There are moments in sports where it feels like anything can happen. The most unlikely of champions could be born from the ashes of a giant. It’s the Red Sox comeback against the Yankees in ‘04, it’s the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team beating the Soviets, it’s OG’s miracle run at TI8.
And yet, most of the time, exactly what we expect to happen happens. The team or person who had gotten so close fail, as we all expected them to even if we didn’t want to believe it. That was on full display over the weekend, as the LEC and LCS playoffs continued.
In the LEC, there were three series over the weekend as their playoffs kicked off. On Friday, Fnatic took on SK Gaming, the sixth seed who had crept into playoffs over Misfits. Fnatic, the fifth seed, had won both of their games in the regular season against SK, the more recent of which was a bout in week seven.
Despite the fact that Fnatic was coming off of a rough week —they lost all three games in week eight — they showed up against SK and looked much more like the Fnatic of old. The games weren’t blowouts by any means, and SK did claim game two, but Fnatic was able to outlast in games one, three and four.
But that wasn’t a surprise. After all, Fnatic is one of the legacy organizations in the LEC and to have them fail in the playoffs would’ve been shocking even after this season where they have, at times, looked very . . . normal. Not impressive enough to place over 9-9, just there. The magic came close, though, in the second series of the weekend.
That series was the first-seeded G2 versus the fourth place team, FC Schalke 04. For any soccer fans, that’s the team owned by the same sports club that owns a soccer team. For anyone else, that’s the team that was two games from making a run from last place to Worlds last year, falling short against the MAD Lions during the playoffs in summer.
Now they had to face off against the best team in the league — most people have G2 rated above Rogue even though they have the same record, in a best-of-five. And for the first two games it looked as bad as it could’ve. G2 dominated on the back of strong plays by Rekkles and though Schalke was able to get kills, they weren’t able to convert those kills into wins.
That changed in games three and four. Schalke gave BrokenBlade Darius in game three, and he racked up eight kills to just two deaths, assisted by Abbedagge on Oriana, who had eight assists. Game four was closer, but BrokenBlade once again performed and this time he was assisted by a Vayne lockin for Neon, which he performed well on.
And then, there was game five. Despite everything that came before it, despite the struggles to work back from an 0-2 start in the series, despite the expectations that come with a reverse sweep and that massive swing of momentum, Schalke couldn’t get over the line. The fifth game was close, but once again on the back of Rekkles, this time on Seraphine, G2 skated over the line.
What do people say, when the team that was supposed to win does win but does so in such an unordinary fashion? What is there to say? G2 moves on in the upper bracket. They’ll be facing off against the MAD Lions, who beat Rogue in their own series. And while Schalke isn’t out, they’re now in the lower bracket, where they’ll be face-to-face with Fnatic and try to knock at least one of the teams who has just always been there out.
In the LCS, things were simpler. TSM played against Evil Geniuses and, to the surprise of absolutely no one, they won. Evil Geniuses isn’t a bad team, but TSM is TSM despite their loss to Team Liquid in round one. EG did manage to claim a game, but it required Jizuke to get seven kills and 11 assists while Deftly had seven kills to 10 assists.
The other series of the weekend, also in the lower bracket, was 100 Thieves versus Dignitas which was also deeply not close. Dignitas, despite their improvements over the split and the performances of their younger players prior to playoffs, they couldn’t get their footing and went down with a whimpering 0-3 loss and elimination.
It was a weekend in which there was at most one upset, since Rogue likely would’ve been the favorite over MAD. And yet, the magic of the almost, of the stories that remain unwritten, lingers. What if Schalke had won? What if EG had been a little more sure, if Dignitas had played as well as we’ve seen they can play? And, perhaps infinitely more importantly for all the teams who’ve survived the weekend, what stories will they write next?