2019 is Not The Year of The Chinese Aegis Dream

Chinese esports fans were heartbroken on Sunday following PSG.LGD’s knock out from Dota 2’s The International 2019 (Ti9) tournament. After their elimination, there were no Chinese teams left in the tournament. European team OG fought against Netherlands-based Team Liquid and emerged as the reigning champions of Ti9.

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Ti9 marks the first Dota 2 international tournament to be hosted in China and, ironically, the first since 2013 not to feature a Chinese team in its grand finals. Since 2014, the annual esports championship featured at least one competing team from China during its grand finals, which makes the experience all the more agonizing for fellow Chinese competitors and fans this time as they were unable to see a Chinese team seize the Aegis of Champions, the trophy awarded to the winners of Ti.

Ti9 in Shanghai, China (Source: He Bo)

For the uninitiated, Ti is an annual Dota 2 esports tournament hosted by Valve Corporation, the game’s developer. The video game has, since its first edition in 2011, continuously broken esports records, with larger and larger prize pools every year. Crowdfunded by players of the game, Ti9 boasted a monumental $34,292,599 prize pool, the largest top prize in esports history.

OG lifts the Aegis of Champions as the champions of Ti9 (Source: Valve)

Coming into Ti9, PSG.LGD had powerful momentum and dominated the group stages with an exceptional 13-3 score, outshining the performance of other teams by a landslide. The Chinese team faced off against their nemesis, OG, again this year in the upper bracket final, but unfortunately lost 1-2 and fell to the lower brackets.

The team found a second chance to get back at OG through the lower bracket games against Team Liquid, but lost 1-2. At the conclusion of the tournament, PSG.LGD came in third and took home a prize of $3,087,586, a generous sum still compared to other esports tournaments.

PSG.LGD members (Source: Valve)

OG on the other hand took the grand final series with a rather dominating 3-1 against Team Liquid, and snatched the Aegis of Champions for the second year in a row, pulling in a record-setting $15,603,133 grand prize and making the team the first to ever win Dota2’s Ti tournaments back-to-back.

PSG.LGD, nicknamed “Laogandie” or godfather in English, were unable to rise to the expectations as the crowd favorite, with the pressure of playing in front of Chinese audiences. “I really like LGD. I really hoped that they can win the championship this time, but my hopes were reduced to black ashes and relegated to a memory after all,” sighed a Chinese fan on Weibo, China’s twitter-like micro-blogging platform. “In the end, they were still unable to make the shield [Aegis of Champions] stay.”

Floor panel at the Mercedez Benz venue in lower bracket final (Source: Valve)

Non-Chinese fans of Dota 2 had a wildly different take on the tournament as a whole compared to their Chinese counterparts. Many were underwhelmed by the reaction of Chinese fans and thought Chinese players cared more about wins and losses as opposed to the game itself as a whole.

“[Chinese audience] can’t appreciate good Dota. Lots of good plays from both teams and they ONLY cheer for KILLS from Chinese teams. What a horrible venue. Dead crowd,” posted a user on Dotabuff, a statistics and community website for the game. “The Chinese crowd take it too personal. These guys need to chill and enjoy the games.”

PSG.LGD didn’t just represent the pride of China and its citizens, but also the hopes of other Chinese teams competing in the tournament as well. Other Chinese teams who were unfortunately eliminated this year include iG, RNG, Vici Gaming and Keen Gaming.

PSG.LGD’s Ame and Chalice in an interview (Source: Valve)

Chinese audiences regretted the outcome of the lower bracket final because it’s not the first time PSG.LGD faced off against Team Liquid. The Chinese team won its first esports title under the PSG partnership at EPICENTER XL, beating Team Liquid 3-1 in the grand final. This time, however, PSG.LGD was unfortunately under high pressure and made several bold but unrewarding choices throughout the series, which eventually led to their own downfall, according to xNova, a player on the team.

“We thought we were invincible so we took a risk,” said Jian Wei “xNova” Yap, the fifth position player on PSG.LGD. “Unfortunately, it resulted in a team wipe.”

PSG.LGD’s xNova in an interview following loss against Team Liquid (Source: Valve)

PSG.LGD began as For The Dream, which won the title at SMM 2009, and was sponsored by LGD later in the same year. LGD entered a partnership with French football giants Paris Saint-Germain in 2018 and rebranded to PSG.LGD. The team has been a powerhouse in the Chinese scene ever since they made their debut in Ti2 back in 2012.

“Sorry that we lost. Hope to come back stronger next year,” said xNova at the interview following LGD’s loss against Team Liquid.