The powerhouse Korean League of Legends team SKT had already set a new record before today's semifinals games against European challenger Origen, with their perfect 9-0 winning streak at the World Championships. Today, the question for eSports fans was: can Origen somehow interrupt that? Once again, SKT said nope.
Today's semifinals match-up was very clearly going to be the end of the road for Origen. Nobody in the League eSports scene expected Origen to win against SKT. But people thought they could at least win a game. Maybe even two. The crowd on hand in Brussels, Belgium, certainly wanted them too, booing the way they did every time one of Riot's analysts called the match-up in SKT's favour. And for a moment, it actually seemed like Origen was going to.
The first match of the day began with a shocking slap to the face for SKT. They'd gone into the match dripping with confidence. Star player Faker was sitting on the bench, and he'd said in a pre-game interview on-stage that he knew his team was going to win 3-0. Then Origen's Paul "sOAZ" Boyer dodged and faked his way out of two-to-one fight so masterfully that it put the whole game on hold:
That was the high point of Origen's day at Worlds — though in their defence, some are calling it the highlight of all of Worlds so far. The team wasn't able to maintain its forward momentum. SKT also happens to be an especially aggressive team with an unmatched ability to punish their opponents for making the slightest mistakes or even just stalling. They quickly found their way back to the top of the match-up and refused to budge.
Even though Origen lost its first game, it was close enough that the team seemed to have a chance to pick something off SKT. The second and third games eliminated any hope of that happening.
Origen continued to play well. Their problem was simply that SKT continued to play better. As one of the shoutcasters said towards the end of the third game: "For every two good plays, Origen makes a bad one." 23 minutes into the third match, the commentators had started writing the team's obituary.
The ending of the third match was tragic, almost heartbreaking for fans who've been following Origen closely during this spectacular first season at Worlds:
SKT was aggressively shouldering their way into Origen's last line of defences.
This push was so forceful that SKT burst a hole straight into the center of Origen's base, scattering their opponents on all sides. SKT is the blue team here:
Notice how much more securely clumped together they are than Origen, who has two different parts of its team isolated from one another and super vulnerable. SKT used that advantage to keep their assault going. Soaz, the Origen player at the very top of the above image. He was forced to retreat just to save his own life, then try to force his way back into the fight. He's big furry white monster hurling himself down the map below:
He's playing Gnar, one of the best, and cutest, champions in League.
Soaz got back to the fight too late, and his teammates were already dead. He couldn't turn back either, because SKT had now flanked him. With nothing left to do, he lunged out of the base and headed for SKT's Bengi, who was very low on health:
It was a desperate move, one experienced League of Legends players know all too well. It's the kind of play you make when you've accepted that you've fallen and are going to hit the ground hard, so you're just going to grab at anything you can to take down with you. The one last kill that might bring you a small slice of satisfaction. And maybe in that mad pursuit for blood or vengeance you'll somehow save the day.
But Soaz couldn't reach his opponent fast enough. He put enough distance between them that it stopped looking like a real chase. He's at the very bottom of the screen here, almost completely off of it:
And as Bengi ran past Origen's last turret and into relative safety, one of his teammates started to teleport in to deal with Soaz. That's the thin blue line you see above, summoning him in.
This was Soaz, the Origen player who effortlessly landed a game-winning pentakill back at the beginning of the tournament, which quickly emerged as one of the best and flashiest plays of the tournament:
The one who'd come out swinging at the beginning of today's game and showed that they could clap back against the strongest League of Legends team in the world.
And here he was, being chased out of his own base and hounded down mercilessly like the sad furry little critter that he was:
SKT wouldn't even give him the dignity of that last kill. He was the one who'd slapped them in the face, after all. They needed to show everyone who's boss again.
After today's win, SKT heads into the finals with a perfect 12-0 streak at Worlds. Who they will play against will be determined tomorrow in the Fnatic vs. KOO Tigers game.