Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Chongqing Major China Qualifier

4 Pro Circuit ranked squads look to defend their positions as regional leaders against a host of new challengers in an expanded 10 team field for The Chongqing Major China Qualifier.

The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season is now in full swing, and with 1 Major and 1 Minor already in the book and a host of third party events on record as well, we are starting to see the regional hierarchies across the Dota 2 world solidify. However, a new set of Pro Circuit qualifiers has already begun, and those squads that established favorable positions within their home regions and on the international level must now defend those positions against a slew of hungry and ambitious challengers and rivals. The Open Qualifiers for all 6 regions have come to an end, and the time has now come for the Main Regional Qualifiers for The Chongqing Major to begin. Just as it was with the last group of regional qualifiers, the qualifiers for The Chongqing Major will see the 6 regions split into 2 groups, with China being included in the second group of qualifiers beginning on November 28. A good number of the squads in the field for this qualifier are teams that we’ve seen before, either on the Pro Circuit stage directly or in the previous round of Pro Circuit qualifiers, while a couple of teams are making their first appearance in these Pro Circuit qualifiers. With returning squads and new challengers alike in the field this time around, the time has come to get a brief rundown of the teams involved and how they stack up in terms of their strength heading into this Major Qualifier.

10 teams will be fighting in this China Qualifier, with 5 squads (PSG.LGD, Vici Gaming, Team Aster, EHOME, and Royal Never Give Up) having received direct invites, 1 squad (Team Root) reaching the qualifier through the H-Cup Season 10, while the other 4 (Newbee Young, Invictus Gaming, Keen Gaming, and For The Dream) came up through the 2 Open Qualifiers. Of those 10 squads, 5 of them (PSG.LGD, Vici Gaming, Team Aster, EHOME, and Royal Never Give Up) have participated in previous Pro Circuit qualifiers this season, while 4 of them (PSG.LGD, Vici Gaming, Team Aster, and Royal Never Give Up) have already made appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. On the line for these 10 teams are 3 spots at The Chongqing Major in January, and a chance to either increase their Pro Circuit Point total or get themselves on the board with their first points of the season. Of course, every team that plays in this qualifier has a chance of making it to the Major, no matter how small that chance may be. This post is not going to be about counting any particular team out before play has even begun. However, I will instead be dividing the 10 teams into groups, depending on their projected strength and expectations, as well as their potential ability to claim 1 of the region’s 3 Major spots.

The Favorites

These squads are the elite of the group, comprised mostly of squads that attended one of the prior Pro Circuit events this season or have emerged as dominant forces within their home region and contenders on the international level. These are the teams that will likely be considered as favorites in this qualifier regardless of the match up that they face, and if a team in this section does not earn itself a place at the Major, then it will come as a bit more of a shock and a disappointment compared to the other squads in the field.

PSG LGD PSG.LGD
Roster:

Wang “Ame” Chunyu
Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao
Yang “Chalice”‘ Shenyi
Xu “fy” Linsen
Jian Wei “xNova” Yap

At this stage in the season, it’s pretty much an automatic move to list PSG.LGD among the favorites to earn a place on the Pro Circuit stage. The TI8 Runner-Up put together an impressive showing at The Kuala Lumpur Major with its 5th-6th place finish, and so far have not shown any signs of any potential setbacks. The only thing that could come close to constituting a concern for the squad was its 7th-8th place finish in the recent H-Cup Season 10, in which it lost back to back Playoff series against Mr Game Boy and Team Aster. However, the main purpose of the event was to determine which squad would advance to The Chongqing Major China Qualifier, and with PSG.LGD already directly invited to said event, the stakes were significantly lower for the squad. Even with the field of teams being expanded to 10 for this qualifier, PSG.LGD is the clear favorite within the Chinese region, and it would take a nearly unbelievable melt down from the squad for it to miss out on earning 1 of the 3 Chinese slots at the Major.

Vici Gaming small Vici Gaming
Roster:
Zhang Paparazi灬Chengjun
Zeng  “Ori”Jiaoyang
Zhou “Yang”Haiyang
Pan “Fade”Yi
DingDyCong

Vici Gaming has wasted no time in reestablishing itself as a leader within the Chinese region, and its offseason roster rebuild has it sitting near the top of the regional hierarchy heading into this Major qualifier. The team has been dominant on the home front so far, having stared the season with 3 straight Top 3 finishes in regional events and qualifiers. On the international level, the squad has shown itself to be a formidable opponent, with the team claiming a 2nd place finish at ESL One Hamburg 2018 in October and a 7th-8th place finish at The Kuala Lumpur Major earlier this month. The team’s most recent endeavor in the H-Cup Season 10 has raised a somewhat small concern though, as the squad put together a less than ideal 9th-11th place run among a field of 16 teams. However, it is important to note that the main point of this event was to determine the team that would take a reserved slot in The Chongqing Major China Qualifier. With Vici Gaming already directly invited to that event, the stakes were not particularly high for it in that event. With a spot at the Major on the line against some of its biggest regional rivals, you can expect Vici Gaming to be playing at its full strength this time around and claim 1 of the 3 Chinese spots at the Major.

