Drought over: Damwon Gaming crowned 2020 LoL world champion

The Summoner's Cup returns to Korea as Damwon Gaming outlasted Suning, 3-1 in the best-of-five finals series of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship on Saturday, October 31 at Pudong Soccer Stadium in Shanghai, China.

The League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) and China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) representatives went toe-to-toe in front of the limited live audience in Shanghai, but Damwon silenced the LPL fans in attendance and shut down Suning's comeback attempts to take Game 1 of the series.

Suning, though, showed signs of life and fought back in the second match to equalize the finals as their top laner Chen “Bin” Zebin recorded the first ever pentakill in a Worlds finals game with his Fiora.

Coming from a rough Game 2, Damwon’s star top laner Jang “Nuguri'' Ha-gwon showed up big time with his Kennen pick and was instrumental in the crucial teamfights wins they got late in Game 3 that ultimately led to a match point.

Damwon turned the pace in Game 4 and completely dominated the game, all thanks to the lead they got from their jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu and AD Carry Jang “Ghost” Yong-Jun. 

Canyon, who was named the Finals MVP, finished Game 4 with 8/0/7 KDA while Ghost had 9/1/7.

With the victory, LCK marked the end of its international scene struggles and hoisted its sixth Worlds title, the first one since Samsung Galaxy won the championship in 2017.

Aside from ending the championship drought, Damwon also ended the world stage dominance of LPL, which produced the last two champions in Invictus Gaming (2018) and FunPlus Phoenix (2019). 

Millions online, 6,000 live

More than 6,000 mostly young spectators watched at the Shanghai stadium and millions tuned in online to see Damwon Gaming rule.

There were 3.2 million applications for tickets to see the decider of the month-long tournament in a football arena that holds about 35,000 people.

However, spectators were limited to 6,300 because of social distancing and those lucky enough to secure a seat had to wear a face mask to prevent coronavirus infections.

Now in its 10th year as a world championship, League of Legends is a hugely popular team-based strategy game set in a fantasy world of "champions" and jungle monsters.

Following a futuristic opening ceremony featuring virtual and real-life performers, 5 players each from Suning and Damwon took their seats on a brightly lit podium. Cheers went up as they went into battle.

League of Legends' developer Riot Games had estimated that 100 million would watch across the globe. Inside the stadium, spectators – many favoring China's Suning – saw the action unfold on two giant screens.

"Hands too sweaty," Damwon tweeted, but held their nerve to take the title, even as Suning threatened an upset during a pivotal third game.

Damwon's Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu said: "There was an interview during Worlds and I said that I wanted to win the title and be MVP.

"I can't believe this actually happened, I'm just super-happy.

"From the coaching staff down to the players, we've worked hard, harder than any other team, and because of that we've managed to accomplish this."

'Crazy journey' 

The 2020 Worlds, which started in September with 22 teams, had a minimum prize pool of $2.225 million but the final figure will be significantly higher than that.

In 2018, the last time figures were released, it was nearly $7 million.  

Successfully organizing the tournament, and holding the decider in front of a live stadium audience, was a triumph for Riot Games, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

In the buildup to the final, Nicolo Laurent, chief executive of Riot Games, said it had been "a crazy journey" because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sports have been shutting down around the world, many events were canceled and full seasons entirely postponed," he said.

"But during that time, League of Legends esports proved its resilience."

It is also an indication of how China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, has successfully got to grips with the contagion.

"In true honesty, there is no other place on the entire planet where I can imagine hosting Worlds today," added Laurent.

"This year, Shanghai proved it is on its way to becoming – if it's not already – the world's capital of esports." – with a report from Agence France-Presse