Gaming faced off against DRX. That game went exactly how everyone expected. Damwon Gaming repeated their 3-0 from the LCK Finals. DRX didn’t fail as badly as they could’ve, but in no part of the series did it seem as though they’d win, which is pretty bad if you’re a team who wants to win.
The second series was more interesting. Suning Gaming faced off against JD Gaming, both of which are LPL teams. JD Gaming was the second seed from China, coming out one above Suning who was third, making them the favorites heading into the quarterfinals match.
Despite being the underdogs, Suning put on a fantastic performance. They did drop game one, but it was a close game and JDG didn’t seem massively better. In games two, three and four, Suning took control and refused to let their foot off the gas. Their nineteen-year-old bot laner Huanfeng was a major part of the victory, showing off on Jhin in game two. The entire Suning lineup popped off. From Angel’s taunt in game three to secure top laner Bin a double kill at one minute in, to Huanfeng ulting JDG from their base in game two, to Sofm’s powerful engages.
They ended up winning the series 3-1, dropping only the first game. It was a classic LPL faceoff — fierce and full of teamfights and mistakes. It wasn’t the cleanest game, as LPL matchups never are, but it was very fun to watch with two very strong teams fighting. At the end of the day, Suning were just the better team.
The third quarterfinals game was TOP Esports vs Fnatic. TOP has been the favored team throughout the tournament; they’re the first seed from the LPL, which has won two Worlds in a row, and they looked positively dominant heading into last week.
But then, they faltered. Fnatic won game one, and then they won game two. Somewhat more frighteningly, neither of the first two games felt all that close; Fnatic felt like the better team. They were the ones making the plays against the best team at the tournament and for a moment it felt like not only might Fnatic win, they might win 3-0.
And then TOP remembered how they got to Worlds in the first place. Games three and five weren’t close; TOP rode on the backs of star mid laner Knight and jungler Karsa to fight their way back from a 0-2 deficit. They completed the reverse sweep, going from 0-2 to 3-2, and crushed Fnatic’s dreams. While going 2-3 against the team that will likely win the tournament is still impressive, it wasn’t enough. To some extent, being so close only makes it hurt worse, because they could’ve won.
It wasn’t like DRX vs Damwon. There DRX never had a chance and that fact was clear in their series. But Fnatic did have a chance against TOP, however unlikely that was heading into their best-of-five. In a press conference after the series, Fnatic’s bot laner Rekkles explained why their impressive performance still wasn’t something he was proud of, saying “Still, no one will really remember how we played today. I don’t think the way we played makes it ‘okay’ to lose, so because of this, I feel that a loss is a loss and a win is a win.”
The final quarterfinals matchup was G2 Esports vs Gen.G. This was projected to potentially be pretty close. G2 had some inconsistency issues this year and Gen.G felt like a potential darkhorse. It could’ve been a close matchup — last year’s second best team taking on a Korean team many felt were underrated after they only claimed the third seed in Korea.
Naturally, because this is Worlds, that didn’t happen at all. G2 Esports continued to show a much improved level of consistency, bringing out impressive plays in three straight games. Perkz and Caps showed off, and the entire team was very, very good. The one question coming out of that quarterfinal would be whether G2 can play that well without their favorite Jhin and Sylas picks. Caps played two games on Sylas, and Perkz played all three on Jhin.
The semifinals will be on Saturday Oct. 24 and Sunday Oct. 25. G2 Esports will face off against Damwon Gaming on Saturday, while TOP Esports will face Suning on Sunday. G2 and Suning are both clear underdogs, but after TOP’s questionable performance last week, and Suning’s dominant one, an upset in the LPL matchup is not out of the question. And for G2, well, they’ve beaten favored teams before; Perkz famously led the roster to a win over RNG in 2018’s quarterfinals, robbing the favored Chinese team of even a semifinals berth.
There are just four teams left, out of the 22 that originally were at the tournament. One of these four teams will lift the Summoner’s Cup and become the tenth team to win the biggest esports event of the year. But three of these teams, who have survived 18 others and proven themselves to be some of the best in the world, will still not be good enough.