Inside the League of Legends World Championship’s storied history
© Riot Games/Kooyoung Kim
The League of Legends World Championship is back once again, this time on European soil – the best way to prepare for it is to look back at what has happened in the past.
It’s the best time of the year! The leaves are falling off the trees, the weather means we can bust out those comfy sweaters, and the shorter light hours give us more of an excuse to play games. But none of that really matters, because October can only mean one thing; it’s time for the League of Legends World Championship!
Over the last week or so we have seen the opening of the competition with the Play-In stage, where Clutch Gaming, Hong Kong Attitude, Splyce and DAMWON Gaming all booked their tickets to the next stage of the competition, but this is where the real top level action starts. This weekend, the 16 best League of Legends teams from across the world will compete in Berlin, Germany in the testing Group Stage. Across four groups, eight teams will advance to the knockout stage of Worlds, until finally, a winner is crowned on 10 November in Paris, France, becoming the undisputed best team in the world.
Worlds is always a special time, mostly thanks to its impressive legacy. This year marks the ninth iteration of Worlds, and every time it delivers, being one of, if not the, best esports event of the year. The legacy of the event is impressive, and something that everyone should know before they tune into Worlds this year. Fortunately, we’re here to give you a rundown of everything that has ever happened at Worlds – or at least most of it.
The first ever World Championship looks almost unrecognisable compared to the massive six week event we expect these days. The tournament was held at DreamHack Summer 2011, so it didn’t even get its own event, and only had $100,000 up for grabs. For EU fans, Season 1 will always remain a favourite tournament, as it’s the only time a European team has won Worlds – so far. Fnatic came out on top, beating fellow European side against All authority in the final, while NA side Team SoloMid came in third. Looking back at this event, Season 1’s World Championship looks absolutely tiny compared to what followed, but back then, it was one of the biggest competitions in esports.
The second World Championship is where the Eastern teams started their reign of dominance. The first World Championship only featured two teams from the East, neither of which made the top four, but the second Worlds opened things up to many more. Korean teams showed up for the first time, putting their mark on the map, but it was the Taipei Assassins who came out on top, winning the first place prize of $1 million. This was where Worlds really started to feel like a massive deal. The money on offer was massive, the event felt different to all the others across the year and there was no doubt that it was the very best teams from all around the world that were competing for the title.
For the second year in a row, Worlds was held in Los Angeles, USA and this was where we were introduced to arguably the best LoL player, ever, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok. The Korean star took first place at Worlds in Season 3, alongside the rest of the SK Telecom T1 roster, as they beat Chinese side Royal Club in the final. Fnatic from Europe did make top four, which was certainly respectable, but it was clear that the Eastern teams, and especially Korean teams, were starting to improve at a much quicker rate than NA and EU.
After Korea embraced LoL and got really really good at it, Riot decided it was time to take Worlds to the region, hosting the 2014 World Championship in Korea, even going to a World Cup stadium for the final. Again a Korean team won, but this time it was Samsung White. The Korean crowd went home happy, and for the first time, people saw just how big Worlds could be. The stadium was packed for the final and people around the world were impressed with the event. However, for Western fans, there was a tinge of disappointment as none of their teams made the top four.
Season 5 took Worlds back to Europe for the first time since Season 1 and gave us one of the most memorable tournaments the world of LoL has ever seen. Again the Koreans won, with SKT and Faker claiming their second World Championship, but EU teams Fnatic and Origen both made the top four on home soil, with impressive runs that kept fans entertained. The tournament was a massive success, and proved that the city hopping, month long format of Worlds was something that could work globally – and not just in Korea.
For many, Season 6 felt a lot like Season 5, just with the event held in North America rather than Europe. SKT won once again, becoming the first ever back-to-back champions, although this time, only one EU team made the top four. The return to NA was welcomed by fans, because by this time, Worlds had grown to a much larger event than it was the last time it was held in the US. Massive arenas were sold out, with thousands of fans watching the best teams in the world play. Sure, the home region teams may have underperformed, but the fans were still excited to see the greatest LoL teams in the world play the game.
The 2017 World Championship was a big deal. The event went to Beijing, China for the first time, and the final was held in the iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, with a packed crowd that was one of the most impressive sights in all of esports. Riot really upped the production levels, with the iconic CGI dragon opening ceremony still being one of the coolest things ever seen in esports. The all-Korean final of SKT and eventual winners Samsung Galaxy produced some iconic moments and cemented this as one of the greatest World Championships we have ever seen.
Last year’s World Championship returned to Korea, which seemed fitting giving the country’s dominance in the competition, but in a shock result, it was the Chinese team Invictus Gaming who came out on top – and for the first time since Season 1, a European team, Fnatic, made the final. In fact no Korean team even made the top four, with G2 Esports and Cloud9 sharing third/fourth place. This showed that after years of work, the Western teams had finally caught up with the Korean and Chinese sides, setting up an exciting Season 9 for fans.
And now we get to the 2019 World Championship. The competition returns to Europe with EU teams looking like some of the strongest in the world. G2 Esports won the Mid-Season Invitational earlier in the year, showing their strength at the international event, and undoubtedly head into Worlds as one of the favourites to take the whole competition. EU hasn’t won Worlds since Season 1, but breaking that streak on home soil seems like a story that is meant to be. We’ll just have to wait – and of course watch a lot of League of Legends – a few weeks to find out if that will happen or not.