Going into the League of Legends World Championship match-up today, the question wasn't if the Korean powerhouse team SKT 1 was going to lose to Taiwanese challenger ahq e-Sports Club. It was: "Will ahq manage to take a game or two off of SKT's perfect winning streak?" SKT just answered with a resounding nope.
SKT 1 is already a legendary team. They crushed the 2013 World Championships, and have long been considered to be one of the best, if not the best, League of Legends team in the world. So far, the 2015 Worlds has shown pretty clearly, that yeah, SKT 1 is the best there is.
SKT won all six of its preliminary group stage games last week. But the way Riot has structured Worlds — segregating the strongest teams into separate groups — made it so that they haven't really met their match yet. They didn't even put star player Faker in for some of the group games. The accomplished Taiwanese team ahq e-Sports club was supposed to be their first challenge. And it was a challenge! For about three minutes.
Watching SKT 1 play League of Legends is awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time. The team is so inhumanly strong that they have pounded every team they have gone against in Worlds straight into the ground.
The first game against ahq today was an easy win, albeit a slightly drawn out one. SKT 1 already had two kills around the six-minute mark of the game. ahq managed to survive, but not much else.
Game two was almost painful to watch. SKT cleaned house in less than thirty minutes. By the 27-minute mark, they were literally beating ahq back to the fountain where their champions respawned.
All ahq could do was huddle in that small little circle of invulnerability. One step outside and they'd be slaughtered instantly.
I'm going to post another, non-muted copy of that highlight just so you can hear the shoutcaster screaming, "Everybody is being killed!" on repeat. That's as good a moment as any to sum up the first two ahq games against SKT today.
In game three, ahq actually put up a fight. They did a decent job of it, too. As the game stretched past the 40-minute mark, ahq managed to snag a fourth dragon kill, giving themselves a powerful advantage over SKT, who'd only gotten one dragon so far.
Meanwhile, SKT seemed like it was struggling to finish off the big purple worm monster Baron to try and secure itself at least a few competitive bonuses against ahq. For a moment, it seemed like ahq actually had them on the ropes. The commentators said it was the first time SKT had been threatened so far in the day.
And then everything went to shit for ahq. They tried to finish off the Baron SKT had kept starting (and restarting) their fight with. Before they could, SKT had pounced on them.
Ironically enough, the commentators were showing a replay of ahq pulling off some impressive outplays against SKT at the moment their fateful baron fight started. The commentators actually had to cut the replay short just to show SKT killing ahq. The one replay that made ahq look like it was going to be a real contender. I'd say that's another candidate for a moment that perfectly sums up today's match-up.
Today's wins extend SKT's remarkable winning streak in Worlds from 6-0 to 9-0. Whether or not they actually broke a sweat today is up for debate. An ahq win wasn't set in stone before they got wiped at baron. But it was their game to lose, and that fateful moment was definitely more of a throw by ahq than it was an outplay by SKT.
SKT will now advance to the semifinals, which they will play against the brand new European team Origen. As I wrote yesterday, Origen is a surprisingly strong team. But they also haven't had to try super hard to make it to the semifinals. A lot of their competition in the beginning of the tournament was very weak, and Taiwanese challengers Flash Wolves didn't do much to break that trend yesterday in their quarterfinals games against Origen.
Origen has a serious, if not insurmountable, challenge ahead of them in the semifinals games next week. The question now is: will that game be the first time SKT loses? Even just one game?
Photos via Riot Games' Flickr.