Everybody was hyped for the ESL One in Birmingham because we experienced the UK crowd as one of the loudest in Europa and the world last year.
Evil Geniuses break the curse but face a new one
A part of that unbelievable competition was Evil Geniuses this year. For the second time this season EG was able of breaking their own curse of finishing third. The North American squad won against PSG.LGD in the Upper Bracket Finals to make it into the Grand Finals.
Probably the roughest step on the road towards the end goal, gg @teamsecret— Cr1t- (@Cr1tdota) 2. Juni 2019
It was the second time this season they came close to winning a tournament, but in the end they had to watch their opponents lift the trophy. First at Mars Media Dota 2 League: Macau 2019 against Team Liquid and now after a devastating 2-3 against Team Secret.
Since Tal 'Fly' Aizik and Gustav 's4' Magnusson joined the organization EG got significantly better, but are waiting still for their first victory this season. There's not much time left to win a tournament, however The International 2019 is still to come.
Team Secret is the ultimate enemy, although they show some flaws
Team Secret, on the other hand, can already make some room in their trophy showcase. Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov and his team-mates are the favourites to lift the Aegis in Shanghai this season.
Secret won their sixth tournament this season and have finished at least in the top four of every other tournament. However, Team Secret is still not flawless: they struggled in the group stage and started in the Lower Bracket. Even their Grand Finals victory against EG was not as dominant as expected - they came close to losing. TI is going to have its own momentum. The favourites are often not the winning team in the end.
By not having a flawless playstyle Puppey proves that he can adapt to his opponents strategy - and this is why they'll probably win TI this time.
China won't have an easy time at The International
One nation that will try to stop Secret is China. It's the first TI in the Far East. We all know how high the prestige of TI is in China. PSG.LGD, Keen Gaming and Vici Gaming are the three top teams of their region but in Birmingham they didn't prove themselves as top contenders for the title.
Only LGD have made it into the top 3, yet didn't stand a chance against EG and Secret. It really doesn't look like China can grab the Aegis this season. We'll see if they can improve their game plan by August.
fng leads the new CIS threat
Three years ago, Virtus.pro was the best team of the CIS region, but wasn't good enough to be considered as a top contender for TI - this has changed completely over the last two years. Artem 'fng' Barshack is trying to do the same with CIS' number two: AS Monaco Gambit.
The Russians have an intelligent playstyle combined with aggressive and skilled moves that make them dangerous to any team in the world. Vici Gaming and Team Liquid know what we're talking about.
So far only Team Secret was able to stop Gambit twice at ESL One events. We'll see if Gambit maybe finds a way to stop Secret. fng is the kind of player that could be preparing the perfect game for his squad.
Heen forms another contender
Soung-Gon 'Heen' Lee was at the pinnacle of his career with Team Liquid. With captain Kuro S. 'KuroKy' Takhasomi he shaped a world-class team that was able to beat any opponent - and they won The International 2017.
Heen was a part of Liquid for quite some time, but decided to leave the squad at the start of this season. He was searching for a new task and found it with TNC Predator. The Filipino squad had a rough time this season, but have shown constant improvement. They finished second in their group, ahead of Team Liquid, also taking games off of both finalists.
Oh well... disappointing last game since we threw so hard but it was not our usual type of lineup so it's understandable. Gg Team Secret.— Heen (@Heen1337) 1. Juni 2019
Carlo 'Kuku' Palad and his team-mates still have some tasks ahead, but they are getting stronger every day. A big reason for that is Heen who improved TNC's draft and helped them to maintain a game plan throughout a match.
What is your takeaway from Birmingham? What conclusions can we draw from it for TI9?
Photo credit: ESL - Helena Kristiansson