In 2018, Invictus Gaming was the first Chinese team to win the League of Legends World Championship. In 2019, FunPlus Phoenix became the second Chinese team in a row to hoist the Summoner’s cup. Now, with one week to go, Suning Gaming will have their chance to make it the third time in a row for China, on Chinese soil. They have a chance to be one of the most surprising champions in League of Legends history, to complete one of the most improbable runs imaginable.
In spring, Suning was struggling; they ended up in 11th place in the LPL, out of the 18 teams that make up the league, and were nowhere near being on the Finals stage at the World Championship. They did better in summer, clawing their way to a fourth place finish in the regular season and a third place finish after playoffs, where they lost 3-0 to TOP Esports.
But on Sunday, they got revenge. Despite coming into the series versus TOP as serious underdogs, Suning handily won three games, losing just one, en route to claiming their spot in the semifinals in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.
TOP collapsing is not as shocking as it could’ve been; we were one game away from a Fnatic vs Suning semifinal, after all, and TOP looked so shaky in that series that Fnatic seemingly threw away a victory to some extent, though TOP did recover by the end of the series to pull off a win. Despite this, though, there were clear signs that the tournament favorite might not be as good as everyone thought they were heading into the event, and Suning proved that was true.
On Saturday, DAMWON Gaming faced off against G2 Esports in a series that was not even close. While G2 esports were the underdogs, it wasn’t expected for DAMWON to so thoroughly dominate the series. It was 3-1, as G2 managed to put up an okay fight in game 2, but game 4 lasted just 19 minutes and set a record for the fastest game in Worlds history.
It’s a disappointing loss for the European team, who was looking to make their second Worlds final in a row, but for DAMWON it was sweet, sweet revenge. G2 eliminated DAMWON in 2019 in the quarterfinals. Even more poetically, the 2019 series was 3-1 for G2, so this was an exact reverse of that round.
DAMWON will be Suning’s opponent on Saturday when they face off in the best-of-five grand final. The last two grand finals, Invictus Gaming vs. Fnatic and FunPlus Phoenix vs. G2, have both been 3-0 blowouts, so fans will be eagerly hoping that this final might be a little more interesting. If it’s anything like the series Suning has had so far, they’re going to try to play to the level of their opponent. But DAMWON is the team on the other side of the server, undisputedly the best Korean team this year, the best Korean team at Worlds and the favorites.
This has been a magical season for Suning, from 11th place in spring to the World Finals in October. Now they need to push that magic a little bit further, because this is going to be the hardest series of these players’ lives. DAMWON are so much the favorites that a loss would probably be the most surprising upset in Finals history. On the other hand, Suning has already made it two rounds further than they were supposed to. Now, they just need one more miracle.