The story of the League of Legends World Championship began in 2011, when eight teams competed in Jönköping, Sweden, as part of the DreamHack festival. The event was decidedly low key in those early days, and it would have been hard for a novice viewer, or indeed bettor, at the tournament to tell the difference between the fans and the competitors. Fans were able to watch the action from close to the players, with many gathering around individual players’ screens.
The tournament was more a Europe versus North America showcase event back then, rather than being truly global, as it is now. There were some interesting tactical match-ups, though, which shaped how people would bet on LoL in the years to come. As tactics had been developed independently on the game’s two servers, which were located in Europe and North America, two different approaches to the game were in evidence. The American teams relied on a double utility bottom line, while Europe preferred the marksman and support combination.
Eight teams competed in this inaugural event, and it was the European teams who emerged as the stronger. Fans who placed bets on these teams came away with impressive payouts, and you can do the same. Fnatic won the first World Championship, beating another European team, Against All Authority, in the final. Team SoloMid and Epik Gamer came in third and fourth place, respectively. The first prize in that inaugural tournament was $50,000, a figure that has been multiplied many times over in the seasons which followed.
The second edition of the League of Legends World Championship took place in Los Angeles, on the west coast of the USA, in California. The final was held at USC’s Galen Centre, and this was the first time that the LoL Worlds had been staged as a separate event, an important step in the tournament’s history – particularly for bettors.
This was the first tournament in which the teams competed for the Summoner’s Cup. This huge trophy was manufactured by British company Thomas Lyte Silver, who had previously designed such iconic sports trophies as golf’s Ryder Cup and football’s FA Cup. The design reflected League of Legends, with designs featuring motifs from the game engraved in silver, brass and gold on it.
Another important step was taken in terms of the teams who competed too, with a heavy Asian presence creating a different dynamic for the tournament. Teams from South Korea, China and the LMS region really added something new to the competition, and undoubtedly took it to a higher level, making betting on these games even more exciting than before. New levels of strategy were seen, and a ‘team first’ ethic was introduced, which prioritised objectives over kills.
Russian team Moscow 5 had been predicted to be strong contenders, based upon their performances in the year leading up to the event, but it would be relative unknowns Taipei Assassins who would take home the new World Championship trophy. Bettors who took a chance on these outsiders were handsomely rewarded – making this a particularly great competition for placing wagers. NaJin Sword, a team from South Korea, had dominated the group stage, but Taipei Assassins turned them over in the quarter-finals. The Assassins would then beat Moscow 5 in the semis, before doing the same to highly fancied Azubu Frost in the final. Their victory helped to establish a new era for LoL professional leagues, with teams finding a new intensity and utilising novel, highly effective strategies for the first time.
The year of 2013 marked another important step forward for the professional League of Legends World Championship tournament. The sport had begun to mature, as competitive LoL leagues developed in regions, providing teams with a more clearly defined qualification pathway for the World Championship. Regional identities and rivalries were established, and teams began to attract followings of fans and bettors. The World Championship final was staged at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and featured an opening ceremony at which The Crystal Method performed.
SK Telecom T1, a team from South Korea, began the tournament as strong favourites, and would go on to take the trophy home. In a measure of how the tournament was progressing, they won $1 million. The tournament also saw the emergence of Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, the mid laner for SK Telecom t1, who played a significant role in his team’s tournament victory, and established himself as a star in his own right. This is a team well worth considering for your next LoL bet.
Out of the 14 teams who competed, Cloud 9, Fnatic, Gamania Bears and Royal Club were all fancied as possible winners by eager bettors, but it was SK Telecom who swept all opposition aside in the end. In the run up to the tournament Cloud 9 had dominated their North American region, while Fnatic had won both the Spring and Summer Splits in the European LCS. Gamania Bears were the top team from the LMS region.
