LCK is sending DWG KIA, Gen.G, T1, and Hanwha Life Esports to Worlds 2021! How did these teams get here? Let's walk through the Summer Playoffs and the Regional Finals to find out, as well as to see how well these tournaments lined up with our predictions.
The LCK 2021 Summer Playoffs
We'll start with the Summer Playoffs, seeded by the top six teams from the summer season.
First, here's the final outcome of the bracket:
Leading to these final placements:
|Team Name||Actual Place|
|Nongshim Red Force||4th|
Expectations / Predictions
Before this tournament started, we had generated our own predictions for how likely each team was to win the tournament, and how likely they were to end up with enough Championship Points to land a seat at Worlds:
|Team Name||% 1st Place||Median Place||% Qualify||Actual Place|
|Nongshim Red Force||2.79%||3rd||2.79%||4th|
DWG KIA were the obvious favorite, starting in the second round and getting their pick of opponent from round one's winners. They were almost guaranteed to qualify to Worlds, either by winning this tournament or by accruing enough Championship Points. The only way for them not to qualify would have been to lose in their first match, and have Gen.G win their first match but lose in the finals. In that situation, some other team would get the automatic qualification, and Gen.G would tie DWG KIA at 170 points and win the tiebreaker. This didn't happen, with DWG KIA sweeping Nongshim RedForce 3-0 in the second round to guarantee a spot. They then went on to win the final anyway, for good measure.
Gen.G were also incredibly likely to qualify. In order to miss out on a Worlds spot, they would have had to lose their first match (which they did), have DWG KIA make it to the finals (which they did), and have DWG KIA lose in the finals (which they did not). All in all, a somewhat unlikely sequence of events, but it did come reasonably close to happening.
T1 were the breakout performers. Their only shot at qualifying was winning the whole bracket, which they came just shy of, but they did win two rounds to make it to the final. This secured enough Championship Points to give them the No. 1 seed going into the Regional Finals, which made their path to Worlds much easier.
Our initial expectation of them was lower than it should have been because we believed that DK would have picked T1 as their opponent over NS for round two. Our model initially showed a better matchup for DK against T1, and they would want to have the easier initial matchup. In the end, DK ended up beating both NS and T1 anyway, so it didn't ultimately matter.
This tournament also awarded Championship Points, which (when added to spring season totals) determined the second team to go to Worlds:
|Team Name||Place||Prior Points||Earned Points||Total Points|
|Nongshim Red Force||4th||10||50||60|
|Hanwha Life Esports||NA||50||0||50|
T1 came very close to that second slot, but sitting significantly below GEN coming in from their spring totals hampered that hope. Had they taken third in the spring over HLE, they would have tied GEN on total points and won the tiebreaker by having placed higher in the summer. HLE, which had a healthy 50 points to start the summer, did not even make it to the summer playoffs after a poor summer season. Even with zero new points, they still had enough to make it to the Regional Finals.
As part of our initial predictions, we had generated distributions of each team's probabilities for every possible outcome (aggregating our Monte Carlo simulations). Here are those distributions, with each team's final outcome highlighted:
In spite of only playing five matches, this tournament was a bit of a shakeup. As mentioned, T1 outperformed, and LSB and AF took their very likely fifth and sixth places.
Gen.G's third place was a bit unlikely, but is entirely attributable to their relatively high probability of winning their first match. T1's upset over GEN pushed them into third place, but they had such a massive Championship Points lead at that point that it didn't really matter (but could have, if DK went on to lose in the final).
Nongshim RedForce took fourth place, which was one of the more unlikely outcomes for them. This is actually also more or less entirely because of the T1/GEN upset. The most likely scenario overall was that NS and T1 both make it to round two, and then both lose there, at which point NS would have taken third place due to higher initial seeding.
These distributions can also inform relative performance of each team. Each team's percentile performance is a measure of how likely that team was to perform equal to or worse than their actual placement. A percentile of 50% means that a team performed exactly at expectation (though with such discrete outcomes, there's a lot of blurriness around the edges):
|Team Name||Actual Place||Percentile|
|Nongshim Red Force||4th||49.89%|
There's no way to place better than first, so DK performed at the top of their range. T1 significantly beat their distribution, while Gen.G should have done better more than three quarters of the time. The rest were fairly close to overall expectations.
