A Phoenix from the Ashes: Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator looks to turn a tumultuous Pro Circuit campaign into success in Shanghai as the squad hopes to become the first Southeast Asian team to ever win The International
With the conclusion of the second even Dota 2 Pro Circuit campaign, the attention of the Dota 2 world now shifts to the game’s biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season set the stage, but now the time has come for 18 of the world’s best teams to take their shot at earning immortality as they look to cement their place in Dota 2 history with a victorious run at The International 2019 in Shanghai, China. For the first time in its history, TI moves away from the western world into the waiting arms of the Chinese scene, with TI9 set to be hosted in the Mercedes-Benz Arena as the venue will transform into the crucible from which one squad will emerge with the Aegis of Champions in hand. With the even itself fast approaching, this series will serve to highlight each of the 18 participating squads that will be making their way to Shanghai in the hopes of becoming TI9 Champion. Each post will focus upon a specific team in the field for this event, with a small overview of the organization’s history, a review of its 2018-2019 season, a run down of the members of its roster, keys to success entering TI9, and expectations for the squad at the event itself. Whether one is a newcomer to the pro scene or an avid Pro Circuit spectator, these posts will hopefully serve as a useful source of information or a refresher course on the teams that will be battling it out in Shanghai in August. With that in mind, we will be taking a look at 1 of the 3 Southeast Asian squads to be taking the stage at TI9, and a team that tied for the fewest Pro Circuit appearances this season (3) among the directly invited teams: TNC Predator
Region: Southeast Asia
Pro Circuit Rank: 9th (2,046 Pro Circuit Points)
Qualification Method: Direct Invite (Pro Circuit Top 12)
2018-2019 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 3 (1 Top 4 Finish)
Previous TI Appearances: TI6 (7th-8th), TI7 (9th-12th), TI8 (13th-16th)
2018-2019 Season Notable Achievements:
Pro Circuit Majors:
4th – EPICENTER Major
5th-6th – The Kuala Lumpur Major
9th-12th – The Chongqing Major
Pro Circuit Qualifiers:
1st – EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier
2nd – The Kuala Lumpur Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
2nd – The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
3rd – MDL Disneyland Paris Major SEA Closed Qualifier
3rd-4th – OG Dota PIT Minor 2019 Southeast Asia Qualifier
7th-8th – DreamLeague Season 11 Southeast Asia Qualifier
Non-Pro Circuit Events:
1st – World Electronic Sports Games 2018
4th – ESL One Mumbai 2019
5th-6th – ESL One Birmingham 2019
1st – World Electronic Sports Games 2018 Philippine Finals
1st – World Electronic Sports Games 2018 Southeast Asia Finals
1st – Asia Pacific Predator League 2019
2nd – Asia Pro League Season 1
The roots of TNC Predator stretch back to 2013, when the organization signed its first Dota 2 lineup under the name TNC Pro Team. Within just 3 months of its founding though, TNC Pro Team had shut down its Dota 2 division, with the organization taking a step back from the professional scene for a period of around 2 years. In February of 2015, the organization returned with a new roster that managed to attract a decent bit of attention within the Southeast Asian region. While the squad failed to qualify for TI5 and The Frankfurt Major 2015, the new TNC Pro Team was at least building up a bit of momentum for itself with decent, if inconsistent, results within its home region. 2016 proved to be the breakout year for TNC Pro Team though, as the squad truly hit its stride in the new year by rattling off 11 straight Top 4 finishes between February and May. In June, the squad received an additional boost to its lineup, as veteran North American player DeMoN joined the squad just days before its successful run through the TI6 Qualifiers to earn TNC Pro Team its first ever TI appearance. The squad performed incredibly well in its TI debut, pushing its way up to the 7th-8th place position and famously knocking out OG 2-0 in what has gone down as one of the biggest upsets in TI history. With that performance, TNC Pro Team looked poised to continue its rise, both on the international level and within the Southeast Asian region. However, the aftermath of TI6 would bring new challenges for the squad, as the team saw 3 of its players leave the roster in August. The team closed out 2016 with 5 more event appearances, but failed to finish any higher than the 5th-6th place position in any of them.
