Everyone loves a good upset. I'm from the land of the FA Cup, which has a particularly grand tradition of putting monied superstars in their place, usually thanks to a bumpy pitch and the local milkman playing out of his skin. There's nothing quite like watching millionaires trudge back to a portacabin with mud on their fancy boots and egg on their faces.
China's EDward Gaming presumably have a nice cosy hotel to slink back to after their first day at the League of Legends World Championship 2016, but they will feel no less shamed after they were beaten by lowly Brazilian team INTZ E-Sports.
To put this one in perspective, INTZ is from a region that isn't considered good enough to have a guaranteed spot at Worlds. They had to come through the International Wildcard Tournament, beating teams from places like Turkey and Russia. Wildcard teams are generally considered minnows in the scheme of things, there to make up the numbers and guarantee some hilarious stomps. Brazil is considered a stronger region than in the past, but the wildcard stigma still lingers and nobody really expected much from them at this tournament.
In contrast, EDward Gaming is the number one seed from China, the richest esports region in the world. Their line-up features jungler Clearlove and AD carry Deft, two players considered by many to be the world's best in their respective positions, with former world champion PawN backing them up in mid lane. They live and train in a glass-fronted gaming palace. They aren't just expected to do well at Worlds; plenty of people expect them to win.
And perhaps they still will win. It would certainly help them live this one down...
The game was set up for them to dominate. This should be a "statement" performance, the casters said. Riot's production kicked things off with a tribute from INTZ jungler Revolta to his direct opponent, EDG's Clearlove. "He's always one step ahead of most junglers," he said. "To play against him will be an honour and a test." As the casters pointed out that EDG had barely dropped a game all year, the Brazilians found themselves bullied in mid lane and bot, where AD carry Deft and his support Meiko managed to take out their opposite numbers micaO and Jockster after just five minutes. Meiko went down as well but that didn't stop the Chinese team's duo flashing their team logo flairs in triumph.
If that seemed a little arrogant at the time, it certainly looked premature 10 minutes later as the casters started to acknowledge we could be looking at a huge upset. By this stage INTZ were leading 7-6 on kills and had a 3k gold lead. "EDG across the map is just falling apart," said Spawn, who regularly commentates on the Chinese LPL.
The problem for EDG was that INTZ were camping their top-laner, Mouse, and seemed able to kill him at will. Whenever the observers picked out Mouse, it seemed to be so we could watch Yang and Revolta (playing Gnar and Lee Sin respectively) kick and thump him into pieces. (Mouse eventually finished with figures of 1/7/3, which is the sort of thing that usually gets you reported for unskilled play.) EDG were slow to respond, managing a couple of picks but not enough to knock INTZ off their stride. After just 23 minutes, the Brazilians were able to kill off a couple of EDG players and take their first Baron. (Their first Baron!)
Things were looking good, but time was ticking by and this was beginning to play into EDG's hands. The only way the Chinese team were going to win was by dragging the game out until their builds could catch up with INTZ, but the Brazilian team - one of the slowest teams from a slow-paced region - seemed nervous about overextending, taking inhibitor turrets but leaving inhibs standing and allowing buffs to dissipate without taking much advantage. Around 30 minutes in, the casters started to acknowledge that this upset would soon be under real threat.
As it turned out, they needn't have worried, because Clearlove - who had been so hyped going into the tournament - screwed up twice in the space of just a few minutes to help INTZ secure the win. First he managed to get locked up by an Ashe arrow that he had plenty of time to dodge - bizarrely, he used Graves' dash move along the same trajectory the arrow was clearly following - allowing INTZ to take their second Baron. Then, on 41 minutes, he wandered randomly into bot lane and was cut down by Yang. INTZ took full advantage, surging into the EDG base, slaying Deft and PawN, and bursting down the turrets and Nexus.
As the Nexus fell, the Brazilian team leapt to their feet and jumped and hugged each other in celebration, while EDG sat dazed and confused.
"I'm willing to say this was a bigger upset than KaBuM," said Jatt in commentary. (KaBuM eSports was another wildcard team that scored an upset at Worlds, beating Alliance in 2014.) "Even though Alliance was the number one team in Europe, this was the number one team from the LPL, power-ranked by many as the second-best team in the tournament. It's very early and it doesn't actually knock anyone out of groups, but this was insane."
"A team that was known for choking internationally has turned up at their first Worlds after three tries and smashed EDward Gaming," added Spawn.
"Just take one of EU’s seeds and give it to Brazil next year," OGN caster MonteCristo joked on Twitter. Hahaha, we Europeans laughed nervously.
And for some, like Yahoo Esports' Taylor Cocke, it was "the biggest upset in League of Legends World Championship history".
The League of Legends World Championships continue today and throughout October.