With four days to go until The International 2019, we take a look at one of the four Chinese teams fighting this year for glory at Valve’s most prestigious tournament.
For a squad looking to make a mark in the 2018-2019 season, Keen Gaming started the season in an unusual manner. The roster was put together with two players taken on loan from EHOME, and Newbee’s former captain, Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi, who was probably their best option at the time. When everyone (except TI winners Liquid and OG) was ready for a fresh start and seize advantage through the first DPC events, Keen were still allowing their players to go on vacation. Through the first couple of months they were forced to look after stand-ins as their mid and carry players were asking for days off.
Keen Gaming’s roster was finally coming together only on October 11, 2018 after the team had already played in the qualifiers for the first set of Minor and Major tournaments and failed.
AKeen Gaming roster for TI9:
· Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
· Zhai “一” (yī) Jingkai
· Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
· Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
· Song “dark”‘ Runxi
Keen secured their presence at TI9 via Dota Pro Circuit points. However, their feat of strength might be deceiving for those who haven’t followed the competitive season closely. The Chinese made it to The International via DPC points, but they placed last in the rankings thus, avoiding the regional qualifiers by a stroke of luck. They only played on three DPC tournaments and their best result was achieved at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, where they finished 5th-6th. The 900 points from that Major kind of locked them in. They’ve been fortunate to not be pushed out of the top 12 on the DPC ladder during the EPICENTER Major, an event that they didn’t qualify for, and while they didn’t look menacing against the best teams in the world, they had their glory moments this year in the non-DPC tournaments.
Crowned champions of H-Cup Season 11 and 12, they also placed third at the Asian Dota 2 league by the end of 2018. In 2019, they took first place at JJB Spring Cup and Jiabet Asian Masters League. All these being domestic tournaments where they stood above the likes of Newbee, Invictus Gaming, Serenity, CDEC, Aster, RNG and Royal. Keen’s only victory at an international LAN came at ESL One Mumbai, arguably one of the least stacked non DPC events. Nonetheless, they dominated during the whole tournament and took down Na’Vi and Mineski, both also qualified now for TI9.
Looking at their match history along the season, Keen have in fact managed to challenge the bigger names in the scene as well. At the Stockholm Major they took down Team Liquid 2:0 and defeated Evil Geniuses 2-1. More recently, at ESL One Birmingham they took a series from Alliance and got a draw score against Team Secret in the group stages. But, against the biggest teams in their region, they hold negative records. PSG.LGD hold an 85.7% win rate against them, while Vici Gaming have a 70% win rate in 10 games. That being said, Keen Gaming can’t be overlooked. TI is on their home soil this year and they have two players that know exactly what kind of pressure a tournament of this magnitude brings. Kaka is a TI runner up in 2017 with Newbee and eLeVeN placed fourth with LGD at the same The International 2017. They are the veterans that Keen will have to rely on this year to help the team perform well during the group stages. If they move on to the main event, Keen can easily bring a few upsets and perhaps be an important factor for the success of the Chinese scene at TI9.
TI9 team profiles:
Infamous, the ever Morphling roster
Na’Vi, the rejuvenated Ancient Apparition
Virtus.pro, the Storm Spirit of CIS
Fnatic – The Troll Warlord with a twist
TNC Predator, the Undying hope of SEA
Mineski, the rising Phoenix of Southeast Asia
Evil Geniuses – Sven on a cliff
Team Liquid, the Enigma of the season
OG, the Monkey Kings
Ninjas in Pyjamas, the menacing Meepo
Alliance, the Tiny path to success
Team Secret, Chen’s army
Chaos – Knights with a vengeance
Newbee, a Grimstroke of fate