SKT take one step towards destiny after crushing ahq

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SKT toppled ahq e-Sports Club 3-0 in the Quarterfinals to maintain their undefeated Worlds 2015 record.

After several players from multiple regions insisted that this year there was no team as unstoppable as the 2014 World Champion Samsung White, SKTelecom T1 has looked like a team with very few weaknesses. A few hiccups notwithstanding, SKT toppled ahq e-Sports Club 3-0 in the Quarterfinals to maintain their undefeated Worlds 2015 record.

ahq's AD carry Chun-an "AN" Chou had been among the most successful players in the entire tournament through the Group Stage, and SKT had no interest in giving over his favored Jinx in their Quarterfinals match. "Yes of course there are more strategically smart bans," says SKT coach Jung-gyun "kkOma" Kim with a smile. "But considering we want to move to Semis and Finals, we think it's enough at this point to do denial bans and that'll be enough to perform."

And without the comfort pick for AN, it was mostly smooth sailing for SKT. ahq was able to get ahead in Game 3 with Shu-wei "Westdoor" Liu's Fizz solo killing Sang-hyeok "Faker" Lee's Kassadin twice early, and several team outplays in the mid game. But otherwise, ahq were unable to get many advantages throughout the series. "Faker pretty much died to Westdoor one-on-one in lane…that made the game a bit slower than the others," kkOma says. "But I think it's totally expected and understandable. Players are human beings, not machines. They can't always perform at 100%."

Faker commented in his stage interview on the matchup as well. "I think Westdoor was very strong and it was very hard to play against him."

"We weren't communicating as well, like when someone had to cover mid really fast, we weren't able to do that, and some of those things snowballed a little bit," SKT top laner Gyeong-hwan "MaRin" Jang added. "They became things we had to make up for."

In the end though, kkOma had an easy verdict for why his team was able to come back in the game: "SKT has better teamwork than ahq."

The Grand Challenge

Among the keys to victory in the series for SKT were MaRin's close battles with ahq's Yi "Ziv" Chen in top lane, most notably, two separate Fiora vs. Darius battles that were a constant back and forth. "There's not really an advantage [between Fiora and Darius] -- like a clear advantage from one to another -- they're kind of similar in that regard," MaRin says. "But for Fiora, she can get a lot stronger based on the items she chooses." He clarifies later, "That's why I picked Fiora, because I think Fiora has more advantage based on the item buffs."

ahq often found themselves on the backfoot because of the lane pressure MaRin brought by split pushing in both Game 1 and Game 3. Despite that, fans and casters were surprised to see Ziv manage to scrap together kills at key moments. "Fiora and Darius are both champions that have a lot of offensive skills," MaRin explains. "When faced in a one-on-one match, for split pushing, towers are gone early on. Fiora has a much better advantage because of her health regeneration. When we're in a one-on-one fight, Darius needs to hug a tower a little bit. Without a tower, it's an advantage for Fiora and she can kill Darius."

MaRin explains that part of the reason for his deaths were because he had to fight under Ziv's tower a lot, and also because he chose more team fight-centric itemization. "I went a lot of magic resistance items," he clarifies. "That's one of the reasons I couldn't kill Darius as much as I wanted to."

EUphoria is Real

kkOma and SKT now look ahead to Origen, who will have the monumental task of trying to bring down the last remaining undefeated team at Worlds 2015. But MaRin and kkOma don't think of themselves as unbeatable at all.

"I always think that we can lose any time, to any opponent," MaRin says. "We don't think we're invincible. Even in Game 3, if ahq didn't make some of the mistakes they did, they might have won easily. So I am always really aware that anything can happen at any time, and that's how we play. That's our style."

Given that, we wanted to know how SKT thinks they match up against the veteran team of Origen. "I think experience is crucial," kkOma says. "The more experience you have in esports, the more you can quickly understand what's going on, you're more perceptive, you have much more insight, and in that regard, it can be a huge strength to me, and it'll apply to the Origen matchup."

"Origen is really good at managing the game overall -- knowing when to do what and moving as a team," MaRin says. "Whereas SKT has stronger laning."

Yet regarding his matchup against Origen's top laner Paul "SoaZ" Boyer, MaRin thinks he definitively has an edge in the mental game. "If I was to die while laning, I wouldn't focus too much on my death," MaRin explains. "I would just follow the team and make up for whatever loss I had. But I think that SoaZ, maybe, lingers on his death a little bit more when he dies. And that might contribute more to why he may be a bit more emotional at times. He maybe lets the death affect him more."

And as MaRin explains, it's not just about one-on-one lane matchups, but SKT's prioritization that will let them come out ahead in the early game. "It's not that one lane is particularly weaker -- it's just that as the game unravels, one of our three lanes will be lost -- we have three lanes we have to conquer, one will be lost to OG… it depends on how we focus [and what we prioritize]."

That's not to say that SKT thinks they hold all the cards, though. kkOma specifically is looking at an advantage Origen has that is unique to the 2015 World Championship. "One of the core things on my mind is that Worlds is in Europe. This is Origen's home court. That's the real advantage I think they have."

"I think that the crowd definitely has an effect on the players' mentality," he adds.

But even with the advantages that Origen has, SKT is still undefeated. And barring a few losing lanes, and some miscommunication, they have looked impenetrable. Is this the "perfect team" of Worlds 2015? kkOma's answer might surprise you.

"The past doesn't matter at all," he says.

I guess that's one way of putting it. "Yes, Samsung White was a really great team last year, but think of 2013: SKT won every single match in LCK [Winter], won the World Championship, but you know what -- we're here now. This is what matters now. What matters to me is how we're playing now, what matters to me is how the players are doing right now, and it's meaningless to compare with the past because it doesn't really matter or help us at all. We're really just focused on the now and meeting our goals."

The next obstacle from SKT meeting that goal will be Origen, when they compete next week in the Worlds 2015 Semifinals Saturday October 24, 2015 at 16:30 European Time or 7:30 AM Pacific Time.


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