Riot Games has kicked off the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships, with 14 of the best teams from North America, Europe, South Korea, China, and Southeast Asia battling for $2,000,000 and the title of best League of Legends team in the world.
The Season 3 finals began with the first day of group matches, where the top two teams from each group advanced to the quarterfinals to meet with the first-place finishers of each region. Teams in the group stage include Team SoloMid and Team Vulcun from the United States, Samsung Galaxy Ozone and SK Telecom T1 from South Korea, Fnatic, Gambit Gaming (Russia), Lemondogs (Sweden), GamingGear (Lithuania) from Europe, OMG from China, and Mineski from the Philippines. Cloud 9 from the United States, Gamania Bears from Taiwan, Najin Sword from South Korea, and Royal Club from China wait the winners in the Quarterfinals.
Games kicked off with TSM taking a quick victory over a GamingGear team who will have a rough road ahead of them these playoffs, and Lemondogs putting up a battle with tournament favorites SKT1.
Things ramped up much quicker for TSM's next match against OMG, a team that is playing outside of China for the first time. OMG AD Carry Guo "San" JunLiang left no question of their tournament inexperience by leading them to two wins over TSM and SKT1. Guo led the day in average gold per game, and second in KDA with 19.
"I never thought we could beat SKT1," midlaner Yu "Cool" JiaJun told GameSpot about their wins. "We've watched all of their previous games and their AP and AD carries are so strong. I think the reason we were able to win against SKT1 was because our Jungler [Yin "LoveLin" Le] played great in the beginning. He was able to get us our advantages."
"We didn't know much about TSM before our game. We didn't put a lot of pressure on ourselves before playing them. We actually have very high expectations for ourselves. I think it's important to have confidence in your own team."
"The biggest thing was that we lost mid," said TSM support Alex "Xpecial" Chu. "Fizz vs. Ahri is supposed to be a winning matchup for [TSM Captain] Reginald, and he lost the lane. Ahri got out of control. Today was a frustrating experience and hopefully we learned a lot from it. We've still got six more games, and if we can win five we have a really good shot of making it out of the group stage."
Chu believes Group A to be a much more difficult group, stating that most analysts have picked SKT1, OMG, and Lemondogs as the best teams in each of their regions--Korea, China, and Europe, respectively.
"I say we'll get out of group stage, and I firmly believe Vulcun can get out and have a really good shot," said Chu. "I'm 100 percent sure if we were in Group B, we would get out."
Group B saw Vulcun with a big win over Fnatic to start things off, and SG Ozone return the favor soon after. SG Ozone closed out the day against Gambit Gaming, which earned the final spot in the European playoffs after a close decider against Evil Geniuses. Gambit used Vulcun's similar lineup in their game against SG Ozone for their own benefit, getting them a crucial win against one of Korea's best teams.
"I think we were not that nervous, we knew what they were going to do," said Gambit Captain Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin. "They really suffered versus Vulcun, and we were pretty sure we had an edge. We decided to pick our comfort picks, and we knew [what they would pick] because we picked similar to Vulcun."
Ichetovkin says that Gambit has used their preparation against teams like OMG in the days leading into the event.
"We're scrimming a lot against the Chinese teams, against OMG. They brought a lot to our teamplay and game overall. We've changed a bit about our game. We're pretty confident. I think we should be able to win against the other teams. The only team we’re not sure against is Fnatic. They're really good against us."
Day two was headlined by a battle between Gambit and Fnatic for the top spots in Group B. Fnatic has not lost a game to Gambit since the Spring Playoff Finals, having lost all the games in the Summer Season. Ichetovkin's worries came true as Fnatic continued their streak to tie up both teams 3-1 on the top of Group B.
Fnatic Top Laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer believes the picking phase played a key factor in their win.
"Everyone thought went good for us. I think we really out banned and out picked them, and we played good. I think Gambit is the team we know the most in Europe. We know how to play against them. Gambit is really predictable on their picks."
"We expected a bit more from the Koreans. I think they're really strong individual players but their teamplay is not that good compared to what we've seen before."
Hundreds of thousands of viewers tuned in from around the globe to watch the opening day of the championships on live-stream, though no confirmation could be given on peak concurrent viewers or total views. The #Worlds hashtag trended third in the United States above NFL games at certain times, and at one point there was over 25,000 concurrent users on the League of Legends community hub on Reddit.
Reddit General Manager Erik Martin tells GameSpot that the League of Legends subreddit was the most active subreddit on the entire site yesterday. "It was indeed the most active (by pageviews) subreddit for the day," he said.
Riot Games head of eSports Dustin Beck told GameSpot that the developer has been blown away by the event's reception thus far.
"We're just completely floored by the community's reception as we kick off the group stages of the Season 3 World Championship," Beck said. "We can't wait to see which teams make it out of the Group Stages, and we hope fans enjoy the rest of this week's games as much as we're gonna!"
The group stages continue again tonight and every night at 7 p.m. PST through till Saturday, September 21. Watch the event live on GameSpot each night. GameSpot eSports is live on location provided interviews every day of the championships.