Many are calling today a catastrophe for Team Zenith, ‘the team to beat’ at The International. Yes, the players are feeling very disheartened after dropping so many games on the very first day of actual competition. But in all honesty, the only thing that was overwhelmingly disappointing was the 2-0 loss to EG.
Going in to today’s matches, Zenith were expecting stiff competition. LGD and DK were rated by us as 2 of the strongest Chinese teams here in Seattle. Realistically, we felt that we would be able to win DK and probably LGD (remembering how they beat us in the GDM but lost in IGMM). In retrospect, Zenith could have taken at least the first game off LGD, throwing away an early to mid-game lead. Of course, against EG, it turned out completely opposite of what was expected. Credit to EG – they executed their draft well and got in tremendous plays, led by Bulba, Fear and Demon.
No excuses – those were two games that should not be dropped. Zenith were not trolling or fooling around like some of you have speculated. Everyone has bad days and this was one of Zenith’s. Perhaps the guys were affected by the close games against LGD, perhaps they were tired after all the matches before. It doesn’t matter now.
What made me feel very encouraged was the way the team was reacting to today’s results. They came out of the room and got straight into discussion. This went on through dinner, the walk back to the hotel and in the rooms. They got out their Blades to watch replays, analyze gameplay and research opponents for tomorrow. Despite spending more than 12 hours at the Valve offices, they somehow found some energy in them to continue working on ways to improve their performance.
It was a sunny and chilly Seattle morning but the mood of the team during breakfast was muted. Still affected by yesterday’s results. But a positive takeaway was that they were still discussing and planning their strategies for the matches later, planning for as many contingencies as possible. hyhy and iceiceice trotted around with notebooks under their arms, xFreedom and xy in constant discussion of what heroes would counter what strats.
Going into game 1 against CLG, everyone in the manager’s stream room had our hearts in our mouths. This was basically a make-or-break series. CLG were the strongest opponents in today’s matches and it was something more than just another group stage game. For Loda, this was a game he needed to win to prove a point to everyone out there. It probably made it harder since these were his friends. It was an exciting game that was well played by both teams but controlled by Zenith. We all let out a collective sigh of relief after game 1. But it wasn’t enough – we needed to win. Game 2 certainly didn’t disappoint. It was the best game I’ve seen in Seattle, with Zenith playing the game of their lives, overcoming a huge experience and gold deficit. And iceiceice made good on his promise, he gave us Axe at The International.
There was a palpable sense of belief after the CLG series. It felt great to hand a team their first loss of a tournament after a terrible start. Not surprising to see their relieved but determined faces emerging from the playing room.
Summary of the day’s matches: Zenith sweeps day 2 6-0 to bring our score to 7-5. Good enough to bring us to 3rd in the group, behind the unbeaten LGD and second-placed DK. Do go to the official site for match coverage!
It was time for lunch at Valve after the match – another reason to smile for xFreedom. The nice thing about the cafeteria at Valve is that there is always entertainment around. It’s either the livestream being shown via a projector or watching Russian-speaking DotA players duke it out at foosball.
Most of the time, when the guys are playing their matches, I spend the day in the Manager’s Stream Room. It’s a room set aside for team staff to watch streams of their own team’s matches. Typically full of managers and admins, players love to crash the room and huddle around a station to watch other teams play. When you put Chinese, Russian and Europeans players in a room, there is bound to be hilarious conversation.
Other than having these rooms around, the Valve offices have plenty of other kinds of entertainment around to amuse the bored players. Foosball table, table tennis table, this sliding game thingy that I’ve never seen before. Valve seems like an epic place to work at.
Much of the tournament is about interacting with friends and acquaintances from other teams. How many events in a year would allow you to meet fellow DotA players from four different continents, speaking five different languages? It’s a great chance to meet people you respect as well as having the chance to talk to them and discuss ideas with them. Here are some people we’ve met and hung out with over the past days. You might recognize some of them.
Also, I have been wondering for the most part of today – does DotA naturally make you a better foosball player? Because it seems that there has been a Foosball International going on simultaneously. This one, Na`Vi will definitely win.
Here’s a look at the Zenith equipment box! All teams get one to consolidate all the equipment the players used – mice, keyboards, speakers, mouse pads. Valve staff actually sets up the room for you according to your specifications every game before you go in and then dismantles everything for you after the games. How awesome is that?
Today’s schedule went a little more smoothly, thus, allowing all of us to head back to the hotel earlier than yesterday.
Some of us decided to restock our food supplies at the nearby QFC, trotting across and braving the cold wind and a particularly long wait for the elevator.
And that was it for day 4. Zenith will be playing aL tomorrow, our last match for the group stages. After which, there will be a Valve-hosted team dinner. Expect more pictures from the dinner tomorrow night!