It’s the greatest esports tournament in history, with a prize pool that has been dwarfed year after year since 2012. Continue to learn more about the singular event below as we take you on a tour of the history of Dota 2’s The International.
The International 2011 Champion: Natus Vincere
At the time, known as The International Dota 2 Championships, the first edition of TI was a lot different from what we’ve come to expect. For one, Dota 2 hadn’t officially been released at the time of the event. Instead, players from the 16 teams participating were given beta access to the game several months before the event’s start.
Teams came from two principal games. Some came from the old Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft 3, while others from Heroes of Newerth. Taking place in Cologne, Germany, during the GamesCom convention, the million-dollar tournament was more of a sideshow than the main event.
Even so, in thrilling fashion, CIS team Natus Vincere became the first TI champions. It enshrined Ivan “Artstyle” Antonov, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Oleksandr “XBOCT” Dashkevych, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, and Dmitriy “LighTofHeaveN” Kupriyanov as legends of Dota 2. It also set the stage for the game to grow ever more popular. Dota 2 became a hit esport from the start!.
The International 2012 Champion: Invictus Gaming
The first ‘true’ International saw 16 teams head to Seattle, Washington, USA, in what would become the International’s home for several years. The story of TI2 was really all eyes on the defending Na’Vi. They were set to secure their legacy and prove that the original TI wasn’t a fluke.
And prove they did, for the most part. Sweeping to the finals and even defeating their eventual finals opponents Invictus Gaming along the way, it seemed like an easy repeat for Na’Vi. But iG refused to die. Surviving the deadly best-of-one lower bracket, they dispatched fellow Chinese challengers Team DK and LGD Gaming to head to the finals. Then, in a commanding 3-1 victory, they defeated Na’Vi to become champions.
The International 2013 Champion: Alliance
Na’Vi was back with a vengeance for TI3. If TI3 is famous for one thing, it’s the Pudge Fountain Hook that Na’Vi broke out against TongFu. A game-breaking bug (or a feature depending on who you ask), the fountain hook allowed Na’Vi to defeat their opponent and caused a heated mini-rivalry to develop in the aftermath.
Jonathan “Loda” Berg, at the time one position for Alliance, was one of the most vocal about the potential that the “bug abuse” by Na’Vi should be punished. As a result, the remaining finals that saw Na’Vi face off against Alliance were especially heated. Even if the eventual outcome was two losses for Na’Vi and a championship for Alliance.
The International 2014 Champion: Newbee
Returning to Seattle, Washington for a third time in 2014, the fourth International saw the number of participants raised to 19, and a new playoff and qualifier system added. But even with this system, many familiar faces returned, including Na’Vi, Alliance, iG, and others.
This TI cemented the superstition that Western and East Asian teams would only ever trade TI titles back and forth. That there was an order that must be followed. And Newbee created that order with their dominant sweep of the smaller bracket. After a vicious round-robin, just 8 teams competed in the final playoffs, and Newbee emerged victorious.
The International 2015 Champion: Evil Geniuses
Despite the International having been held in the US for four years, at this point, there had never been a North American champion. However, that was all to change thanks to Evil Geniuses. With the field lowered back to 16 teams, and yet another new format with an expanded group stage and wildcard, TI5 would perhaps be remembered for one hero: Techies.
As the legend goes, Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling was paranoid about the potential power of Techies. The bomb and mine-laying hero plagued his pub games, so he learned the hero, just in case. Breaking it out in the upper bracket against EHOME and beating them soundly with it, Aui forced a respect ban from later opponents CDEC Gaming and LGD, perhaps giving EG the edge the need to win TI.
The International 2016 Champion: Wings
To this day, Wings Gaming gets held up as an example of a team that broke the mould. Their peerless aggression, the surprise at which they came out of nowhere, and the way they ended the Cinderella run of Digital Chaos. Digital Chaos, co-founded by Dota personality Shannon “SUNSfan” Scotten, was a fan favorite and really the best example of how accessible Dota was supposed to be. Anyone with hope and a dream could build a team and head to TI.
Except, Wings stopped their storybook ending with pure domination. Sweeping the bracket in Seattle, the team cruised to the finals. Soundly defeating last year’s champions Evil Geniuses and new challenger Digital Chaos, Wings Gaming enshrined themselves in history with victory The International.
The International 2017 Champion: Team Liquid
Once again, at TI7, the number of participants would be changed. This time 18 teams from around the world gathered in Seattle. Top of the bracket? Not one, but two LGD Gaming teams: LGD and LGD.Forever Young. Without rules about organizations fielding multiple rosters, there was a real threat that we’d see an all LGD final, as both teams crept through the bracket.
Luckily, surging from the lower bracket, Team Liquid jumped in to steal the show. Taking on former champions Newbee in the finals, Liquid swept their opponents. It would be closure for Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, who had been part of Na’Vi during the dwindling last days of TI relevance.
The International 2018 Champion: OG
Leaving Seattle for the first time since 2012, The International would head to Vancouver, Canada, to become host to one of the greatest underdog stories in Dota 2. After losing half their roster just a few months before at ESL One Birmingham, OG surged through the bracket to the finals.
In the thrilling final, chronicled in the must-watch True Sight documentary, OG defeated PSG.LGD in a thrilling 3-2 matchup. Coming back from a 1-2 deficit, OG was able to force victory in a 65-minute classic game four that featured the now-legendary Sébastien “Ceb” Debs Axe play. With LGD on the ropes, the team came back 3-2, breaking the East/West swapping titles superstition at the same time.
The International 2019 Champion: OG
OG had broken superstition and tradition at TI8, but at TI9, they would make history. Several teams had returned to the finals a year after winning TI, but none had ever repeated. Going into the tournament, all eyes were on Team Liquid and Team Secret: A rivalry that had existed since the halcyon days of Na’Vi in 2013, Kuroky and Puppey, was expected to headline the event.
Instead, OG, with the same lineup that won TI8, made it to the TI9 finals again, and in a 3-1 victory, defeated Team Liquid in another classic. In doing so, they became the only team to win two TIs and the only players to repeat the feat.
The International 10 Champion: TBD
The International 10 will take place from October 8th in Bucharest, Romania. For more details about the event, check out our article The International: When Is TI and Who Has Qualified?
And that’s the History of The International, Dota 2’s premier event. Stay tuned for Hotspawn for more updates on competitive Dota 2 and The International itself!