Esports, where twitch reflexes are king, was long thought to be for the youthful. In the lead up to the ninth edition of The International, though, one man is proving that theory wrong.
At The International next month, Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng will be the only player that was born in the 1980s, Dota desk host Paul “Redeye” Chaloner pointed out.
The community is obsessed with the TI 2060 meme, so the focus on LaNm’s age seems fitting. He won’t be the only elder statesman there, however. Three accomplished players born in 1990 have also punched their ticket to The International.
Date of birth: Dec. 25, 1989
As one of the players from the legendary Dota squad EHOME, LaNm was a famed name in China well before Dota 2. Despite their formidable reputation, they fell to Na’Vi in the TI1 finals. LaNm has bounced from team to team and has qualified four times with EHOME. He’s never bested his first outing, though.
As the coach of ViCi Gaming, they fell in the Chinese qualifiers of TI7, thus ending LaNm’s participation streak. But it seemingly lit a fire under him and he’s returned to TI twice since then as a player.
Known for his shattering Earthshaker plays, he’s perhaps most well-known in the West for his real-life Echo Slam, in which he obliterated his monitor after a grueling seven-game series.
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov
Date of birth: March 6, 1990
Puppey is no stranger to The International. Puppey and Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, his former Na’Vi teammate and current Liquid captain, are the only players to attend every single edition of TI.
Kickstarting the Na’Vi dynasty in the infancy of Dota 2, Puppey brought the legends in the making to the TI finals in each of the first three seasons, although he only won in his first appearance. A disappointing finish in TI4 led him to create his own organization, Team Secret, and he’s been there ever since.
Famed for his micro play, drafting genius, and “13 mana boy,” Puppey’s participation in “The Play” will go down in Dota 2 history. But no one can forget the game-breaking fountain hook strategy he devised with Dendi, which has spawned countless memes.
Despite Secret’s tremendous success, their performance at The International has been far from stellar. Once again heading to TI with some of the most talented players from all over the world, Puppey will hope that this year could be different.
Daryl “iceiceice” Koh
Date of birth: June 17, 1990
Even at the age of 29, iceiceice is widely regarded as one of the most mechanically skilled offlaners in the game. His professional StarCraft 2 background has also led him to be known as one of the best micro players, leading to insane plays on heroes like Brewmaster, Lone Druid, and Visage.
A true journeyman, his TI participation record was marred in 2017 when he failed to qualify with his self-started Team Faceless despite dominating the Southeast Asian qualifiers all year. Although that was a failed experiment, he went on to be part of the Mineski squad that made history, become the first Southeast Asian team to win a Major.
If anything could dwarf iceiceice’s mercurial skill, it’s his penchant for trolling both in and out of the game. Whether it’s OG taunting with dropping items, completely destroying a team’s morale, or just being a good old real-life nuisance, iceiceice surely doesn’t show his age in how he plays or behaves.
Enjoy this 14-minute compilation of him being an amazing player/troll.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin
Date of birth: Aug. 7 1990
Solo might have attended his first International in 2017, but he got his start way before that. In 2013, Solo received a lifetime ban (eventually shortened to a one-year ban) from StarLadder tournaments for betting fraud. In what has become possibly the biggest meme in Dota 2, 322 (the amount Solo’s team threw for) is now synonymous with throwing.
Solo has stuck to his guns, however, and he’s proven to be one of the premier captains in Dota 2. Despite being a lifelong position five, his mechanical skill is off the charts. Hovering around the CIS scene for years, his chance to enter the top-tier scene came with Virtus Pro handing him the reins to recruit his own team. Five Major wins speak for themselves.
From disgraced player to one of the most respected captains in the scene, Solo’s story is a tale of redemption.
With Dota 2 closing on its decade mark, many from the first batch of professional players have either retired or faded into obscurity. But some of these players continue to age like fine wine, dominating the game in dingy LAN shops for a carton of drinks or packed stadiums for millions of dollars.