The international has always been an incredibly special event and many consider it to be the birthplace of modern day esports. It has boasted fantastic tournaments across the world and is a remarkable experience and justification for esports fanatics everywhere. However not even the digital landscape of Dota 2 could survive the pandemic and in 2020 The International 10 was postponed with no indication of when it would take place. More than a full year later The International has returned.
As a little catch up for the uninitiated, The International is a Dota 2 event that is the highlight of the year, perhaps best identified as the World Cup of Dota2. The first International was broadcast in 2011 and has taken place once a year with the exclusion of 2020. At the time of its inception, it boasted the largest prize pool in esports history and year after year has continued to increase that prize and maintain its position as the most paying event in esports today. It is a live occasion which Dota fans travel from across the globe to call home for a few days. The best teams in the world battle it out for their share of its enormous prize pool, a prize pool that currently stands at over 40 million dollars.
Ignoring the distinct augmented reality productions, the mind-boggling prize pool and the stadiums of fans… The International is also a magical journey. Its history is littered with moments and events that the players and spectators alike will never forget. Most of the greatest moments in Dota2 history occur at TI and are certainly worth the Google. Moments like “The Play”, “The $1,000,000 dream coil” and “the $6,000,000 eco slam” still pale in comparison to the stories of the teams and the players that compete there. OG was the first team to ever win the international twice in a row, the first team to ever win the international from a qualifier position and somehow, they did all this with a player that had never played a professional Dota match and their coach having to step onto the proverbial pitch for their team. If this were a Hollywood film, it would sound fictitious.
In 2020 amongst the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic The International was cancelled. It was a very personal experience to me as I had agreed to go with one of my best friends and with our significant others. We had booked our flights; we had arranged our hotel stays and we had paid up front. For all intents and purposes, we were heading to Europe and to The International. I remember our conversations about how it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and how we simply could not miss the chance to go see it all happen live, yet this was not to be. This is an experience that must have been shared by thousands upon thousands of Dota fans across the world, our would-be neighbors over that magical time all realizing that 2020 would be vacant of its most iconic Dota2 event.
As time went on and the world healed, we finally had an announcement of new dates for The International 10. However, this was not the end of the troubles as we were shortly hit with the news that Sweden, host of The International 10 were refusing access to players. Swedish officials had decided that a $40 000 000 event, with hundreds of thousands of viewers from all around the world… Could not be classified as an elite sporting event. A stark reminder of how far the physical world still must come to understand its new online counterpart. But as they say, “one man's trash is another man's treasure” and Romania decide to open their arms to The International and the event would find its new home in Bucharest.
Finally, we knew when and where, but what it needed now were the people who would compete there. Over the years Valve, creators of Dota2, developed the DPC system. The system rewards performances over the duration of the year and results in sides earning a direct invite to The International. However, there is always a reason to go a little further and The International also hosts series of qualifiers divided into different regions. These qualifiers are a last chance for teams who failed to qualify throughout the year. The stories that occur during these events are unforgettable and some will be left with deep regrets and others rewarded with highlights that they will remember for the rest of their lives. For Team OG, they would have to make yet another memory. Both OG and Nigma, TI 9 finalists had both failed to qualify and it was possible that neither finalist from the previous incarnation would be present at TI10. OG eliminated their rivals in the lower bracket final and had to get through the remarkable Team Tundra to secure their place. Tundra’s performance was so good that there were calls from Dota celebrities to consider allowing extra teams to participate in the grand event, but once more it was OG’s night as they managed to clinch a 3-2 victory.
And so, with the venue set and the teams decided we can finally look towards The International again. We will all be watching with bated breath as our favorite players, the best teams and our most colorful personalities make their way to Bucharest to compete for pride, glory, and millions. Esports is a uniquely beautiful thing, and it rarely gets any better than The International. Welcome back old friend.