OG make Dota 2 history by winning ‘The International’ for the second time in a row

Anand Krishnaswamy | Updated on August 27, 2019

OG celebrate after winning the TI9 Grand Final   -  REUTERS

Take home $15.5 m, lifetime earnings goes up to $33 m

OG — no formal expansion known or required — came to The International 9 (TI9) in Shanghai as the defending champions, but not as the favourites.

Online multiplayer game Dota 2 is the successor of DotA (Defense of the Ancients) and its biggest gaming event is called ‘The International’.

OG’s form since the last year’s win at TI8 had been nothing special. Add to that a slice of history — no defending champion other than NA’VI (Natus Vincere) in TI2 ever made it to the finals of The International. Even NA’VI, winners of the first TI, never won again.

This makes OG’s second TI win — and a consequtive one, no less — all the more special. Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein-led OG beat Kuro ‘Kuroky’ Salehi Takhasomi’s Team Liquid 3-1 in the Grand Final. ‘Kuroky’ led the winning Team Liquid in TI7.

As winners of the TI9, the OG received $15.5 million. Team Liquid, as the runners-up, earned nearly $4.5 million, which boosted their lifetime earnings to around $29 million. But that amount was also surpassed by the OG, whose earnings now touch a massive record figure of over $33 million. Before this win, the Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses had higher lifetime earnings than OG. Evil Geniuses, who finished in a relatively poor shared 5-6th place, now fall to third place in earnings at about $22 million.

Winning Five

OG’s winning combination — Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein, Jesse ‘JerAx’ Vainikka, Anathan ‘ana’ Pham, Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen and Sebastien ‘Ceb’ Debs — came together in 2018 and have stayed on to add another crown.

The formation of OG’s ‘Winning Five’ is extremely interesting. It is well known in the Dota 2 community that the OG was formed by N0tail Sundsteain and his then close friend Tal ‘Fly’ Aizik.

However, three months before TI 2018, OG had a setback or sorts. In what is now considered a famous defection, ‘Fly’ Azik along with another member (Gustav ‘s4’ Mahnusson, captain of the winning team at TI3) jumped ship and joined the superstar roster of Evil Geniuses. That left OG with an incomplete roster and a betrayal to overcome.

‘N0tail’ Sundstein and ‘JerAx’ Vainikka stayed together and brought back from retirement former rookie talent Anathan ‘ana’ Pham. They also persuaded coach Sébastien ‘Ceb’ Debs, a former Dota 2 player, who last played as a competitor at TI2, to shift from coaching to active play and hired a “pubstar”, Topias ‘Topson’, a casual player who had reached a fairly high level, as the final member. Just before TI9, OG also hired sports psychologist, Mia Stellberg, who had worked with Astralis, a very successful e-sports team, who dominated the pro circuit in Counter-Strike. Stellberg has also worked with Olympic athletes.

OG’s rise over the past couple of years has been spectacular. The reshuffle in 2018 meant they had no invitation to TI8 and had to play the open qualifiers to get into the tournament.

In what is labelled as the ‘Cinderella story’ of the Dota 2 world, they went on to become the champions and famously beat Evil Geniuses. The clash of ‘N0tail’ Sundstein and ‘Fly’ Azik, one-time friends and colleagues, but now bitter rivals, was seen as one of the most intense clashes of the 2018 tournament.

Second victory

Coming into TI9, the favourites were Team Secret, who were first in the DPC (Dota Professional Circuit).

As the tournament progressed, OG, who had had a modest year since the last International, were back to their winning ways. The team dominated the group stages to secure an upper bracket position and positioned themselves as strong contenders.

Team Liquid had a poor group stage and so ended in the lower bracket. Teams in the lower bracket have to play more games and get a chance at redemption, unlike losers from upper bracket, who fall into lower bracket after a loss. Still, Team Liquid went on to find their rhythm and eliminate all rivals to make the Grand Final, where they were bested by an in-form OG.

This clash was the first time two past champions were vying for the crown, and OG went on to make history as the first repeat champions.

Published on August 27, 2019

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