LoL Week in Review: FPX Bo Suspended for Match-Fixing
With the Lunar New Year over, the LPL and LCK are getting back in the swing of things. Unfortunately for FPX, they got some very bad news regarding their jungle situation as they returned to play. Meanwhile, we saw another Fnatic curse, the debut of a CLG star, and heard about the impending retirement of DAMWON KIA’s top laner. We take a look at the top news and storylines across the LEC, LCS, LPL, and LCK.
FPX’S BO SUSPENDED FOR MATCH FIXING, TIAN RETURNS
FPX have announced the indefinite suspension of rookie jungler Zhou “Bo” Yang-Bo for previous participation in match-fixing. Rumors had circulated that Bo was previously involved in match-fixing, and Bo came forward to admit that he had been coerced into what FPX called inappropriate competitive behavior. It’s also important to note that this allegedly happened in 2020 in the LDL. There are no allegations that Bo participated in any match-fixing while playing with FPX in the LPL.
This comes as a huge blow to FPX as Bo became an important part of the starting lineup. FPX promoted Bo when Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang decided to take a break to focus on his mental and physical health. Already struggling with wrist issues, Tian revealed that he was struggling with the pressure to perform and reached a breaking point. Bo took over and FPX won 10 consecutive games with the new jungler.
Ready or not, Bo’s suspension has forced Tian back into the starting lineup. Playing against the 5-3 Team WE, FPX lost 0-2 in Tian’s first game back. Tian finished 2/4/2 on Olaf and 0/4/7 on Lillia in the two games. FPX likely weren’t practicing with Tian until news of the alleged match-fixing reached them. We will see if FPX considers promoting their current LDL jungler Yang “Beichuan” Ling to the main squad.
Because of the history of match-fixing in China, it seems unlikely that Bo will be back anytime soon. The last player the LPL banned for match-fixing was Rogue Warriors jungler Wang “Weiyan” Xiang. Weiyan received a two-year ban from competitive play. However, Weiyan’s situation is slightly different because he participated in match-fixing in the LPL, not the LDL. Whether that differentiation matters remains to be seen.
Regardless of the result, it’s a terrible situation all around. FPX lose a great rookie jungler, Tian is forced to come back from his break early, China has to deal with another instance of match-fixing, and a promising talent could be lost forever.
SJOKZ FNATIC MONOLOGUE CURSE: PART TWO
“It starts with success. And success, is all about growing. Success is all about overcoming your demons, success is about getting knocked down, time after time, and getting back up. No one embodies that more than Martin Larsson.”
Fnatic fans will never forget those words from LEC host Eefje ‘sjokz’ Depoortere. Fnatic had taken a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series against pre-tournament favorites Top Esports in the quarterfinals of the 2020 World Championship. Sjokz took the opportunity to deliver a monologue developing the career arc of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. Over the next three minutes, Sjokz hyped up the possibility of Rekkles and Fnatic becoming giant slayers. It was the first time the broadcast had tried anything like it, and it was well-received in the moment.
Unfortunately, we know how this story ends. Top Esports would pull off the reverse sweep to win the series 3-2. To add further insult to injury, TES would then go on to lose to Suning in their next series. Not only could Fnatic not close out TES, but TES were not even as strong as we thought they were.
After a few months, sjokz went right back to Fnatic as the subject of another pregame monologue. This time, instead of success: “it all starts with failure.” Sjokz set the stage of the new Fnatic without Rekkles, the main subject of her last Fnatic speech. Overcoming the loss to TES at Worlds and a pair of lineup changes, Fnatic entered week five of the LEC on a four game winning streak. Playing against the 1-8 Team Vitality, it seemed a safe bet that sjokz couldn’t possibly jinx Fnatic again.
On the back of a 9/2/7 Xayah performance from new addition Juš “Crownshot” Marušič, Vitality beat Fnatic 27 kills to 14 in 31 minutes to pull off the upset. Speaking of Upset, the new Fnatic marksman and Rekkles replacement was hardly to blame. Upset went 6/3/4 on Kai’Sa and was the only member on the team to finish with a positive kill/death ratio. Fnatic were up by as much as 3.1k gold at 22 minutes, but Moonstone Renewer/Staff of Flowing Water Seraphine from Aljoša “Milica” Kovandžić enabled Vitality’s Aatrox and Xayah to dominate the mid to late game.
So, once again, Fnatic suffer a defeat directly after a sjokz monologue. Overzealous fans have and will harass sjokz for jinxing Fnatic, but last we checked sjokz was not playing Wukong, Olaf, or Alistar. Banter for such unfortunate results is expected and encouraged — this is EU, after all. Harassment and personal attacks have no place.
Whether it starts with success or starts with failure, one thing is clear: Fnatic would prefer sjokz uses a different subject for her next monologue.
BROXAH FINALLY JOINS CLG, PROBLEMS REMAIN
It took a long time to get to this point, but it finally happened. Jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen made his CLG debut. The former Fnatic and Team Liquid player was CLG’s highest-profile addition in the offseason. Broxah joined top laner Finn “Finn” Wiestål as CLG’s two new imports. With a 1-5 start to the season and an early exit at Lock In, CLG were looking for Broxah to bring some positive momentum to the team.
