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League of Legends

Worlds 2023 Semifinals to Feature LPL’s Best and LCK’s Last Hope

Zakaria Almughrabi

Worlds 2023 is nearing the final stretch with semifinals taking place on November 11 and 12. Only four teams remain in the hunt for League of Legend’s biggest prize, the Summoners’ Cup. China’s LPL has claimed the lion’s share of these spots, getting three of their four teams through to the penultimate stage. The only non-Chinese team left in the hunt is none other than T1.

Worlds 2023 Semifinals

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

A One-Sided Stomp

The first quarterfinals matchup was between LPL’s fourth seed Weibo Gaming and LCS’s first seed NRG. Hype for NRG was at an all-time high, as they had managed to escape from the group stage with a 3-1 record. Their win over G2 Esports was a massive upset, so many believed that they had a shot here against the LPL’s worst team on paper.

That hope was short lived though. Game one was somewhat competitive as NRG got to play some of their signature picks this Worlds like Senna and Tahm Kench. However, their comp couldn’t keep up with the scaling of Weibo resulting in a loss.

From there, Weibo took over the series completely. They won game two in 33 minutes then speedran game three in 26. Wang “Light” Guang-Yu took the main carry responsibility in the first two games on Aphelios with the help of Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song’s Milio. Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao’s Jayce was the star of the show in game three, accruing 10 kills in the short game.

Sure, NRG wasn’t exactly a difficult opponent relative to the field. Weibo still displayed a good understanding of their win conditions and played towards them. The question is whether they’ll be able to stand their ground against their next opponent. For now though, it’s apparent that the gap between east and west has not closed at all.

The Only Upset of Quarters

Game two featured a matchup between Gen.G and Bilibili Gaming. The perception prior to the match was that Gen.G was incredibly in form. They ran through Swiss Stage with blinding speed and were looking primed for a deep run at Worlds 2023. The LCK’s first seed was so favored that the fan predictions were more one-sided for them than for Weibo against NRG.

On the other end, hype around Bilibili was at an all-time low. The LPL second seed had barely qualified for playoffs at all. Their survival came down to a three-game series win over G2 in the last round of Swiss. Surely by transitive property that mean BLG was worse than NRG, right?

As it turned out, two losses against JDG and T1 just made them look worse than they really were. Right out of the gate, BLG showed why they were competing for the LPL crown in Summer. They steamrolled Gen.G in games one and two. Peng “XUN” Li-Xun’s Jarvan IV was at the forefront of both wins with a combined 10-1-15 KDA. Additionally, BLG put high priority on Renata Glasc for Luo “ON” Wen-Jun to help enable his team.

Comeback Not to Be

Gen.G didn’t give up. They fired back in game three with a marathon 46-minute win before tying up the series. Their 17-year-old ADC Kim “Peyz” Su-hwan was instrumental in their comeback opportunity, taking the resources and carrying with confidence. One final tiebreaker game would determine who would move on to the Worlds 2023 semifinals.

XUN’s Jarvan was once again the centerpiece of BLG’s comp. Senna and Tahm Kench could support him, he could frontline for Orianna and her ball, and Rumble’s Equalizer could fry everyone in his Cataclysm. With the game on a knife’s edge through 20 minutes, XUN found key engages one after another. The result after 34 minutes was a BLG win.

It’s clear that underestimating BLG was a mistake. This team had been competitive all year in the LPL and even had a near-perfect 15-1 record in Summer. The potential has always been there, and now BLG is peaking at the perfect time. Weibo is no easy opponent, but with BLG playing like this, Worlds Finals is definitely on their mind.

No Reason to Get Excited

The third quarterfinal pitted China’s top team, JD Gaming, against the struggling KT Rolster. Despite KT’s dominant 17-1 Summer Regular Season, they fell short in playoffs at third. Still, their high baseline easily qualified them for Worlds 2023 as Korea’s third seed via Regional Finals. This KT lineup has the potential to do very well against the world’s best teams. But as fans know, the second you start believing in them is the second that their loss is assured.

