In what is being viewed as a breakthrough moment in female participation in esports, 23-year-old Chinese Hearthstone professional Xiaomeng “Liooon” Li became the first woman to win a championship at BlizzCon, or indeed across all of Blizzard’s games.
Her victory in the Hearthstone GrandMaster 2019 Global Finals championship was entirely deserved. Unlike other Hearthstone Champions in the event, many of whom have had to endure a defeat and play through the loser’s bracket to reach the final, Liooon’s victory was as emphatic as it was historic.
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Drawn in Group B of the eight-player tournament, she was up against a former World Champion in the event in Taiwan’s Chen Wei Lin “tom60229” as well as players from Greece and the United States.
However, Liooon dominated her opening game against tom60229 winning 2-0 and then in the winner’s match against Greek star Fenomeno, she ensured she would finish top of the group with a 2-0 victory over the SK Telecom T1 star.
She was joined in the later stages by bloodyface, who came back from losing his opening game to Fenomeno to win both the elimination match and the decider match to claim second spot in the group. Joining them in the final would be another Chinese player, Leaoh as well as German player Casie from Group A.
In the first semifinal, bloodyface caused something of a shock when beating Leaoh 3-2, while Liooon progressed after an exciting 3-2 victory over Casie.
Having not met in the Group Stage, bloodyface,, American player Brian Eason, was ranked as the underdog for the match up and so it proved with Liooon producing a masterful performance to claim a 3-0 victory, the title and with it, a piece of history for female esports gaming.
“You’re a Girl…It’s Not for You.”
In her interview after her impressive win, Li spoke to the announcer in front of the crowd after being handed the trophy for her victoru.
“Two years ago, I remember I was competing in a huge tournament,” she explained to the crowd.
“I was waiting in line for signups and there was this guy telling me, ‘You’re a girl. You should not be waiting in line here. It’s not for you.’ And now today, I am here, with all this support from the fans.”
She continued; “I want to say to all the girls out there who have a dream for esports, for competition, for glory: If you want to do it and you believe in yourself, you should forget your gender and go for it.”
Three-Year Path to Glory
Liooon path to glory is a relatively short one. Having graduated from university three years ago, she began to play Hearthstone and quickly became highly proficient. She signed on as a referee for a Gold Series Hearthstone tournament where her love for the game grew.
Her boyfriend, also a pro Hearthstone player, helped her hone her skills to the point where she felt confident and able enough to enter professional tournaments after climbing the ladder.
Her journey to BlizzCon was confirmed when, after three straight top six finishes in Gold pen tournaments, she landed a victory at the fourth time of asking in Tianjin, China.
“If my victory can encourage all the women out there who want to compete but are afraid to, that is a huge honour to me.” she stated.
Liooon earned a $200,000 first prize for her victory. She is currently part of the Chinese team Valiant Knighthood.
Images Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment