In a closely-fought and exciting League of Legends Pro League (LPL) 2020 Spring Split grand finals match JD Gaming edged past Top Esports (3-2) to win their first league championship title in the organisation's history.
The 2020 LPL Spring Split was one for the books with many underdog teams showing their worth and proving to the world they are one of the strongest LoL squads in the scene. From the league newcomers eStar keeping a firm hold at a top of the league standings throughout most of the season to the resurgence in form from Top Esports and JD Gaming in the latter stages of the split, the 2020 LPL Spring Split had it all - and it all culminated with an exciting grand finals match between JD Gaming and Top Esports who kept the fans on the edge of their seats throughout the whole series.
The journey of JD Gaming and Top Esports throughout the season was an exciting one to follow. Although JD Gaming’s superb performance was not to be ignored, Top Esports took all the spotlight with the signing of ex-Invictus Gaming ADC superstar Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo at the start of April. Unfortunately, even with the 2018 world champion, Top Esports were unable to defeat JD Gaming, although that is not to say they did not come close to it.
JD Gaming entered the 2020 LPL Spring Split playoffs as the second seed and 12-4 record next to their name, which earned them a direct bye into the semi-finals. Top Esports, on the other side, finished the regular season at fourth place (11-5) which earned them a spot in the quarter-finals, where they disposed of Team WE (3-1), who earlier crushed eStar (3-1) in round one of the playoffs.
After eliminating Team WE, Top Esports were slated to meet with 2018 World Champions and the regular season frontrunners Invictus Gaming, who shockingly failed to produce much resistance and fell flat (1-3) against their former ADC, who led Top Esports to yet another victory. Meanwhile, JD Gaming faced off against the reigning world champions FunPlus Phoenix, where they left a huge statement by stomping FPX into the dirt and walked away from the bout with a perfect 3-0. Both Top Esports and JD Gaming looked seriously strong throughout the season, which suggested we are in for an exciting grand finals match - and that is exactly what these two Chinese League of Legends teams produced this Saturday.
The series as a whole were more or less back-and-forth between the two teams. JD Gaming won the first match but got his back with two consecutive wins by Top Esports who got themselves in a very favourable 2-1 lead but were unfortunately unable to seal the deal as they lost the final two matches of the series.
As the final score would suggest (3-2), there was not a lot to separate JD Gaming and Top Esports in terms of overall performances. JD Gaming won the first match convincingly with 12-4 and almost 6.5k gold lead. Top Esports responded with two strong showings in game two (14-6,+10.4k gold lead) and game three (11-6, +4.5k gold lead) to get themselves ahead in the series. The key players who helped Top Esports get ahead were no other than JackeyLove and Zhuo "knight" Ding and although the duo played well throughout the whole series, Top Esports failed to take advantage of their lead and fell flat in the final two matches.
After losing two in a row, JD Gaming woke up and edged out a 14-9 (+7k gold lead) win in the fourth game of the series thanks to a phenomenal display from ex-Top Esports ADC Lee "LokeN" Dong-wook who ended the match with 6/1/5, while JackeyLove struggled with 2/3/2. LokeN carried over the momentum into the fifth and final match of the series where he once more outclassed JackeyLove with 7/2/5 while keeping his Chinese counterpart at only 3/3/4. Another player who deserves special praise is JD Gaming's jungler and the recently announced LPL 2020 SPrting Split MVP Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok, who put immense pressure on the bottom lane, thus completely nullified Top Esports' win condition.
The finals' Most Valuable Player award, however, went to JD Gaming's support Zuo “LvMao” Ming-Hao who played a pivotal role in his team's success. Throughout the series, he showcased his deep champion pool by playing as Yuumi, Tahm Kench, Thresh and Bard. Furthermore, he singlehandedly helped his team several crucial teamfights in the fifth and final game with an incredible performance on Bard.
Overall, JD Gaming's season proved to be a huge success, which is surprising to see, considering this team finished LPL 2019 Spring eight and Summer Split at an underwhelming 10th place. Nonetheless, the off-season acquisitions in LokeN, who replaced the former world champion Gu “imp” Seung-bin and the decision to permanently sign Kanavi, who has spent the Summer Split as a loanee from Griffin proved to be the right call from the Chinese esports organisation.
Perhaps the most surprising was how quickly LokeN established strong synergy with his new team. Throughout the season, the Korean ADC completely outclassed all bottom-tier teams, while also proved he can hold his ground against some of the best ADC players in the league
Looking back, this year's LPL was the most competitive than it ever was, seeing how two former world champions in Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix not only failed to reach the finals but got completely stomped by Top Esports and JD Gaming respectively. If this split means anything is that LPL is only growing stronger each year and while we are still months away from the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, it seems like LPL teams will once more dominate the international competitions, as it was the case over the last two seasons.