Amid various struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no stopping Riot Games at holding its biggest annual esports event, and this year’s iteration just might be the grandest yet.
The League of Legends World Championship 2020 tournament kicked off with a visual showcase that introduced the playing arena for the event’s group matches. Riot Games partnered with Unreal Engine to produce a mixed-reality spectacle that employed various CG assets and cameras. The partnership touted that it was the first time the technology was used in an esports competition.
David Higdon, head of Global Esports Communications at Riot Games, provided a sneak peek of the arena set up for Worlds 2020’s main stage at Pudong Stadium in Shanghai. The team will utilize more than 3,000 lights and 2,913 square meters of LED tile for the event, while the primary stage itself is over 120 meters wide and more than 30 meters in height.
Both the tourney’s play-in and group stages, on the other hand, will take place at the Shanghai Media Tech studio.
Worlds 2020 will mark the first time that 2019 champions FunPlus Phoenix and seasoned Worlds team T1 will sit out of the competition. Both teams fought hard during the final match of last year’s tournament, only to be relegated after facing tough competition during the qualifiers of Worlds 2020.
Team Liquid, Legacy Esports, MAD Lions, INTZ, and SuperMassive Esports have qualified in Group A of the event’s play-in stage, while PSG Talon, Unicorns of Love, Rainbow 7, LGD Gaming, and V3 Esports are currently fighting for contention in Group B. The top four teams in the Play-In stage will automatically proceed to the Group stage.
Machi Gaming, G2 Esports, Suning, DAMWON Gaming, JD Gaming, Rogue, Fnatic, Gen.G, Team SoloMid, DRX, FlyQuest, and Top Esports have already taken their spots in the group stage and are awaiting the winning teams from the play-in matches.
Day 1 of Worlds’ Play-In stage opened with a chaotic matchup between MAD and INTZ. Both teams played a messy game of attrition in the initial 10 minutes of the game, with Orome taking advantage of the situation at the top lane to earn first blood for MAD. The battle maintained an uneasy sense of stalemate in the next 10 minutes, only for a frenzied skirmish to break out in the middle phase of the game. While INTZ responded to Orome’s kill with two pickoffs, it didn’t take long for MAD to snuff two enemy champions and secure a much-needed Baron kill. With all minions buffed, MAD wasted no time and smashed through INTZ’s turrets to break the nexus and land their first victory in Worlds.
MAD faced off against North America’s Team Liquid to close off Day 1 of the Play-In stage. Jensen’s Twisted Fate controlled the bottom lane at the early stage of the fight, managing to slay two champions from MAD. CoreJJ and Impact followed suit by scoring two more pickoffs for Liquid, but MAD fought back and killed Broxah to take Liquid’s bottom turret. However, it wasn’t enough to stop Liquid’s momentum. Impact led the NA team in winning clashes against MAD, allowing Liquid to destroy the European squad’s turrets and march through Baron. While MAD did their best to halt the siege, a crazy play allowed Liquid to take out four champions in one sitting, leaving the European team’s Nexus vulnerable for their opponents.
V3 began their Worlds 2020 debut with a dominating victory over Rainbow 7. V3 made great use of their champions’ early game potential to control the initial phases of the match, enabling the team to draw first blood against R7. Bugi rotated throughout the entire map to help V3 land objectives, including one Cloud Dragon kill and two Rift Herald pickoffs. The enormous gold advantage drove V3 to widen the gap, as the newcomers slew three champions from R7 at minute 14 and continued on stealing objectives in the map. After three Dragon kills, two team fights, and an Infernal Soul snatch, V3 pushed through R7’s base and ended the match with a massive onslaught.
Meanwhile, crowd-favorites Unicorns and Talon duked it out in Day 2’s fifth match. Unicorns outdrafted Talon by picking off Renekton and Hecarim to snatch control of the top lane, while PSG drafted Volibear, Sett, and Alistar in the hopes of sustaining their ranks for a late-game snowball. Unfortunately, Unicorns’ AHaHaCiK kicked things off with a splashing first kill on Hanabi’s Volibear. Talon attempted to rev things up with a Rift Herald kill, but Unicorns contested the objective and fought a 3v2 duel to steal Herald. Unicorns leveraged Herald to earn the first tower bonus and secure massive control in the game. Moreover, the team landed important pickoffs on Talon’s carries and secured a Baron kill to mount a decisive siege. Talon warded off the first attack by taking out some of their champions, but it didn’t stop Unicorns from breaking through PSG’s inhibitors. With buffed minions swarming the base, victory was inevitable for Unicorns.
Looking to spring back from their Day 2 loss, LGD fought against V3 in a 36-minute punchout. LGD deployed a scaling composition punctuated by Kramer’s Jin as the team’s AD carry, while V3 answered with a well-rounded team in an effort to secure early to mid-game advantage. Their draft allowed V3 to control the map and deter LGD from taking out the Rift Herald and Cloud Dragon. Things seemed working for V3 until Langx moved on his own to draw first blood against Paz. An intense clash broke at minute 13 as both teams fought for the Infernal Dragon, resulting in a surprise smite from Peanut. Revitalized from their small victories, LGD mounted enormous pressure in the middle lane to secure their first tower bonus and steal buffs from V3. Not wanting to let LGD snowball further, V3 outmaneuvered their opponents to take out the Ocean Dragon, but little did the team notice that LGD had already widened the gold gap. Furthermore, Kramer’s Jin moved like a mad dog and snuffed three champions on V3’s ranks to snatch Baron and help his team carry out a final siege. With all chess pieces in place, LGD crashed V3’s momentum and won the game.
In an effort to even the score and advance to the main event, Talon faced Unicorns in one of the tiebreaker matches on Day 3. Unicorns seemed primed to reprise the events of their Day 2 game by taking control of the map and taking out Kongyue in the early game. While Unicorns succeeded in achieving objectives and snuffing out Talon’s champions one by one, PSG baited their enemies into committing an error at minute 23 and took out four champions from UOL. This allowed Talon to land a massive Baron kill and secure another team fight victory at the river. Talon, smelling blood like an apex predator, marched into Unicorns’ base for one final team fight. A well-timed ultimate opened an opportunity for Talon to kill five champions in one dive, leaving the Nexus open for the PCS 2019 Summer Split runner-ups.
With four victories and one defeat in their record, Talon is now moving on to the main stage of Worlds to await the victors of the tourney’s group phase.
The current standings for Worlds 2020 are as follows:
SuperMassive, Liquid, MAD, Legacy, and INTZ are expected to fight it out to secure the remaining spots in Worlds 2020’s group stage, which is slated to begin on Oct. 5.
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