There were only five matches in this condensed bracket, but we still managed to find an upset:
|Quarterfinal 1: NS vs AF||Nongshim Red Force||Afreeca Freecs||55%||45%||3||1||Nongshim Red Force|
|Quarterfinal 2: T1 vs LSB||T1||Liiv SANDBOX||52%||48%||3||0||T1|
|Semifinal 1: DK vs NS||DWG KIA||Nongshim Red Force||76%||24%||3||0||DWG KIA|
|Semifinal 2: GEN vs T1||Gen.G||T1||60%||40%||1||3||T1|
|Grand final: DK vs T1||DWG KIA||T1||64%||36%||3||1||DWG KIA|
Both first-round matches were surprisingly even, though the (slight) favorites ultimately won them. In round two, DK was massively favored over NS, and took an according 3-0 victory. GEN should have had a slight edge over T1, but only took a single game in that match. In the final, DK again proved why they were favored.
The LCK 2021 Regional Finals
With the end of the Summer Playoffs, and DWG KIA and Gen.G getting locked in to the first two Worlds slots, the next four teams with the most Championship Points got a shot at redemption in the Regional Finals.
This was a heavily seeded, king-of-the-hill style bracket:
The final result:
|Team Name||Actual Place|
|Hanwha Life Esports||2nd|
|Nongshim Red Force||3rd|
First place gave T1 the third Worlds Main Event slot, while second gave Hanwha Life Esports a shot in the Play-In.
Expectations / Predictions
As with the playoffs, we headed into the Regional Finals with our own set of predictions:
|Team Name||% 1st Place||Median Place||% Top 2||Actual Place|
|Hanwha Life Esports||7.08%||4th||19.98%||2nd|
|Nongshim Red Force||26.56%||2nd||60.17%||3rd|
Starting right at the top of the hill, T1 just had to win their one and only match to take first, and were favored against all three other teams. They were guaranteed at least second, though given their Playoffs run they would likely have been disappointed with a Play-In spot. NS were next in order, skipping round one. Their path to first would involve beating T1, but to guarantee a second place finish they just had to beat their first opponent, which again they were favored to do.
HLE managed to defy expectations after a rocky summer season (where they did not even qualify for the Playoffs), and beat LSB and NS back-to-back to ultimately take second in a very close match against T1.
And again, we've got distributions for these outcomes:
An interesting note to point out: while NS were more likely than not to make it to the top two, the single placement they were most likely to achieve was third. Here's a simple way to visualize this: imagine every single matchup was exactly even. Then, they'd have a 50% chance to take third place (just lose your first match), and a 25% chance each for first or second (50% chance to win the first match, times 50% chance to either win or lose the second match resulting in those two outcomes).
With only three matches in this bracket, there wasn't too much room for craziness, and in fact all three were fairly even matchups:
|Round 1: HLE vs LSB||Hanwha Life Esports||Liiv SANDBOX||47.00%||53.00%||3||1||Hanwha Life Esports|
|Round 2: HLE vs NS||Hanwha Life Esports||Nongshim Red Force||56.00%||44.00%||3||0||Hanwha Life Esports|
|Finals: HLE vs T1||Hanwha Life Esports||T1||54.00%||46.00%||2||3||T1|
HLE had a strange path in that they were only unfavored against their first opponent, but once they got through LSB they had slight edges over NS and T1.
In spite of only eight matches in total across two tournaments, the LCK path to Worlds had a few twists and turns. Gen.G losing to T1 was a fairly big one, though it ended up not mattering on points anyway. HLE almost made a phenomenal run through the Regional Finals to take the final Main Event spot, but didn't quite make it. They still secured a Play-In spot after not even participating in the Summer Playoffs, so we'll see if they're back to their Spring form.
Keep an eye out for similar playoff recaps for LEC and LPL, and for a whole series of prediction articles as Worlds approaches.
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