Throughout the final months of 2016, the organization had continued making changes to its roster, and by the start of 2017, it appeared that the team’s roster had finally settled and stabilized. The team started its year off with 6 Top 4 finishes in its first 7 appearances, and managed to earn itself a spot at The Kiev Major 2017 in the process. While the team didn’t perform particular well at said Major (9th-12th place finish), it was clear that the squad had regained some of its momentum within the Southeast Asian region. With the addition of Canadian Support and Captain 1437 in May, the squad proceeded to win the TI7 Southeast Asia Qualifier, earning its second straight trip to the TI stage. Though the squad finished in the 9th-12th place position at TI7, TNC Pro Team managed to keep its roster intact through the offseason period as it entered the first ever Pro Circuit season. Said season began in style for the squad, as TNC Pro Team emerged as an early leader within its home region with 11 Top 4 finishes in 13 regional appearances in the 2017 section of the season. The team’s success seemed to carry over to the international level as well, as TNC Pro Team claimed a victory at China Top 2017, and finished 2nd in its first Minor appearance at MDL Macau. As the season shifted into its 2018 section though, the squad was in for some changes. First, the organization announced a name change, going from TNC Pro Team to TNC Predator to reflect its new sponsorship. Second, Team Captain 1437 was removed from the team, with Armel joining the roster and Kuku moving to the Support role.
The change didn’t seem to have much of a negative effect on the squad as a whole though, as the newly renamed TNC Predator continued to be a dominant force within the Southeast Asian region. The squad finished out the rest of the 2017-2018 season without ever finishing any lower than 3rd in a Pro Circuit qualifier, racking up 11 straight Top 4 finishes. On the international level, the team attended 4 Majors and 1 Minor in 2018, earning just 1 Top 4 finish across those appearances but finishing in the top half of the event standings in 4 of the 5 events. After a 2nd place finish in the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier, the team found itself heading to Vancouver for its third straight appearance at TI. However, success proved to be elusive on the TI stage, as TNC Predator finished at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position overall. In the wake of that disappointing performance, TNC Predator found itself facing a new round of roster changes as the duo of Raven and Sam_H left the squad.
Season in Review
While TNC Predator began its 2018-2019 season with an incomplete roster, the organization was quick to shore up its ranks as the offseason period came to a close. In September, the organization announced the addition of ninjaboogie and Gabbi to fill out its lineup, with Kuku set to return to his old Offlane role as part of the change. The new roster was met with immediate success within its home region, as TNC Predator started its season with 4 straight Top 4 finishes before putting together an incredibly impressive 5th-6th place performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major. The team closed out 2018 with another 3 Top 4 finishes in regional qualifiers and events, but during that time the squad was also faced with something of a controversy. Offlaner Kuku and the TNC Predator organization were embroiled in a bit of public controversy when the former was accused of using a racial slur in a public match. Though the details of the entire debacle are a bit too long and hazy to be listed concisely, the end results of the whole issue was Kuku being banned from participating in The Chongqing Major, a personal leave of absence for the player himself, and a docking of 20% of TNC Predator’s Pro Circuit point total.
The 2019 section of the season began with TNC Predator’s run at The Chongqing Major, but without Kuku in the lineup the squad was unable to replicate its prior success, finishing in the 9th-12th place position at the event. At the end of January, Kuku returned to the team’s active lineup, but TNC Predator almost immediately faced a new roster issue with the departure of veteran player ninjaboogie in February. In response, the organization brought back former player eyyou to fill ninjaboogie’s place, and the change helped TNC Predator bounce back with some impressive performances over the next few months. Between February and May, TNC Predator earned Top 4 finishes in 8 straight event appearances, including 1st place performances the Asia Pacific Predator League 2019, WESG 2018, and the regional qualifiers for both ESL One Mumbai 2019 and ESL One Birmingham 2019. ESL One Birmingham 2019 would see the team’s streak of Top 4 finishes broken, though teh squad still managed to put together a strong 5th-6th place performance at the event that set the stage for what it would accomplish next. With the squad down to its final Pro Circuit appearance of the season, TNC Predator was in need of a strong showing at the EPICENTER Major in order to lock down its direct invite status for TI9. The team proceeded to produce its best Pro Circuit performance of the season, pushing its way to 4th in the event standings and officially punching its ticket to Shanghai with a direct invite to TI9.
Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte (Carry)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 8.10 kills, 9.90 assists, 3.33 deaths per game (90 matches)
Gabbi stands as one part of the “1-2 punch” that TNC Predator has employed to devastating effect this season, as he and Armel have emerged as an incredibly strong and effective duo for the squad. Gabbi’s strength and efficiency for TNC Predator is particularly impressive when one considers that he is still in the early stages of his professional career. The 20 year old Carry (who will be 21 by the time TI9 begins) has only been playing at a professional level since 2016, when he appeared as a member of Acion Arena. Though he remained with the team for just 4 months, Gabbi had shown enough potential to be picked up by Execration in September. With Execration, Gabbi was able to build up experience playing against some of the higher tier teams within the Southeast Asia region, though the squad itself was met with limited success during that time. In 2017, Gabbit moved to the roster of Clutch Gamers, but after just over 3 months with the team he returned to the Execration organization to close out the year. In January of 2018, Gabbi parted ways with Execration once again, joining the roster of the Team Admiral squad that would eventually merge with and rename itself to Clutch Gamers. While the squad was able to put up some decent performances at home, Clutch Gamers did not emerge as a power on the Pro Circuit, and Gabbi ended up leaving the team in the offseason to join TNC Predator. Gabbi’s play has been exceptional for TNC Predator this season, with the Carry entering TI9 with the 7th highest Kill per game average among the attending players (average for only matches played for teams with which they are attending TI). His ability to reliably handle high volume, high impact heroes like Terrorblade, Phantom Assassin, Troll Warlord, and Morphling give him a degree of control over a match that TNC Predator has made incredible use of this season, and will need to continue to do heading into TI9.
Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios (Mid)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 7.90 kills, 9.41 assists, 3.78 deaths per game (90 matches)
As the second half of TNC Predator’s incredible star Carry/Mid duo, Armel has emerged as a talented force for the squad despite also being relatively young an inexperienced in the Dota 2 world. The 19 year old has only been playing at a professional level for around 3 years now, with his career beginning in 2016 as a member of Acion Arena alongside current teammate Gabbi. After spending around 9 months with the team though, Armel parted ways with Acion Arena to join the roster of Clutch Gamers, where he would spent the next year of his young career. Over the first half of that year, Clutch Gamers looked to be emerging as a potential power within the Southeast Asian region. However, the onset of the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season seemed to sap some of the squad’s momentum, as Armel and the rest of the squad found their performances becoming more and more inconsistent as 2017 came to a close. In January of 2018, Armel moved on to Team Admiral, but remained with the team for just 2 weeks before being picked up by TNC Predator, where he has remained ever since. While Gabbiy has been called upon to handle the hard farming, hyper carry type heroes, Armel has more often been put in a position as a team fight controller and damage dealer. Heroes like Templar Assassin, Outworld Devourer, Kunkka, and Dragon Knight have been among his top played this season, with Armel holding a combined 67.57% win rate in 74 total matches with those 4 heroes. Across the entire 2018-2019 season, Armel has averaged 8.08 kills per game, which puts him right behind teammate Gabbi with the 8th highest average among the participating players at TI9 (Those averages only including matches played for the team that a player is attending TI with). Armel has been called upon to be the anchor for TNC Predator in many of its strategies, and the young Midlaner has proven himself to be capable of filling that role reliably as the team prepares for its fourth straight TI appearance in Shanghai.
Carlo “Kuku” Palad (Offlane)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 5.09 kills, 12.94 assists, 5.45 deaths per game (80 matches)
Throughout the past few years, Kuku has been one of the faces of the TNC Predator organization, and the Offlaner enters TI9 as the longest tenured player on the team’s roster. Kuku did not begin his career with TNC Predator though, as his career actually began back in 2015 as a member of regional rival Mineski. With the Mineski organization, Kuku made a number of high profile appearances within the Southeast Asian region, and even attended The Frankfurt Major 2015 with the squad, though Mineski finished in the 9th-12th place position at that event. In March of 2016 though, Kuku’s time with Mineski came to an end, as the organization announced that he would not be a part of the team’s roster for The Manila Major 2016. Just 2 weeks later, Kuku was picked up by TNC Pro Team, and has remained with the organization ever since. Kuku has shown a surprising level of versatility in his professional career, having played the roles of Carry, Midlaner, Offlaner, and Support between his time with Mineski and TNC Predator. That versatility was one display in this 2018-2019 season, as Kuku employed a number of different styles for TNC Predator. He filled the role of single target initiator with picks like Batrider, Vengeful Spirit, and Beastmaster, but also played the role of team fight controller with picks like Dark Seer, Sand King, and Magnus. When the squad has needed extra damage from its third core slot, Kuku has been able to step up in that regard as well, picking up heroes like Nature’s Prophet and Doom. Across all of the heroes that were just mentioned, Kuku’s win rate is at least 50% this season with all but one of them (Nature’s Prophet). Regardless of the role that Kuku has been asked to play, he has performed admirably for this TNC Predator lineup, and hopefully he will continue to be a reliable force for the squad as it prepares to take the stage at the biggest event in the Dota 2 world.
