The two League of Legends Worlds semifinals this past weekend could have signaled a changing of the guard. For a long time, Korean teams have dominated this event, but their two representatives in the semis, SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy, had proven vulnerable in the run up to this stage.
Lying in wait were the talents of Royal Never Give Up, arguably the most consistent team across the entire championship, and Team WE, who came through the Play-In Stage and notched a memorable win against SK Telecom T1 in the recent Rift Rivals tournament.
The bookies had the two Korean team as the favourites (as always), but there was a sense that this could be the year that perhaps China enjoyed its first success in League of Legends’ premiere event.
Over the weekend, both Chinese teams had a partisan home support roaring for them. The scene was set for at least one of the Chinese teams to earn that coveted finals spot and perhaps put an end to Korean dominance.
But things didn’t quite turn out that way. Once again, the brilliance of Korea’s finest came to the fore in two dramatic, but very different semifinals.
Royal Never Give Up blow their chance to end SK Telecom T1’s reign
Most commentators felt if one team could end Korea’s stranglehold on the Worlds finals, it would be Royal Never Give Up.
In a football stadium-like atmosphere for the first game in their best-of-five semifinal, the home side played a very solid game to take the opening match. In contrast, SK Telecom T1 once again showed the vulnerabilities that had beset them throughout the tournament.
However, in the second map, SK Telecom T1 played a solid game to even the matchup at 1-1. Faker proved to be their key player, but not even he could stop the Chinese squad from taking the third game in the series. Would this be the year SK pushed their luck one time too many?
The answer was emphatic. No. SK saved their best games until the final two maps. Led by the incredible Faker, they took both the games to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
The only consolation for Royal Never Give Up as their disconsolate fans left the stadium in silence was that the gap between the top Korean sides and their rivals is decreasing — not quickly enough, apparently.
Samsung Galaxy defeat Team WE to claim final spot
The second semifinal took place on Sunday. Just 24 hours after one Korean team made it through to the finals, they were joined by a second. Samsung Galaxy overcame Team WE in relatively conclusive fashion to earn another crack at the world title.
The opening game was a salutary lesson for the Korean side, as Team WE dominated the opening map. The Korean team making a number of elementary mistakes that gave Chinese fans hope.
However, those hopes would soon be dashed. Samsung Galaxy kicked it into gear and took the next three maps in convincing fashion to earn a 3-1 victory. Even the final game in this match, which lasted 36 minutes, was very much a one-sided affair.
So once again, it is two of Korea’s finest in the LoL Worlds Finals. Both teams have won previously and will feel confident they can claim the title in the Bird’s Nest Stadium next weekend in Beijing.
SK Telecom T1 vs. Samsung Galaxy preview
The strength of Korean League of Legends gaming is perhaps emphasized by the fact that the team that won the LCK Summer Split and was the region’s top seeds, Longzhu Gaming, didn’t get past the quarterfinals.
Let’s take a look at SK and Samsung’s roads to the finals.
SK Telecom T1
- LCK Summer Split — Fourth place with 13-5 record
- Summer Split Playoffs — Finalists, but lost to Longzhu Gaming 3-1
- World Championship Group Stage — Group A winners with 5-1 record
- Quarter Final Result — Defeated Misfits 3-2
- Semi Final Result – Defeated Royal Never Give Up 3-2
The three-time World Champions have enjoyed unparalleled success in this event. Despite not being as dominant this year as in the past, they are still the strong favourites to win their fourth title next weekend. Betway is offering 1/2 on SK winning.
- LCK Summer Split Qualifier – Second place with 14-4 record
- Summer Split Playoffs – Playoff Round 1 lost to SK Telecom T1 0-3
- World Championship Group Stage — Came through Group C at 4-2 to get No. 2 seed
- Quarter Final — Swept Longzhu Gaming 3-0
- Semi Final — Defeated Team WE 3-1
Even though Samsung have arguably qualified for this final against tougher opponents and looked stronger than their future opponent, such is SK Telecom T1’s mystique that Samsung are ranked as the 7/5 outsiders. This will be the second time in two years these teams have met in the finals. SK Telecom T1 won last year’s matchup in Los Angeles 3-2.