DWG KIA sweep Gen.G to take 2021 LCK Spring Split title
DWG KIA swept Gen.G 3-0 in the finals, defending their title and bringing the 2021 League of Legends Champions Korea Spring Split playoffs to a close, on Saturday evening.
While DWG KIA and Gen.G had gone dead even in the regular season, the former were considered the favorites prior to the match, with 10 out of 11 of the on-air talent making predictions in the reigning world champions' favor. A clean sweep, however, was not foreseen by most.
The LCK English broadcast made new strides in production for this year's finals, debuting segments which for years had been requested by overseas fans.
Additions included a lengthy pre-finals talk show hosted by Brendan Valdes and Lee Jeong-hyun (featuring personalities from both the Korean and English broadcast), as well as an analyst desk hosted by Valdes and Park Jee-sun (featuring Fredit Brion jungler Um "UmTi" Sung-hyeon and former Cloud9 head coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu).
The casting desk also expanded for the finals, with both Wolf Schröder and Maurits "Chronicler" Meeusen joining Max "Atlus" Anderson to form a tri-cast. All three changes were positively received.
The match itself was a relatively straightforward affair. In Game 1, Gen.G could not answer the pressure put on by DWG KIA's Senna-Heimerdinger bottom duo and were thus gradually pushed out of the game, repeatedly running into difficulties maintaining proper vision prior to objective spawns. Gen.G's Kim "Life" Jeong-min had a particularly uninspiring performance on Thresh, leading to questions over whether he should have been placed on a champion he was more comfortable with.
The second game was the closest of the night, with Gen.G going into the midgame with a sizeable lead against DWG KIA's snowball-reliant Rumble-Renekton composition. Yet just as Gen.G were preparing to start closing things out, Kim "Clid" Tae-min put an abrupt stop to his team's momentum by attempting a woeful and mistimed engage. Gen.G as a whole looked bereft of confidence after Clid's mistake, and DWG KIA took full advantage of their opponents' demoralization to eventually make a massive comeback.
DWG KIA's mental edge extended into the final game, in which a visibly deflated Gen.G gave up leads in every lane and were quickly steamrolled once teamfights around objectives began. It took DWG KIA only 28 minutes to destroy Gen.G's Nexus and secure the organization's first Spring Split title.
"I'm so happy to have joined in the twilight year of my career [a team] that [can carry me]," said finals MVP Kim "Khan" Dong-ha, speaking to reporters after the match. With today's victory, he became the most domestically decorated top laner in LCK history, with five titles under his belt (2017 Summer, 2018 Spring, 2019 Spring, 2019 Summer, 2021 Spring).
Khan admitted to putting on an unusually poor display in Game 2, and praised his teammates for "winning [that] game 4v5". He shared that he would be splitting his finals MVP earnings with the others.
Kim "Canyon" Gun-bu's performance in the series was also touted by many — including Heo "ShowMaker" Su — as MVP-worthy, arguably even more so than Khan's. ShowMaker commended Canyon for being "as incredible as usual today," reiterating his faith in his star jungler.
Canyon, for his part, remained typically modest, paying respect to Khan for maintaining top form despite his age (at 25 years and 3 months, Khan is the oldest active player in the LCK). "I'm not sure whether I'll be playing that well when I reach his age — I think it's amazing," he said.
DWG KIA will soon represent LCK at the Mid-Season Invitational, the international tournament second in prestige to only the World Championship. Last year's MSI was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this May, Spring Split champions from around the globe will gather in Reykjavik, Iceland to play at the indoor sporting arena Laugardalshöll, albeit without a live audience.
Other South Korean teams will most likely be rooting for DWG KIA, as Riot Games announced in March that the region that wins MSI will automatically receive an extra seed for the World Championship.
"We'll make sure to do well [at MSI] and benefit [the LCK] by securing an additional seed [for Worlds]," said Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun.
Others, such as Jo "BeryL" Gun-hee, sounded more nonchalant about their upcoming trip to Iceland.
"I only looked up whether they have good Wi-Fi," BeryL said.
All of the team looked forward to taking some time off before beginning their preparations for MSI. Head coach Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun — who won his ninth LCK title, his first since leaving T1 — said he would devote his break to treating his wife well, as he was sorry to have "not [done] anything for her birthday today" due to it coinciding with the finals.
DWG KIA took home 200 million won ($178,000) in prize money alongside their trophy.
BY JEON YOUNG-JAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]