But that seeming strength in depth could not stop Faker and SK Telecom T1. They beat the Chinese contenders Royal Club 3-0 in the final. Their awesome form capped off a tournament which had demonstrated the growing strength in depth of teams who were now competing against each other on a regular basis in the regional LoL professional leagues. It also demonstrated just how strong the Asian region was, with teams from South Korea and China dominating.
But Korea was not the only region with strong teams in 2014. North American outfits Team SoloMid and Cloud 9 were also expected to make a strong showing at the event, and both made the quarter-finals. Both would fall to Samsung Galaxy teams at that stage of the tournament, though, with White beating Team SoloMid, and Blue triumphing over Cloud 9. The two Samsung teams would face each other in one semi-final, with White sweeping Blue aside 3-0. In the other semi, OMG took on Star Horn Royal Club, with the Royal club triumphing 3-2 over their fellow Chinese team. In the final, Korea would beat China, though, with Samsung Galaxy White winning 3-1.
But the tournament also made another step in its development, when a South American team beat one of Europe’s top sides earlier in the competition. KaBuM! Esports beat European giants Alliance in the group stage. Although the Brazilian team finished bottom of their group, their win prevented Alliance qualifying for the group stage, and it was a historic moment in professional LoL – and a seismic event for esports betting fans.
The World Championship moved to Europe in 2015, with the tournament staged over a series of venues across the continent. The group stage was held in Paris, France, with the quarter-finals in London, UK. The semi-finals were staged in Brussels, Belgium, while the final was staged at Berlin’s Mercedes Benz Stadium in Germany. The season started with a migration of the Korean talent who had dominated the previous year’s competition, with many star players joining Chinese teams. China’s Edward Gaming had emerged as likely contenders for the throne of world champions earlier in the season, with many gamblers putting their money on the team to win - but they would lose in the quarter-finals to Fnatic. But Faker was back too, and SK Telecom enjoyed a real resurgence at this tournament. Another Korean team, ROX Tigers, also came to prominence, and would end up reaching the final, after defeating Fnatic 3-0 in the semi.
Two teams from the LMS region also did well, in the shape of Flash Wolves and ahq esports Club, but were both eliminated at the quarter-final stage. Origen and Fnatic flew the flag for Europe, and both reached the semi-finals. But it was the Koreans who once again demonstrated their nation’s traditional strength in LoL, with SK Telecom T1 and KOO Tigers reaching the final. Faker was well and truly back to his best, and he steered Telecom T1 to a fine 3-1 victory over KOO in the final. By the end of 2015, the Korean star had two World Championship titles to his name, though, to complement the other domestic and regional titles he had claimed, and was truly a colossus in the world of competitive LoL – as well as being a popular choice for bettors looking to cash in on his success.
In 2016, the tournament returned to the USA, with the four stages being held in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. This year also saw a return to dominance for the Korean teams, with SK Telecom T1 winning their third title, and beating Samsung Galaxy, now competing as one team, in the final. Indeed, three out of the four groups in the opening stage of the tournament were topped by Korean teams, with ROX Tigers joining their compatriots in a finishing at the head of one of the groups. The Tigers finished just ahead of Russian outfit Albus Nox Luna, who became the first team from the CIS region to reach the quarter-finals.
Chinese team Edward Gaming also turned in a strong showing in the group stages, coming second to European outfit H2K Gaming. Samsung Galaxy topped Group D, with Royal Never Give Up coming second. The line-up for the quarter-finals was completed by American team Cloud 9, who finished second in Group B, and Group B winners SK Telecom T1, who, once again, were looking powerful.
SK Telecom T1 would triumph over ROX Tigers in one semi-final, winning 3-2. The other semi was contested between H2K Gaming, who had beaten Albus Nox Luna in their quarter-final, and Samsung Galaxy, who had ended Cloud 9’s challenge in the previous round. In the end, SK Telecom T1 beat Samsung Galaxy 3-2 in the final, cementing their reputation as the greatest LoL team in the world.