 

The Contenders

The squads in this section are the ones that fall just a small step below the favorites in terms of their skill, level of success, or perceived strength of their lineup. Teams in this section are ones that may have attended one of the previous Minors but not a Major, or struggled on the Pro Circuit stage in general. These are the teams that could fairly easily claim 1 of the spots up for grabs in this tournament, but aren’t necessarily expected to win out over the entire field. These teams will likely be right at the cusp of success in this qualifier, and are the ones that seem most probable to end up as direct invitees to the upcoming Minor Qualifiers if it cannot secure a place at the Major.

Team Aster Team Aster
Roster:

Liu “Sylar” Jiajun
Gao “loveyouloveme” Yuan
Lin “Xxs” Jing
Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao
Lu “Fenrir” Chao

Team Aster began the season looking like a potential leader within the Chinese region, as the squad racked up a number of solid performances on the home front and earned itself a spot at The Kuala Lumpur Major. Unfortunately, a roster change and some issues on the Pro Circuit stage have somewhat lessened the hype surrounding this team, as the squad put together a 13th-16th place run at the Major after adding loveyouloveme to the roster. Of course, the team’s results on the international level will not be quite as relevant as its performance against its regional rivals as it prepares for its second Pro Circuit qualifier run, and its play at home has not suffered nearly as dramatic of a setback. So far this season, the team has put together 6 Top 4 finishes in regional events and qualifiers (including open qualifiers), and has only finished outside of the Top 4 in 2 events. The most recent of those 2 finishes came just a few days ago in the H-Cup Season 10, in which the squad’s new roster managed to fight its way to a 5th-6th place finish overall. As a whole, Team Aster has somewhat fallen from its position as a clear-cut leader in the Chinese region, but its roster still has more than enough talent and experience to represent a legitimate threat to claim 1 of the 3 slots at The Chongqing Major.

Royal Never Give Up Royal Never Give Up
Roster:
Du “Monet” Peng
Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong
Sun “Srf” Runfa
Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan
Xue “September” Zhichuan

Royal Never Give Up comes into this Major qualifier off of the back of an impressive 3rd place finish at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor, although the squad will be playing with a slightly different roster from the one that appeared in Stockholm last month. The addition of September in the place of 343 derives the squad of an incredibly experienced presence on the roster, but the hope for the team is that the change will help it improve its performance within the Chinese region. That performance has been somewhat erratic to this point in the season, as Royal Never Give Up currently holds a 14-19 record against its regional rivals (not including open qualifier matches). That kind of record doesn’t paint a fantastic picture for Royal Never Give Up in terms of its chances of finding success in this qualifier, but there is till hope for the squad. The team’s experience on the Pro Circuit stage this season has hopefully given its players a stronger sense of confidence playing in high pressure situations, and between that experience and the talent of its roster, Royal Never Give Up should still be considered a formidable opponent in this qualifier field.

800px-EHOME EHOME
Roster:
Luo “eGo” Bin
Li “ASD” Zhiwen
Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida
Jiang “天命” An
Zhang “y`” Yiping

EHOME did not begin its season in the most impressive of fashions, as the Chinese squad struggled in its first few regional appearances. While the squad participated in both of the first 2 Pro Circuit qualifiers of the 2018-2019 season, it ended finishing in last place in both of them as it struggled to keep pace with its more prominent regional rivals. Since then though, the squad has been on a tear, stringing together 5 straight Top 4 finishes across regional competitions that includes 3 1st place runs in the WESG 2018 China Finals, the Asia Pro League, and the STARLUCK DOTA2 Challenge. Excluding open qualifiers, EHOME comes into The Chongqing Major China Qualifier with a 57-29 record against Chinese opponents this season, and that impressive record has the squad sitting as a formidable threat within this expanded 10 team field. The team hasn’t quite shown itself to be a favorite within its home region just yet, but with 3 slots available in this qualifier, EHOME should be considered a realistic threat to earn itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage for the first time this season.

 

The “Maybe, ifs..”

This section is where we start to get into some particularly interesting scenarios, as we take a look at some of the squads with somewhat lower expectations for this qualifier. These squads are more than capable of putting on a good show and potentially taking a spot at the Major, but they more than likely will need a little bit of help to get there. The squads in this section are most likely ones that attended prior Pro Circuit qualifiers, but did not earn places at an event, and represent the upper echelon of the Tier 2 scene in their region. Whether its a favorable group, a particularly beneficial match up, or the opportunity to avoid playing one of the stronger teams, these squads are the ones that might just need a little outside help to claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage.

