The Unofficial World Championship Belt: League of Legends’ entirely metaphorical, yet long-standing historical title. Outside of the eSports world, a number of traditional fighting sports title their World Champions by succession; beating the previous holder of the title crowning the victor as the new World Champion. Over the course of six competitive seasons and almost 100 competitive matches, Flash Wolves are the current holders of the figurative championship belt.
There are a number of generally agreeable rules that have lead to the belts journey into the hands of the LMS champions: disbanded teams have resulted in the belt passing to its previous owner and since 2014, premier events and their qualifiers have been counted, a change in the rules due to the overall increase in stability of the eSports scene.
The concept of the unofficial World Championship belt was conceived with the first world champion, Fnatic. Since that fabled European victory back in 2011, the belt has travelled all over the world… paying little attention to actual team strength when crowning the new reigning world champs.
Typically, once a team takes the belt home from an international event, it will almost-inevitably bounce around inside the regular split games until its next chance to escape… even the innocuous NA LCS squad Team 8 held the belt for a while.
Having shifted to the Korean region with SK Telecom T1’s victory over Counter Logic Gaming at the Mid-Season Invitational, the belt changed hands frequently during the summer split of the LCK. The ROX Tigers donned the belt heading into Group A of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, having dominated the later stages of Korea’s prime time competition.
Group A was entirely unpredictable – wildcard entree Albus NoX Luna defied every analytical prediction to emerge as the group’s second seed. At the end of week 1, Counter Logic Gaming defeated the ROX Tigers to claim the belt as their own, before ANX later upset the American outfit and stole it for the CIS region. In their last game of the competition and with their fate already sealed, G2 eSports stole a game away from Albus Nox, passing the belt along to G2 without an opportunity for it to be taken away from them.
Unbeaten domestically for over a year, G2 eSports held the belt until the final of the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, where Taiwanese champions Flash Wolves claimed their first piece of silverware for 2017. As a dominant force in the LMS, Flash Wolves were not troubled by the prospect of losing the precious metaphorical title and head into the Mid-Season Invitational with the figurative belt tied around their waists.
With the Taiwanese squad expected to stick around for the duration of the tournament in Brazil, the belt will have a number of chances to change hands once more.
The Defining Moments From The 2016 Mid-Season Invitational
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The Mid-Season Invitational 2016: Shanghai
The electric venue, in the heart of one of China's most iconic cities, provided a stunning backdrop for what would prove to be one of the most dramatic League of Legends events in history...
Shanghai Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony for the Mid-Season Invitational in Shanghai once again raised the benchmark for eSports production quality.
Day 1: Scumbag G2 Kikis
The tournament got off to a disastrous start for European Spring Split champions G2 eSports. With a number of almost comedic errors from top laner Kikis, G2 found themselves down 0-2 after the opening day of play.
Day1: RNG Delight The Chinese Crowd
China's representative Royal Never Give Up delighted fans with two convincing displays on Day 1, defeating both Counter Logic Gaming and the wildcard entree, SuperMassive eSports.
Day 2: CLG Defeat G2
The NA vs EU rivalry provided the first fixture of MSI's second day of play. Rookie AD Carry Stixxay provided a masterclass performance to claim the bragging rights for Counter Logic Gaming and North America.
Day 2: RNG Defeat SKT
The atmosphere within the Shanghai stadium was to grow even louder as Royal Never Give Up stamped their mark on the tournament with victory over reigning world champions SK Telecom T1.
Day 2: SUP Claim Their First Win Over CLG
After looking so strong against G2 eSports, CLG inexplicably handed SuperMassive eSports their first (and only) win of the tournament. Truly 'counter logic'.
Day 2: Flash Wolves Defeat SKT
SKT's kryptonite Flash Wolves claimed victory over the Koreans once more to complete a shocking 0-2 for the tournament favourites.
Day 3: CLG Shock SKT
Lose to the wildcard, crush the reigning LCK and World Champions, all within the space of 24 hours. CLG stunned the Shanghai arena with victory over SKT, a fabled moment for the NA representative.
Day 3: Flash Wolves Complete the Double Over SKT
Lightening struck twice as Flash Wolves added further insult to injury, defeating SKT for the second time in the group stage.
Day 3: SKT Slump To A 4th Straight Defeat
Defeat to Flash Wolves marked SKT's 4th consecutive defeat at the tournament. Few could believe their eyes, the tournament favourites were at serious risk of not qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Day 4: CLG End RNG’s Unbeaten Run
Unbeaten in the tournament, RNG entered their 2nd meeting with CLG as heavy favourites to win the entire tournament. In what was yet another masterclass from Stixxay, CLG somehow survived intense pressure to steal the most unlikely victory.
Day 4: SKT Find Their Feet
SKT steadied the ship with victory over SUP and CLG. Faker expressed his disappointment at the team's performance at the tournament so far and vowed not to lose another match.
Day 5: G2-8
G2 eSports made a hurried exit after a woeful performance from the European champions. Claiming just two victories over wildcard SuperMassive eSports, the G2 roster had brought shame upon the EU region.
Day 5: SKT Bounce Back Against RNG
SKT provided a signal of intent in their final matches of the group stages. Defeating RNG in the last game, the dominance of the Chinese hosts had not lasted long.
Semi-Final 1: CLG Defeat Flash Wolves
Qualifying as the second seed with a 7-3 record, Counter Logic Gaming proved too strong for Flash Wolves once more, earning the NA squad a spot in the MSI final.
Semi-Final 2: SKT Overpower RNG
The omens of the final group stage match came back to haunt RNG. Despite appearing so dominant with an 8-2 record in groups, RNG were outclassed by SKT in the second semi-final.
Semi-Final 2: SK Telecom T1 Were Back
After slumping to four consecutive loses just days earlier, SKT were once again considered favourites after silencing the Chinese crowd.
The Mid-Season Inviational Final
After what had been an exhilarating and unpredictable tournament, Counter Logic Gaming and SK Telecom T1 met for the final.
Final: SKT vs CLG
After SKT eliminated the Chinese favourites RNG, the majority of the crowd support was behind the underdogs CLG.
Final: SKT Sweep CLG Aside
After a heroic tournament run, CLG were convincingly swept aside by SKT in the final. The NA seed returned home with their heads held high.
Final: SKT Claim The MSI Crown
Despite faltering in the group stages, SKT claimed their first MSI title.