Top Esports players humbly bowed before thousands of empty seats after a close victory over defending champions JD Gaming in the LPL Summer Split finals last month, signaling a changing of the guard. In China, this season marked the end of the reigning dynasties in League of Legends.
With RNG’s star player Uzi retiring without hoisting the Summoner’s Cup and Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix missing the 2020 World Championship, an era ended. Instead, four teams of promising rookies and veteran players will carry the hopes of China to bring home the Worlds title for the third consecutive time this October.
And in the eyes of many international League fans, TES are the team that’s expected to win it all. “The scenes of our defeat in Spring are still burned in our memories,” TES bot laner JackeyLove said after their LPL Summer victory. “Wear the crown and let TES blossom in the height of summer.”The history of TES is a story of rebirth. The organization joined the LPL in 2018 under the name of Topsports Gaming. Despite a good performance in their first season, they fell short in the playoffs. But in 2019, they built a new identity with a new name and players.
Before the Spring Split, TES signed current mid laner knight, support yuyanjia, as well as top laner 369—who was only 18 at that time. On top of those strategic changes, they also rebranded to Top Esports after the split.
The team performed better by coming in fourth place in the spring and third in the summer, but they ended the season by failing to grab the region’s last spot in the 2019 World Championship after losing to Invictus Gaming 3-2 in the Regional Finals. Something was still missing from the formula.
It could be easy to think that the best-of-one format of group matches will put the LPL teams at a disadvantage since all matches of the regular season are best-of-three series. But it’s not as simple as that, according to Dagda.
“I don’t see it as a big issue,” he said. “TES is a team that can play multiple different styles and can use that to their advantage to catch opponents out. TES is also a team that has shown they have that clutch factor even if they fall behind, winning 60 percent of their games when they are behind at 15 mins.”
Ultimately, the inexperience of Knight, 369, and Yuyanjia could be the real question mark since they’ll step onto the international stage for the first time in their careers. The group phase should be the easy part. Difficulties may arise in the playoffs, though, and as favorites, TES will have to deal with a growing amount of pressure at Worlds 2020.