It’s been a phenomenal year for European League of Legends on the world stage. With G2 Esports winning Mid-Season Invitationals and EU destroying North America at Rift Rivals, it’s never been a better time to be a League of Legends player from Europe.
However, there is still a long way to go in the UK scene, a region which has traditionally produced less talent in comparison to its European neighbours. But with participation in competitions like LVP’s UK League of Legends Championship (UKLC) on the rise, more British players are gaining recognition.
One of those players is MnM Gaming’s Chibs, who won UKLC Rookie of the Split in his inaugural competitive season back in May. We sat down with Chibs to talk about how his teammates helped him to become Rookie of the Split, breaking into the LEC and the state of the UK LoL scene.
How Chibs became a professional player
Like many of the top professional players that came before him, Chibs made a name for himself as a solo queue player before being picked up by MnM.
The 20-year-old started playing League of Legends in Season 2 and climbed to Challenger last season where he played consistently enough to catch the attention of semi-professional and professional players.
“My name started to get recognised by some of the higher elo players,” he told us. “Some of them became my friends and they advised me to make a Twitter account to see if I could get into some teams. I then tweeted out that I was looking for a team, and I received some offers but MnM’s was the best and I liked the organisation so I joined.
“I was, and even now am, a bit of an outsider to be honest – in terms of the competitive scene.
“I had never watched any of the competitive stuff before joining. I didn’t even know any pro players’ names except for Faker and I still don’t know many of them to be honest. I might have even accidentally flamed some famous players without knowing!”
How Chibs balances League of Legends and university
Despite being on the payroll and competing for a professional League of Legends team, Chibs won’t be playing full time as he will be heading to Newcastle University in September to study Computer Science.
Having already taken two gap years, Chibs feels a little bit of pressure to go to university but he also believes that it’s possible to balance education with his esports career.
“I think it’s doable,” he said, “Three of my teammates are all at university at the moment and I should be able to manage.
“Of course things could be different if I ever got an offer to play in the LEC but my family are not very aware of the gaming community or industry, so they’d only recognise it if they saw a large sum of money.
“But they are very accepting of what I do in gaming, and at the same time they really like the idea of me going to university and getting an education.
“I’d definitely consider leaving university for the LEC but I’d have to do a lot of research into it. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be an easy decision but I don’t think any of those teams would be after me any time soon.”
Is the gap closing?
While there are very few world-class British players, UKLC has proven that teams can produce talent that can go toe to toe with some of the other regions.
Chibs agrees with this sentiment, feeling that the talent is there but the lack of recognition from other regions is the real issue.
“The Spanish, German and French leagues are still a bit better than us in terms of the way it’s run but for me, I think it’d be nice if teams and players from those regions recognised UK players more.
“I got approached by a Spanish team this split and the manager said to me: ‘I know you’re not known or recognised but I was told by a friend that you’re good so I’d like to give you a try-out.’
“Nothing came from that in the end but I just wish they didn’t have that kind of attitude towards the UK and think that we’re all unknown.
“Yes, historically we haven’t had that many top League of Legends players but we do have big names in the LEC and UKLC now and It’d be nice if other countries recognised that more.”
Expectations for this split
MnM have drafted a full UK roster this split, something that excites Chibs.
“I am really proud to be from a team that has a full five-man UK roster. I think that’s really cool, it’s good branding and the individual players are all really talented.”
It isn’t the only thing Chibs likes about being a part of MnM or a professional player, the 20-year-old credits his teammates last split for his game improvement as well as winning Rookie of the Split.
“Before coming to MnM, I was a complete solo queue player,” he said.
“I had a lot to learn because I had no idea about scrimming or communicating with teammates. I just stayed silent and never really said anything because I was so used to playing by myself.
“My team had to teach me things like communication and warding and it all contributed massively to me winning Rookie of the Split.
“Sure, I had a mechanical edge on some of the other rookies, because I was playing at a Challenger level, but I also joined a better organisation in general.
“We had a better roster so that made me look good and I’m sure if I had gone to a team with less good players I might not have got rookie of the split.”
MnM’s roster looks a bit different this split. They brought in Jo ‘Yusa’ Cortez who helped Diabolus qualify for EU Masters last split and will no doubt be expected to help MnM reach a similar level.
There are many similarities between Chibs and Yusa, and the MnM mid laner even jokes about following in Yusa’s footsteps.
“Well, I’m in the same position as Yusa was las split. Last split was his second split and he made it to EU Masters after getting Rookie of the Split in his first.
"So, I’m basically just a year behind him but I’m obviously way better," he joked.
“To be honest, I’d be happy just to get to something like EU Masters, for me and my team. I hope we can improve on our performance last split – I think we can come third and maybe even second for this one.”