3 Lenses of NESO: understanding the results of China's latest offseason event

by theScore Staff Nov 8 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Youtube / n/a

The 2015 National Electronic Sports Open has concluded with Royal Never Give Up, a team that had to fight through the promotion tournament to retain their spot in the LPL, taking first place in the League of Legends event. Invictus Gaming lost to a net cafe team. LGD Gaming and EDward Gaming both lost to Energy Pacemaker All.

Chinese League of Legends is either random and worthless, or context is needed to interpret the results—or both. There are a few things to keep in mind that might sway your thoughts one way or the other.

NESO took place the week following the World Championship

The simultaneously ongoing KeSPA Cup in Korea has featured similarly bizarre results to the National Electronic Sports Open in China. Most notably, the Tigers (formerly known as KOO Tigers, the team that took second place at the 2015 World Championship), lost a best-of-three to SBENU Sonicboom.

SBENU, like Royal Never Give Up, had to play Promotion to return to their league this year, but they also placed tenth of 10 teams in League of Legends Champions Korea. As Energy Pacemaker was only recently promoted to the LPL, the Tigers losing to SBENU is comparable to LGD Gaming and EDward Gaming dropping one and two games respectively to EPA.

This won't be true of all teams returning from the World Championship, but teams who have spent time focusing on Worlds may need time to relax after the event and might not prepare for tournaments taking place immediately following their European tour. LGD, EDG, and iG ran rosters different from the ones they'd used most of the year, KOO rotated in Kim "Wisdom" Taewan for a game, and even SKT are likely to debut new mid laner Lee "Scout" Yeechan next week.

One needs time to recharge, so it's likely NESO and the first week of KeSPA Cup didn't reveal the true capabilities of teams who attended Worlds.

NESO was an event without prize money organized by the Chinese State Sports General Administration

Given the information above, one might wonder why Worlds teams with their Koreans potentially visiting their families to recharge would agree to participate in NESO. Many invited teams, including LGD, forfeited at least some of their matches as well.

While imperfect, attendance at NESO by invited teams was partially mandatory barring other obligations. Since the tournament was organized by a branche of government, it was meant as a display of Chinese esports talent for the country. Meaning, should a team's Koreans be released to vacation, the team would have to field a roster anyway. There was also no real prize pool, so the only incentive to win was to receive plaques and a trophy for highest standings across events, won by Snake.

It additionally sheds some light on the quality of the event production and games that took place.

The Snake and Royal Never Give Up rivalry is in fact a thing

Forget everything I said yesterday. For one thing, I had mis-attributed the summer regular season record between ex-King/Royal Never Give Up and Snake. The true record between the two teams is 7-6, not 9-4, in favor of Snake for 2015. With RNG's recent 2-1 victory in NESO finals, that record stands at 8-8.

Snake and RNG (ex-King) have opposing strengths and weaknesses. At their best, RNG follow captain Liu "Mlxg" Shiyu in reckless invasion attempts with well-placed vision and snowball leads. In this state, they also tend to continue this trend in late game where they make myriad errors which Snake capitalizes upon.

Especially with Liu "BAKA" Fan taking over mid lane this tournament while Ceng "U" Long attended the same exhibition event as Qiao Gu, Snake stutter early but operate well in team fights. RNG are not bad at team fighting themselves, but a tendency for members of their team to get caught out works well into Snake's comeback mechanism. If they get a strong enough lead, RNG team fight well to close.

This best-of-three came riddled with errors, but in its conclusion, Royal Never Give Up triumphed again even though they aren't otherwise a good team. I don't know if it stemmed from BAKA's inability to do anything but farm and press R, the return of Coach Kim "vicaL" Sunmook who was responsible for most or Star Horn Royal Club's strategy in 2014 Summer, a strange offseason ex-King buff, or a deep-seeded mental block that causes Li "Flandre" Xuanjun to see Mlxg's face whenever he closes his eyes, but RNG have kept a rivalry with one of China's top teams alive.

At least Snake's LoL team were allowed to stand next to their FIFA Online 3 player to take the overall performance trophy and mourn the LAN they still have yet to win on their own.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.