We’re hours away from the main stage at The International 2018, and we’ve already seen ten players, or two teams, sent home. Invictus Gaming and paiN were not able to convert a place in the groups into a spot on the main stage, meaning China and Brazil will be the first nations to welcome home some heroes, with the rest still on the grind to try and win the biggest prize in esports history.
In the upper bracket, the teams that won their groups were allowed to pick their opponents, with Team Liquid coming out on top of Group A and deciding to play against OpTic in their first round match. This may be due to the fact they’ve lost a number of times to Team Secret already this season, or due to some perceived weakness in the OpTic team, but the dynamic is strange in competitions where teams are allowed to pick who they play.
As a system, of course it makes sense that you would have a favourite and least favourite opponent, but the fact teams are asked to publicly state which team they want to play makes the balance of the game hard to predict. Certainly, the team that is chosen has huge motivation to win already, with the perceived slight of being singled out as the weakest only adding to that.
In the other half, we have Virtus.pro taking on PSG.LGD, the best Chinese team to this point. With four of the top eight sides at TI7 hailing from China, this year was supposed to be a good one, but after four days of competition there is just one team of Chinese origin in the upper bracket, the aforementioned PSG.
You might think they’d feel good about their draw against a fairly-underwhelming VP, but the feeling among a lot of fans is that VP have held back to this point, and will unleash their full force now the real action has begun. This is obviously a massive assumption to make, and far from a safe one, but they were favourites coming in, and VP must be given the respect they deserve.
Match of the day – Virtus.pro v PSG.LDG
Ironically, Winstrike had to play a best-of three match against Invictus Gaming for their place in the lower bracket, only to instantly face a best-of one elimination match. While that is the way the plan has always been, it is strange that games at this point of the most important event in Dota 2 are BO1, given how many random factors can affect the outcome of any one game.
The Russian team have been handed arguably the hardest lower bracket game going on day one of the main event, with Newbee expected by many to have made the top four in their group, but currently slumming down in the doldrums. It would be a shock if the Chinese side went out today, but Winstrike will be in their best form after coming through their tiebreaker, and have no fear at this point, having already achieved their goal.
Elsewhere Fnatic will be pleased to have improved on last year, when they went 2-14 and were eliminated in the group stages, and their match against Team Serenity is a chance for the org to go even deeper in the event. The Chinese side should have a great chance going in, but haven’t looked that strong to this point, and the game could go either way.
Mineski vs TNC Predator and the game between VGJ Thunder and Vici round out the program, with all of the lower bracket action played out in a BO1 format. It’d be nice for TNC to make it through and maintain the high level of diversity from a nationality point of view, but none of these teams have shown much to this point, and holding back to the extent you end up in lower bracket would make no sense, in the same way assuming any of these sides are title contenders isn’t sensible at this point.
Match of the day – Newbee v Winstrike
Image: Wykham Reddy