Much like BLG had done to Gen.G a day prior, KT stormed out of the gate to a decisive game one victory. It was a team performance as well, with almost every member playing better than their counterpart. If JDG weren’t careful, they could flame out just like the LCK’s first seed.

Game two saw JDG first rotation ban Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan’s Sejuani, a key enabler for KT’s win. It was a great adaptation too, as Cuzz looked mediocre on other picks. The Sejuani ban would stay for the rest of the series.

Showing their Strength

In response to KT’s sub-30 minute win, JDG put together two even faster games to go up 2-1 in the series. JDG appeared to have turned up the heat immediately. Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok was running circles around Cuzz in the jungle and the rest of the squad carried their leads to quick victories.

Game four of the series was actually looking good for KT. Cuzz found early value on Vi, top laner Kim “Kiin” Gi-in was crushing it in the side lane as Jax, and the rest of the map was stable. By the 24-minute mark, KT was up nearly 6K gold and looking primed to tie the series. That was until a Baron attempt went awry thanks to a super play from Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. JDG got Baron off that play and clawed the back in the gold count. From there, JDG controlled the rest of the game until a second Baron resulted in a 33-minute victory.

Worlds 2023 JDG

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

JDG is potentially the scariest team in the Worlds 2023 semifinals. Ruler is easily the best ADC player in the game right now and the supporting cast all ranges from great to competing for best in the world as well. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to find big enough weaknesses to expose. If any team can though, it’s the final team we haven’t talked about.

Setting the Stage

Following KT and Gen.G’s elimination, the LPL was three-for-three in quarterfinals matches. Only one team stood in the way of the first ever one-region top four sweep at Worlds. T1 wasn’t the strongest team out of Korea on paper. They had one of their weakest splits ever in Summer thanks to Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok absence. Despite their return to form for playoffs, they were unable to even take a game off Gen.G in the finals.

Still, for the sake of the hottest regional rivalry in the history of esports, every single LCK fan was ready to rally behind T1. They knew that T1 was their region’s last hope, but not everyone had the confidence in them to go all the way. T1 would have to make a statement, and a statement they would make.

LNG Esports was T1’s opponent in the final quarterfinal matchup. The LPL’s third seed looked strong so far at Worlds, and their narrow 2-3 loss to JDG in the LPL Summer Finals suggested that they did have the capacity to be world beaters. It was likely that this match would have to be hard fought.

The T1 Train

Instead, T1 put together the most one-sided match of the entire stage. Even NRG put up more of a fight in their match, as they at least looked competitive in game one. LNG simply ran into a brick wall immediately.

The most notable aspect of the series was that T1 support Ryu “Keria” Min-seok was incredibly willing to play ADCs at support. He piloted Senna alongside Lee “Gumaysui” Min-hyeong’s Nilah, a combo that provides much more carry threat than Senna Tahm Kench. After that, they ran a Varus plus Ashe support poke lane and put immense pressure onto LNG’s bot lane.

Games one and two ended in 26 and 31 minutes respectively. LNG had one last shot to save some face at Worlds which was immediately stepped on when Mun “Oner” Hyeon-jun solo killed the enemy jungler at his blue buff to start game three. LNG could do nothing as the T1 train pulled into the station with another 26-minute victory.

This dominant showing immediately raised T1’s stocks. The last non-Chinese team had just crushed one of their best performers over the past year. Obviously, nothing is set in stone, especially at Worlds. JDG is as strong, if not stronger of an opponent that they just had. And even if they win their semifinals match, you can never underestimate any team that makes it to League’s biggest stage.

No one knows what will happen as Worlds 2023 enters semifinals. Weibo Gaming, Bilibili Gaming, JD Gaming, and T1 are decidedly the four strongest teams on Earth. Yet only one of them can claim the Summoners’ Cup.

The Worlds 2023 semifinals begin on November 11 at 3:00 AM ET / 12:00 AM PT.