With Riot Games expanding its North American and European professional League of Legends circuits from eight teams to 10, old pros and rising stars are jockeying for position as the qualification tournament approaches. If new hopefuls expected the contest to be easy, however, then Matthew “Impaler” Taylor’s recent announcement is bad news.
The former Supa Hot Crew player announced on his live stream Tueday the other day that he would be forming a team with a number of former pros, including the legendary Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin. Joining them will be Jakub “Creaton” Grzegorzewski, Kevin “Kev1n” Rubiszewski, and Raymond “Kasing” Tsang. The team will likely sign with French organization Millenium, Taylor said. But nothing official has been announced.
Unlike many teams in the tournament who have risen through the Challenger League ranks, this new squad is filled with players who have competed in the professional leagues for some time. Taylor and Tsang were members of both Challenger squad Team Dignitas UK and League Championship Series (LCS) Summer Split regular season bronze medalists Supa Hot Crew. The pair were released by the team on Oct. 2, however, after finishing fifth in the European playoffs to Millenium.
Ironically, two members of the squad that defeated their former team will now help them re-qualify. Grzegorzewski and Rubiszewski had to defend their spot in the LCS Summer split after going 9-19 in the Spring. With some personnel changes, the team was able to finish fifth in the playoffs and avoid another relegation tournament. But after their hot start, the placement was bittersweet at best.
Perhaps the most notable member of the roster, however, is Ichetovkin. The Russian player’s pedigree dates back nearly to the inception of competitive League of Legends.
As a member of Moscow 5, his squad became world-class contenders, besting former Korean powerhouse Azubu Blaze in 2012 at the IGN Proleague 5 competition. When the Moscow 5 organization folded, the team became Gambit Gaming, and they didn’t miss a step. In 2013, the team once again beat Azubu Blaze, earning the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice championship. Alex Ich was the engine of the squad throughout their run, bringing decisive and aggressive play to the mid lane and beating world class players on a consistent basis.
In 2014, however, the squad fell on hard times. Gambit placed a shocking fifth in the Summer Split, their trademark coordination and aggression seemingly absent. On May 3, Ichetovkin left the team he’d spent three years building to join Swedish organization Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Despite dominance in the Challenger League on the heels of a number of promising players acquisitions, Ninjas in Pyjamas turned into a regression for the prolific player. In the Summer, one iteration of the team failed to qualify over Grzegorzewski and Rubiszewski’s lacklustre Millenium side. Ichetovkin left the organization last week, citing failure to provide a work visa and some due compensation in a Facebook post.
Now, after climbing to the summit and subsequently descending the ranks, Ichetovkin has another shot. Awaiting sponsorship, the current and former pros will look toward the big leagues for redemption. For young players like Taylor and Tsang, it’s a chance to show that they belong. For Ichetovkin, it’s a chance to show that Gambit Gaming’s dominance was no fluke.