When it comes to emerging regions, there are few that have the history of success as the members of the Turkish Champions League (TCL).
This year, the TCL Champion 1907 Fenerbahce added to the region’s storied history of success by surprising in the first stage of the Play-In Tournament and earning a first-place finish in their group.
Finishing first in the TCL Summer Split, Fenerbahce was a team built around their star mid-laner Kim “Frozen” Tae-il. Formerly a member of the LCK’s Longzhu Gaming, Frozen looked like a man among boys for most of the Summer Split as he would be awarded the TCL’s Most Valuable Player honor.
On the heels of their successful Summer Split, Fenerbahce’s play only seemed to strengthen in the Summer Playoffs. They continued their march towards Worlds with a 3-0 victory over the second-place finisher and Spring Split Champion BAU SuperMassive.
Just as they were ready to prove their worth against the rest of their Play-In competitors, Fenerbahce faced an unexpected obstacle that threatened the team’s chances for success. Starting jungler Kang “Move” Min-su was forced to step down from his position due to visa issues that prevented his attendance at the World Championships.
With just a few weeks until the start of the tournament, Fenerbahce were faced with finding a capable replacement for one of the most pivotal roles in the current meta. Salvation would come in the form of Lee “Crash” Dong-woo.
A former teammate of Frozen’s on Longzhu Gaming, Crash would immediately fill the void left by Move on the starting roster. Stylistically, Crash’s aggressive playmaking style contrasted sharply with Move’s controlled play, but nevertheless, Fenerbahce seemed to thrive with their new addition.
In a critical match against the Group favorites Hong Kong Attitude, Crash proved to be the hero with a Baron steal that would turn the tide of the match and help secure a Fenerbahce victory.
— lolesports (@lolesports) September 25, 2017
After both teams would finish the Group with a 3-1 record, it was Crash again stealing Baron in the deciding tiebreaker match that would seal Fenerbahce’s first-place finish.
With little time to prepare, Crash’s performance in the Play-In stage has to be one of the most impressive in recent history. The ability to seamlessly step into the starting jungler role despite having a dramatically different style, and then be able to maintain (if not exceed) the high level of play that brought that team to Worlds, is a daunting task that few could have accomplished.
While we have seen jungle substitutes at the World Championships before (Berk “Gilius” Demir’s stint on SK Gaming at the Season 3 World Championship comes to mind), never have we seen an emergency substitution at the World Championships be this successful.
For his play in the first stage of the Play-In Tournament, it would be easy to call Crash the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament so far. While maybe not the most dominant, the value as an emergency substitute to Fenerbahce is unmatched across the teams in the Play-In stage, especially when one considers they were able to upset Hong Kong Attitude for first place in the group.
If Fenerbahce is able to successfully defeat Brazil’s Team oNe in their elimination best of five, the added time should only allow Crash to integrate further with the team and strengthen them for the main stage. While Fenerbahce would undoubtedly remain a huge underdog in any group they could join, do not be surprised if we’ve not seen the last of Crash’s Baron heroics and his time in Fenerbahce.