Paul 'Redeye' Chaloner is among esports' most recognisable figures. This week, he will help host ESL One Birmingham, the first Dota 2 major to be staged in the UK. In the first of his columns as his role as Luckbox ambassador, Redeye outlines why the event represents a landmark moment
When you think of the UK you may think of the weather (usually raining), whiney people (yep, that would be me) and a lack of esports winners. You’ll likely, because of the weekend just gone, also think of royalty and despite the fact we don’t usually do esports very well - at least in the playing department - we finally have an official Valve major tournament to boast about, where we will crown (see what I did there?) a set of Dota kings (OK, I’ll stop now) for the first time on UK soil.
Joking aside, it’s a big deal for us Brits. We are starved of top stars in the top tier of esports (save perhaps our close attempts at Call of Duty glory last year) and so we are left to enjoy the fact we can host world-class esports events (ESL Pro League at the O2, ECS Finals at Wembley Arena) and that we have a wealth of UK talent decorating the top end of esports broadcasting.
Expect our wild fans to be making plenty of noise with their own particular brand of humour, songs and good grace
But until recently, despite some great events, we’d be ignored when it came to the Dota or CS:GO majors, but like another British analogy, I guess majors are like buses, none for ages and then two come along at the same time.
Alongside the $1m ESL One Birmingham major this coming week, we also have the CSGO major to look forward to in London in September.
ESL One Birmingham, though, marks the first such major on these shores and it’s hugely welcome in many quarters, not least by the fans. I’ve met a lot of British and Irish fans at various events in Europe (and some as far away as Jakarta this year!) and I’m always impressed by just how far they’ve had to travel to get there.
I’ve always had an inkling that the British and Irish fans would fully embrace a large scale Dota or CSGO tournament if it came to the UK and now we’ll get to see it in practice.
I’ve no idea how ticket sales are going, though I’ve heard a few rumours that they are going well. Regardless, expect our wild fans to be making plenty of noise come next weekend in Birmingham with their own particular brand of humour, songs and good grace.
It’s important for financial, business, governmental and progress reasons, too. We’ve had a few false starts in the UK esports scene and in some areas it still needs a lot of work - some scenes are on life support - but it’s a great sign that we can bring huge scale esports events to the UK. In the past, we were told it was “too expensive” or that the visa issues were “too complicated” to allow us to hold events here.
With some great work by a great deal of people, however, these obstacles are starting to become easier to tackle, though some work still needs to be done. We need to make the most of these events coming up and show the world how great the country is for esports, how many passionate fans we have and how we react when we get the chance to drive to an event instead fly to one! I know I’m particularly looking forward to driving rather than flying.
In the tournament itself, there are plenty of key stories and teams to watch out for. With four teams already qualified for The International, just four automatic spots remain up for grabs and with only two majors (including ESL One Birmingham) remaining, the race is getting very tight for those last four spots.
An incredible couple of events for VG.J Storm has put them in contention for the top eight, however they will miss Birmingham and will be hoping the teams around them don’t pick up any more points before they can return for the Super Major next month.
As I write this, Mineski, VG, Newbee and VG.J Thunder occupy the final four spots, with Storm just behind in ninth. Three of those will be in Birmingham (Mineski, VG and Newbee) and all must do well if they want to secure their spot with a round to go and a championship win for any of those three would certainly ensure they go to The International.
While most eyes will be on the qualification spots, you can never rule out two teams who have already qualified for TI8 - Virtus Pro and Team Liquid will both be competing this week. This is especially true as both are chasing different records. Virtus Pro want a fourth Major title of the year (no one has ever done that before) and Team Liquid (incredibly!) are still looking for their first ever regular season Major!
The most notable omission from the top eight teams in the Dota Pro Circuit right now are North American teams. Not that long ago, we were talking about the depth the region had in player quality and on a regular basis either Complexity or Evil Geniuses would qualify and look good before crashing out of the lan events.
North America is still without a Major championship win outside of the EG win at TI5, but at least they have claimed three minors this season thanks to EG, Optic and VJ.G Storm. Both EG and Optic will be in Birmingham this week and in Optics case it is very much the last chance to qualify as they won’t be at the Supermajor.
EG are at both of the last two Majors, but need to win at least one of them to make the top eight and on recent form that doesn’t seem likely, but with an all-star team and a great captain, you can never rule them out.
OG and Fnatic are both in attendance and both are still super inconsistent. Both have shown flashes of greatness this season, especially in the last few events, but both have fallen short when it comes to high finishes (and therefore DPC points) or wins. Only OG have picked up a minor championship and it wasn’t particularly competitive either.
This week will be a celebration of esports in the UK
Both teams have world-class players on their rosters, are born winners, have great captains, flamboyance, drafting theory and yet somehow haven’t managed the consistency required at a Major to put it all together. Maybe Birmingham will be their time? But I doubt it.
Of the rest, the boys from Brazil will be in attendance from Pain Gaming and, while they have struggled throughout the DPC (they were at one point, one win and 18 losses), they have shown that progress has been made with a stronger showing in Russia, where they made it out of the groups for the first time this season. Doing so again in Birmingham would likely be a surprise, however.
The final team are LFY. If this had been seven months ago, we might be talking about this team as a potential major champion, but right now they are nowhere. Yet, their team remains one of world class players in Monet, Super and Yao and it’s about time they showed that kind of form. Expect them to nick the odd game off the top guns and cause a surprise or two but then fail to get any points.
With the form of PSG.LGD in the last month or so (winning two majors and finishing second in the other) the other teams must be breathing a sigh of relief they aren’t in Birmingham, but don’t ignore the highly competitive Chinese region from taking another major.
VG have four runner up spots in the DPC this season, but I fancy they might just find the extra they need to take a trophy this week. That is, if they can figure out how to get past Virtus Pro AND Team Liquid. Those three will start as favourites for sure, but expect performances from Evil Geniuses and Fnatic as they chase down a place in the top 8 of the DPC and perhaps Fnatic or OG to surprise.
Regardless, this week will be a celebration of esports in the UK as we finally get our hands on a Major and I’ve got a little something extra for Sundays final. Mum’s the word, so you’ll just have to tune in to find out what it is! :D