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Nahaz on predicting all 8 Kiev Major invites: 'I tried to follow the chain of logic that I think Valve has used in the past'

by Preston Dozsa Mar 8
Thumbnail image courtesy of Helena Kristiansson / ESL

Alan "Nahaz" Bester is a Dota 2 statistician, analyst and economics professor. Though he hasn't appeared at a LAN in some time, he correctly predicted all eight invites to the upcoming Kiev Major.

Shortly after the Kiev Major invites were announced, Nahaz spoke to theScore esports about predicting the Major and the upcoming Kiev regional qualifiers.

First off, congratulations for predicting all eight invites for the Kiev Major.

Thanks. It was bound to happen one of these days right? The irony is that I swore myself to never try and predict Valve invites again. But this time around, you know, you take a shot and every so often you hit.

How long did it take you to prepare for the invite predictions? How much research went into them?

A couple of hours of work. I sort of have all of this stuff floating around in my head and it's just a matter of organizing it and putting it down. At this point, for Dota, it's a lot like writing a lecture for a class. I've taught a lot of different things at this point in my career, I sort of have it all running around up in my head and it's just a matter of getting it all down and organizing a set of slides. That's kind of the same thing when I'm making these little Dota shows.

I know that for your final invite, you weren't really sure if it would be Team VG.J. You also thought it could be Faceless or TNC. Were you surprised by the lack of an SEA invite?

No. So that was kind of, when I put the predictions together, I tried to follow the chain of logic that I think Valve has used in the past. Valve is very much... if we invite this team we feel that we have to invite that team. And that's what exactly led to the 12 invite to Manila. The way I looked at it, Icefrog has always given a lot of respect to Chinese rosters with a lot of star power. VG.J, they did look very good at StarLadder, they passed the sort of eye test in getting by a lot of good teams. And if you're going to invite Wings, who obviously are the reigning TI champions, but really haven't achieved a level we expected since TI, I thought they would feel that they would have to invite a team from the same region that has the same level of talent and star power but has been red hot recently.

As for SEA, you look at Fnatic and the MVP Phoenix rosters that finished in the top of several consecutive Major's. And it's not just that those players aren't on those teams anymore, most of those players aren't even in the region anymore. I believe that the five players that competed for Fnatic and MVP Phoenix, I would say over half of them are competing in other regions. I do think SEA will be back, it's a natural part of the region's evolution. I compared it in the video to things like Chinese basketball and Japanese and Korean baseball, coming over and competing in American leagues. I do think that eventually you'll see some of those players come back, there'll be some more resources flowing into the region, but right now the region is pretty naturally down because they've had all their top talent culled.

We could see QO coming back to a SEA team since WanteD disbanded. I imagine if Team Secret continues to perform as they are, that roster could part ways.

The two teams that I think are on a lot of people's minds right now, and I got a lot of, justifiably, a lot of flak for not mentioning in the video were Secret and Virtus.pro. Secret, I mean, nobody quite knows what's going on with them right now and when you look at their replays, it's not just their problems gelling together. Team Liquid had problems gelling together at first, and that's natural. But Secret hasn't shown the kind of steady improvement. A hallmark of Puppey teams is that you know how he is going to beat you. It's not necessarily the same, with all of the different rosters, but within a given roster, Puppey always has a paradigm. He always has a philosophy, he always has a way that his team is going to win. And I don't see that with Secret right now, I don't see the answer to the question, "How are they going to beat people?"

And similarly with VP, they had a sequence of unfortunate events where they struggled a bit at ESL One Genting. And then I believed they were DDOSed in their appearance in the DAC qualifiers, ended up have to forfeit the match against Funnik's and Scandal's LQ team and that's a huge blow to them. Because VP is a team that has, in the past, shown flashes of brilliance but hasn't really been able to sustain that momentum and consistency. I've actually talked to Solo about this a couple of times. They feel like they've got the talent and they feel like they've got the mastery of the meta, but for whatever reason, the team really struggles to find consistency.

Do you agree with Valve's format with the qualifiers with two spots for China and SEA and one spot for everything else?

Given that you are going to have eight direct invites in a 16-team field, I don't know how else you're going to do it. That's the problem. There are a lot of very easy criticisms. Probably the biggest valid criticism is the one bid going to EU, which even after you take OG, Liquid and Ad Finem off the top, is still going to be an incredibly strong and incredibly competitive region. But, give me another solution. I don't think you cut down SEA or China down to one. Those regions didn't get touched, didn't get divided, and you have the same number of teams competing at they've had in the past there. So again, if there were a way to have done it, I would have like to have seen six direct invites so that you could keep, EU especially, at two qualification spots. The more I kicked it around in my head, in making the video, if I were doing it I would have invited seven teams. VG.J would have not gotten the direct invite, and I would have cut it off after Newbee. I would have had 2-2-2, for SEA,China and EU, and one spot for the other three. But as I was making the video I thought that there was no way Valve would have really done it, so I didn't mention it.

I think if you look at the quality of tournaments in the past, all of the data that we have about the Majors, you want fewer automatic spots and more qualified teams. If you look at the record of qualified teams and doing well and winning at these events. On the other hand, Valve doesn't have a format for a reason. They don't say there will be X number of bids, and if you finish in the top Y you automatically get a bid.

They don't do that, and they don't do that for a reason. They put a lot of stock in their own subjective stock in the valuation of teams and they value the ability to say, "We really want to invite Wings and Ad Finem even though they haven't been the most dominant teams between Boston and now. But if we invite those teams, who do we invite based on more recent results?" They're a big fan of that kind of organic reason, and if you look at the material that they've put out for their employees that's public, what little of it there is, you get that vibe out of Valve. You get that they value organic, iterative, decision making.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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