The International 2019: Making History Twice!

Keeping up with the trend of esports summer hits, Dota 2’s The International 2019 (TI9) concluded this past weekend in Shanghai. Dota 2 had already broken a record heading into this year’s TI9 with a total prize pool of $34m — $4m more than Fortnite’s World Cup earlier on in the summer.

As ever, the event brought an enthralling four days of action that saw champions of TI8, OG, Team Liquid, Newbee and Natus Vincere all battle for their second TI championship.

OG entered this year’s TI9 as the underdogs, after displaying poor performances in the Dota Pro Circuit and only competing in two Majors. However, after an impressive 14–2 sweep through the group stages, they quickly demonstrated why they were champions of TI8.

The International: Unlike No Other!

Dota 2’s professional main esports event, The International, is unique in that it runs without any advertising, sponsorship or loading screens. This means fans can enjoy content from the beginning, right to the very end. Contrary to Newzoo’s Global Market Reports, as well as empirical data to suggest sponsorship and advertising are the main drivers of expanding the industry’s revenue growth, Valve is trying a different technique. In fact, they demonstrated the importance of game publishers keeping a conscious thought on engaging their fans. If we compare The Copenhagen Games earlier on in the year, despite its popularity, the level of production was extremely poor, which made it hard for spectators to follow matches.

With a variety of content on offer, Dota 2 fans were treated to their favourite players providing some light entertainment — something that maybe took the edge off of the competition — but more importantly to show that esports is about having fun!

Whilst it is fair to say that Evil Geniuses definitely made the most of this, there was also an opportunity for The International to gather an insight into Australia’s Dota scene, as well as other special guest interviews.

TI9: All Action!

TI9 began with four days of group stages. Participating teams were split into two groups and each played a two-series tie in a round robin format.

On the first day, Team Secret and Vici Gaming pulled off some impressive performances, starting quickest out of the blocks. However, by the second day, OG proved just why they were last year’s champions. By day three, TI9 witnessed its first casualty with Chaos Esports Club eliminated — and a lot sooner than fans had anticipated! Ninjas in Pyjamas became the second team to lose their place in the competition; following that, all remaining teams had the day off to re-organise before the next round bracket matches began.

The first day’s bracket matches saw upper bracket fixtures between PSG.LGD and Virtus.Pro, and Vici Gaming and TNC Predator; each finished 2–0 and 2–1, respectively. In the lower bracket best-of-one elimination matches, Alliance, Fanatic, Keen Gaming and Natus Vincere were all eliminated from the competition and would watch the rest of TI9 as spectators — Team Liquid, Infamous and Mineski however would live to fight another day.

On the second day’s upper bracket quarter-final matches, both OG and Evil Geniuses advanced to the semi-finals, setting up a semi-final rematch of the previous year’s TI8. Both Virtus.Pro and TNC Predator left the competition. Chinese-backed North American team Newbee and Mineski were also knocked out.

In the TI8 semi-final rematch, OG beat Evil Geniuses once again, and as such, were dropped to a lower bracket to face Team Secret, but lost that fixture as well. PSG.LGD had relegated Vici Gaming down to the lower bracket and would also have the opportunity to take revenge for last year’s upper bracket finals loss against OG. On a full day of lower bracket eliminations, Team Liquid were the only team to survive leaving Evil Geniuses, Infamous Gaming and Royal Never Give Up to leave the competition.

The OG fairytale continued as PSG.LGD succumbed to a 2–1 loss at the hands of the reigning champions. From the lower bracket matches, both Vici Gaming and Team Secret also dropped away on the penultimate day of the competition.

And that was the run-up to the grand finals: OG had swept aside their competition, and Team Liquid had stormed through the lower bracket matches, thus setting the stage for an exciting grand-final match-up!

An Opportunity to go down in History!

The grand-finals between OG and Team Liquid saw the group stage lower bracket side claim the first victory in the best-of-five. In the next match, though, OG fought back to win the second match where it appeared to be anybody’s game.

After their victory to equal the score, OG then claimed two victories in quick succession, and concluded the finals with a 3–1 win, subsequently becoming the first team in The International’s history to win back-to-back championships!

The winner’s prize for TI9 sat at $15.5m, the largest esports prize in history, with each player receiving $3.1m each; that’s 100k more than Fortnite winner Bugha. Despite the life-changing prize on offer, OG entered this year’s TI9 in style, using this as an opportunity to simply have fun. OG demonstrated that esports is about relying and trusting your team members, but more importantly about enjoying yourself. Team Liquid, too, left with a respectable runners-up prize of $4,422,725 and will undoubtedly be proud their TI9 performance!

During the break between the lower bracket finals, and grand finals, it was confirmed that next year’s Dota 2 main event,TI10, will be hosted in Sweden’s capital city, Stockholm. Teams will certainly be looking for vengeance and prevent OG’s from making it a third successive championship. Considering esports continues to gain mainstream recognition, we can expect next year’s TI to be even bigger and even better!

What was your favourite memory from this year’s TI9? Were there any performances that stood out to you? Do you think OG will be able to make it a third successive TI championship? Let us know — we’d love to hear!

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