Unfortunately, CLG did not find any new success with Broxah. Fighting a pretty balanced weekend schedule of Cloud9, Evil Geniuses, and Immortals, CLG dropped all three games. They are now 1-8 in the first round robin of the Spring Split.
It would be unfair for CLG to expect Broxah to fix all their problems in his debut, especially considering that he hardly had any practice time with the team. Broxah struggled in a 1/5/10 Lillia game against C9, but his 3/3/1 and 2/1/2 Graves games against IMT and EG were fine. CLG will need more than “fine” out of Broxah if they hope to make any kind of miracle playoff run. Still, fans need to give Broxah much more time to synergize with his team.
While it was unfortunate that CLG and Broxah were put into this situation with visa delays, it does highlight the riskiness of their offseason team building. Instead of investing in unproven youth like Dignitas, Immortals, FlyQuest, and Golden Guardians, CLG opted to bring in discounted veterans. Broxah and Finn were coming off underwhelming seasons. FlyQuest benched Jason “WildTurtle” Tran for several weeks in the 2020 Summer Split, even though he played well to end the year.
CLG obviously hoped to buy low on these veterans and help them to revitalize their careers. While it’s unlikely that their budget could create a legitimate contender in the LCS, CLG saw a bunch of teams fielding rookies and saw a chance to be legitimate playoff contenders.
However, CLG’s start to the year highlights the risks of their team building. While CLG aren’t the only team to rely on imports to make it back to the LCS during this current pandemic environment, CLG needs every game in the standings to make a run at the playoffs. In going for a budget contender, they need things to break well for them. Losing a third of the Spring (and all the practice time) with your key acquisition is a big problem when you choose veterans over developmental players.
Additionally, the team itself has earned their standing in last place. WildTurtle has looked good, but the rest of the team is struggling. We can pin plenty of blame on the late arrival of Broxah and the unexpected benching of Eugene “Pobelter” Park, but shouldn’t a potential playoff competitor still look somewhat competitive? CLG are fielding a roster full of veterans and still have fewer wins than the aforementioned teams focusing on youth development.
CLG will have plenty of opportunity to right the ship in what is one long regular season. They deserve more time — much more time — with Broxah to see how they improve. Considering their current standing in the LCS, it certainly can’t get any worse.
KHAN REVEALS THIS IS HIS FINAL SEASON
In an interview with Naver, DAMWON KIA top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha revealed that this will be his final season of professional play. Khan must begin his mandatory military service at the end of this year. Considering Khan is already in the second half of his career after playing professionally for over seven years now, it seems unlikely he would be able to return after the hiatus.
At the moment, Khan is still at the top of his game. He and DK are 9-1 and at the top of the LCK. Following the brief week-long break for the Lunar New Year, DK picked up where they left off in week five. 2-1 wins over KT Rolster and Hanwha Life Esports mean DK still hold a two-match lead over Gen.G and DRX.
Individually, Khan’s stats remain strong. It obviously helps that he is on a team that is consistently winning and has threats in every lane, but Khan is one of the reasons DK has continued to win. His current ranks among LCK top laners include (minimum of 10 games played): 3.81 KDA (3rd), 387 gold per minute (4th), 63% kill participation (3rd). Meanwhile, Khan’s 20.4% gold share is third-lowest among LCK top laners. Khan is playing well while receiving fewer resources than he got earlier in his career.
For DK, this means they will have a third top laner in three years. Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon left to join FPX this offseason, essentially swapping places with Khan. While DK were able to retain the rest of their roster, they might not be so lucky this next offseason. While already having to replace Khan, the contracts of jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu, mid laner Heo “ShowMaker” Su, and support Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee are all set to expire at the end of this season. Only ADC Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun is under contract through 2022.
Therefore, this might not just be the last hurrah for Khan. DK could see a mass exodus that would surely drop them from top Worlds contender next year. It’s always hard to have the same level of drive the next year after reaching the ultimate goal, but maybe the uncertainty of the future adds a little extra motivation to DK’s roster. While this is definitely Khan’s last chance to win Worlds, it could be the same for the rest of the roster as well.
The LPL returns for their two week Lunar New Year break with week six action. Big matches include Invictus Gaming (4-4) versus EDward Gaming (7-0) on Friday, February 26, as well as Royal Never Give Up (6-1) against FunPlus Phoenix on Saturday, February 27. The 27 is a big day in the LCK as well. League leaders DAMWON KIA (9-1) face off against T1 (5-5) for the second time this season.
In the West, the LEC’s match of the week is the second “El Classico” of the split. G2 Esports (9-2) take on Fnatic (6-5) to close out week six action, once again on the 27th. The LCS has a pair of interesting matchups in week four. First, Team Liquid (5-4) play TSM (6-3) on the 26th. Then, 100 Thieves (6-3) battle Cloud9 (7-2) for first place in the LCS on Sunday, February 28.