Team Root Team Root
Roster:
Yang “END” Pu
Xie “Super” Junhao
Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng
Chen “Victoria” Guanhong
Leong “ddc” Fat-meng

As the champion of H-Cup Season 10, Team Root has earned itself an opportunity to put its strength on display against a host of some of its most prominent regional rivals. Unfortunately for the team, there hasn’t been a whole lot of strength to show off so far this season, as Team Root has struggled significantly against other Chinese teams. The team has seen action in 6 open qualifiers for far this season (3 Pro Circuit, 3 third party), and has yet to finish any higher than the combined 9th-16th place position in any of them. However, we have seen some flashes of the team’s strength, as the squad did finish 4th in the STARLUCK DOTA2 Challenge last month, and has just put together its aforementioned 1st place run in H-Cup Season 10. Between the talent and experience of the team’s roster and its most recent bit of success within the Chinese region, there is hope that Team Root is beginning to turn around what has been an abysmal start to its 2018-2019 campaign. A strong showing here in this Major qualifier would certainly go a long way towards righting the ship for the Chinese squad, but it will have to put together its absolute best performance of the season so far if it wants to have a shot at claiming a spot at The Chongqing Major.

Keen Gaming Keen Gaming
Roster:
Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
Zhai “一” Jingkai
Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
Song “dark”‘ Runxi

Keen Gaming is a squad that flirted with a more prominent role within the Chinese region last season, but ended up falling short of fully establishing itself in the regional hierarchy due to roster changes and inconsistent performances. The team has not been entirely free from roster issues this season either, but those issues have proven to be largely temporary as the organization has kept a relatively stable roster so far. That roster has been able to hold its own against its regional rivals to this point in the season, with Keen Gaming having earned 7 Top 4 finishes in 11 regional appearances. In non-open qualifier events, the team has a 24-26 overall record against other Chinese teams, which would imply that the team’s most prominent concern is consistency as opposed to simply being less talented or skill than their opponents. This team has a fair bit of talent and experience on its roster, and it is going to need every bit of both and perhaps its best performance of the season so far if it wants to truly compete in this field.

 

The Long Shots

In this final section, we find the squads that have very little in terms of expectations for this qualifier. These are the underdogs, the Cinderella stories, and the teams that would frankly send shock waves through the regional scene should they manage to claim a spot at this event. These are the squads that many have probably already counted out of the fight for a place on the Pro Circuit stage, but we’ve seen underdog stories and unbelievable runs before, and these teams will be hoping to add their names to the list of squads that have shocked the Dota 2 world.

Newbee Young Newbee Young
Roster:
Lai “Fonte”‘ Xingyu
“Aq”
Tan “kaidou” Yunxi
Liang “leyuan” Chao
Ma “XiaoXiaoSala” Junju

Newbee Young is a squad that has had something of a rough time so far this season, as the team has struggled within the Chinese region. Of the team’s 13 appearances within the region so far, it has finished inside the Top 4 in just 3 of them, with 1 of those performances being the 1st place open qualifier run that allowed the team to reach this Major qualifier. Overall, the team has not been able to find success with any sense of consistency this season, though the hope is that this current iteration of the roster will be able to turn things around. While the squad’s success in the open qualifier is certainly an encouraging sign, the team’s poor results over the first few months of the season make it incredibly hard to have much confidence that Newbee Young can out perform a field that contains some of the strongest teams in the Chinese region. This Major qualifier could certainly serve as a significant stepping stone in terms of the team’s development, but the odds of Newbee Young finding its way to the Pro Circuit stage here are fantastically low.

600px-Ig_logo Invictus Gaming
Roster:
Lin “doodle”‘ Zikai
Zhou “HAlf” Yi
Zhang “XuaN” Weixuan
Gao “dogf1ghts” Tianpeng
Chan “Oli” Chon Kien

Though Invictus Gaming did not put together a particularly impressive performance at TI8, it was hoped that the appearance on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage was a sign that the old Chinese powerhouse was ready for a return to prominence within its home region. So far this season, that return has not really materialized, as the team has struggled to stand out among its regional rivals. Outside of open qualifiers, the team has posted a 14-15 record against fellow Chinese squads, as the team has been unable to play with much consistency over the first 2 months of the season. Part of that inconsistency appears to stem from the relative inexperience of its current roster, as the organization has embraced something of a youth movement with talented but as of yet unproven players. As Invictus Gaming prepares for this Major qualifier, it will have to hope that talent and enthusiasm can make up for lower levels of experience. That kind of scenario is certainly possible, but against this expanded squad and some of the strongest teams in the Chinese region, the chances of success for Invictus Gaming appear to be incredibly low.

For The Dream For The Dream
Roster:
Cheng “vtFαded” Jia Hao
Chen “YRG” Mingyang
Li “qianqian” Wenyao
Zhou “James” Yifu
“QYQX”

For The Dream comes into this Major qualifier as a squad that has not attracted a whole lot of attention so far this season. In a region that has been somewhat crowded to this point in the Pro Circuit campaign, For The Dream has struggled to stand out among a throng of regional rivals. The team has participated in 7 regional events and qualifier so far this season, with its best performance being a 5th-6th place finish at the Asian Dota2 League near the beginning of October. Aside from that showing, things have been difficult for the squad within its home region, as For The Dream’s experience so far this season has come almost exclusively from various open qualifiers. In non-open qualifier events, the team’s record against other Chinese squads is 5-5, which doesn’t inspire a particularly high level of confidence that the team will be able to compete against some of the strongest teams in its region. While anything can happen in these Pro Circuit qualifiers, For The Dream’s chances at earning a place at The Chongqing Major in January are virtually nonexistent.

 

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