Today marks the start of the main event and playoffs for Valve's third year of Dota 2 Championships - The International 3 held at Benaroya Hall in Seattle--where 16 of the best teams in the world will battle it out for over $2.8 million in prize money.
Competition began on August 3 with two groups of eight teams, with every team in each group playing against each other in a series of two games. Nearly 400,000 people watched concurrently live the first day, and 600,000 on the second and third, surpassing last year's peak numbers. International 3 favorites Alliance from Sweden and previous champions Na'Vi from Ukraine won their groups, with Alliance going undefeated in 14 straight games.
"I think we do a good job of not putting much pressure on ourselves," Alliance Captain Jonathan "Loda" Berg told GameSpot. "We just try to play our best, and if our best is good enough to win, we are okay with that."
Both teams could meet in the Winners Bracket Finals if they win their next two games. "If we do reach the Upper Bracket finals, we expect to play Na'Vi in that match," Berg said.
"Alliance doing too good," said Na'Vi's Danylo "Dendi" Ishutin, impressed by Alliance's performance from the first three days. "Good sign for European and North American Dota though. Na’Vi best team USA?"
Both teams went combined 7-1 against the Chinese Dota teams, including Alliance's wins over International 2 Champions iG. Coming into the International 3 both teams have now won major tournaments on Chinese soil, a feat that had never been accomplished in previous years.
"I also think that a really big reason why both we and Na'Vi are able to perform so well against the Chinese is that we are not predictable," said Berg. "In previous years, the Chinese teams have dictated the metagame, which caused Western teams to over-react and over-adapt. This year, Chinese teams have been forced to react more than in previous years and I think that's throwing them off a little bit. Also, I think this year is the first year in DotA 2 that the Western teams are on par with the Chinese teams in terms of raw skill."
"But, I don't think you should read too much into group stages. In the playoffs, the Chinese could definitely bounce back and adapt."
Alliance chose LGD to play first round in the playoffs, a decision that was surprising to some considering LGD's own accomplished play as of late.
"We don't really fear anyone, at all, and we feel comfortable playing against the Chinese teams," Berg said regarding the pick. "But, Fnatic was one of our most frequent bootcamp opponents, so it didn't make sense to pick them over LGD when they are so much more familiar with us compared to LGD. So, due to that, LGD is the better choice for us. We decided to choose the team that won the tiebreaker between Dignitas and LGD."
Although both teams are confident from the group stages, as Berg says the playoffs are a different matter. The playoffs are where championship teams truly show off what they can offer.
"We feel decent," said Ishutin, "but now the real deal starts. All four of the Chinese teams are strong. Besides the Winner Brackets nothing matters much."
Fnatic's performance surprised Ishutin, as they were able to land the third spot in Group A. North American teams Team Liquid and Dignitas who had strong performances of their own on the first two days, missed out on opportunities on the final day.
"We went into day two and three with a great amount of confidence, but did not deliver the results we were hoping for," Team Liquid Manager Robin Nymann told GameSpot. "It was especially very hard on all of us to lose 0-2 to iG since even if we just won a single game, we would have been second place in the group and faced off Fnatic in the upper bracket instead of the loser's bracket."
"That being said, I think we have a pretty good draw of games in the lower bracket. It's going to be incredibly hard, but it's definitely doable. If we overcome our greatest opponent--ourselves; we'll make the money."
The playoffs begin today at 12 PM PST/3 PM EST, with a full schedule available. An All-Star match will be played at the end of the day today, with the finals of the Solo 1v1 Championships played August 8 between Zenith's Daryl "iceiceice" Koh Pei Xiang and Orange's Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung.