Defending League of Legends world champions SK Telecom T1 will move onto the semifinals of this year’s tournament after defeating Chinese No. 2 seed Royal Never Give Up three games to one Friday.
It was a rematch of one of the semifinal matchups at this yaer’s Mid-Season Invitational in Shanghai. That time, RNG took the first game off the Korean juggernaut before dropping the next three in a row. The same result occurred Friday night in Chicago.
With the win, SKT (who entered the tournament as Korea’s No. 2 seed) will advance to play the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Korean No. 1 seed ROX Tigers and Chinese No. 1 seed EDward Gaming.
In Game 1, RNG took advantage of winning lane matchups to take a large early lead. In particular, RNG found a lot of success in the top lane matchup, where SKT picked Poppy into Jayce.
Looper’s Jayce picked up a huge lead — ultimately an insurmountable one -- while RNG held strong in the other lanes despite strong play from Faker and Bang. Even with a strong early game, however, SKT found its way back in the game, as Looper overcommitted and died in the middle of the entire enemy team.
The mid game evened up the game -- SKT even led for a whopping 12 seconds, as Faker and Bang farmed up at very efficient rates and took down towers. But at 37 minutes, RNG snuck Baron, won a fight at Elder Dragon and won that too. SKT was unable to recover at that point, as RNG won 12-6 in 46 minutes.
Game 2 was a considerably different story for both teams, who switched sides and nearly completely switched team comps. RNG used SKT’s Game 1 composition, with the exception of Olaf over Lee Sin, while SKT picked RNG’s successful Jhin-Zyra bot lane.
At three minutes, SKT picked up two early kills, which set the tone for the game.
RNG had a few windows of opportunity thanks to another group of ill-advised teleports from Duke, and was also helped by more fortunate dragon randomization (after three mountains for RNG in Game 1, SKT was stuck with two Clouds and two Oceans in Game 2).
But SKT would not be denied, taking Baron at 35 minutes and eventually finding DUke some redemption.
SKT took the game 13-3 in 43 minutes.
Game 3 was disastrous for RNG.
For starters, Mata accidentally brought Windspeaker’s Blessing, the Keystone Mastery he used on Karma in the previous game, on Zyra, a champion that can literally not proc the heal or shield bonus and is far better served with Thunderlord’s Decree.
Without the lane pressure from Thunderlord’s, SKT picked up First Blood at five minutes.
Then, for the first time all series, Duke was able to be actually impactful in the top lane, this time on Gnar. He was helped by an early gank by Blank that netted a kill, and turned it into this solo kill:
By 15 minutes, the gold lead was 5k. By 22, it was 13k, with a 17-5 kill score. And then Duke added insult to injury by turning around this impossible play:
SKT closed out the game 21-8 in 30 minutes.
Game 4 was probably the sloppiest, and it was definitely the bloodiest. Uzi earned First Blood early on with his signature Ezreal, and RNG built on the lead by sending xiaohu’s Aurelion Sol to the bot lane roaming.
Xiaohu’s Aurelion Sol was a nice wrinkle for RNG’s draft, but Faker’s Malzahar was up for the challenge. And it was Mlxg’s Lee Sin that kept RNG in the game.
SKT turned the game in their favor squarely at 16 minutes with a delayed ace, netting three kills for Faker. At 30 minutes, the team landed a clean ace, winning the game 22-9 and advancing to the semifinals.