Timothy John “Tims” Randrup (Support)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 2.57 kills, 15.37 assists, 6.12 deaths per game (90 matches)
Though he does’t always receive as much attention as some of his teammates, Tims stands as one of the most pivotal pieces in this TNC Predator roster, and just about every other iteration of the organization’s lineup since its initial rise to prominence. Tims has spent the majority of his career with the TNC Predator organization, having come over the the squad in December of 2016 after beginning his career earlier that year with the rosters of Execration and Rave. He has been a part of every step of the team’s rise on both the regional and international levels, and has attended 2 TIs, 8 Majors, and 2 Minors as a member of the squad. Over that time, and across this 2018-2019 season in particular, Tims has built up a reputations as an aggressive Support player, favoring the active play style that has come to characterize the Position 4 role. TNC Predator’s 2018-2019 campaign saw Tims shifting between the roles of team fight initiator and sing target lock down ganker, with heroes like Earthshaker, Nature’s Prophet, Nyx Assassin, and Shadow Shaman sitting among his most played this season. Tims has been incredibly effective in this role as well, with the Support player holding a combined 64.29% win rate with the 4 previously mentioned heroes in 70 matches. Across the season as a whole, Tims has averaged an incredible 14.76 assists per game (15.37 in Pro Circuit events and qualifiers only), which comes in as the third highest average among players at TI9. His ability to generate opening and opportunities for the rest of his squad has been elite this season, and Tims will have to continue creating those opportunities for his squad if TNC Predator wants to find any significant level of success in Shanghai.
Nico “eyyou” Barcelon (Support, Captain)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 2.18 kills, 15.07 assists, 5.68 deaths per game (28 matches)
eyyou comes into TI9 as the most recent addition to this current TNC Predator lineup, having been added to the team’s roster back in February after the departure of ninjaboogie. However, eyyou is fairly familiar with the TNC Predator organization, as the Support and Captain has been a part of multiple iterations of the team over the course of his career. eyyou’s time as a professional player actually began with the original TnC Gaming back in 2015, with the Support being a part of the team’s initial rise to prominence in the Dota 2 world and its impressive run at TI6. In the aftermath of that event though, eyyou parted ways with TNC, kicking off a period in which he would join the roster of 5 different teams in a period of around 15 months. After a series of solid, but mostly unremarkable, stints with Fnatic, HappeyFeet, Mineski, O2esports, and Entity Gaming, eyyou made his way back to TNC Pro Team in January of 2018 as the squad’s coach. He remained with the squad through the end of the 2017-2018 season before moving on to the newly formed Lotac lineup in September of 2018. When that team folded in January of 2019 though, eyyou made another return to TNC Predator, where he has remained through the end of the 2018-2019 season and into this pre-TI9 period. In his latest stint with TNC Predator, eyyou has embraced a role as a defensive and team fight oriented Support, with heroes like Oracle, Chen, Ancient Apparition, and Shadow Demon being his most played with the squad. He has proven himself to be incredible effective with those heroes, posting an average of 14.05 assists per game across all appearances with TNC Predator this season, and a 15.07 mark in just Pro Circuit events and qualifiers. Between himself and fellow Support Tims, TNC Predator has a Support duo capable of generating an impressive number of opportunities for the rest of the roster to succeed.
Lee “Heen” Seung Gon (Coach)
TNC Predator’s coach was a relatively late addition to the organization, as Heen only came on for the squad towards the end of April. However, the South Korean coach brings a wealth of experience coaching at the highest level in the Dota 2 world. For a period of over 2 years, Heen was one of the minds behind the incredible success of the European iteration of Team Liquid, helping the squad attend 2 TIs, 10 Majors, and 4 Minors while claiming 2 Minor Championship titles, 1 Major Championship title, and the title of TI7 Champion. In fact, Heen’s move to TNC Predator seemed to coincide nicely with the squad’s late-season surge on the international level, as the team’s new coach was on board for its 5th-6th place finish at ESL One Birmingham 2019 and its 4th place effort at the EPICENTER Major. Having the insight and experience of a coach that has previously found success at the highest level of competition is an asset that TNC Predator will hopefully be able to make the most of as it looks to put together a strong showing of its own at TI9.
Keys to Success at TI9
Coming into this event, the term “success” has a number different meanings depending on which team one is discussing. Obviously, the ultimate measure of success for any of the squads attending this event would be to walk away from Shanghai with the Aegis of Champions in hand and the title of TI9 Champion. Considering the fact that only 1 of the 18 participants at TI9 will be able to do that though, and also considering that not all of these teams are regarded as being on an equal footing in terms of skill and experience, a “TI Champions or bust” mentality won’t fit for every squad in the field. With that in mind, this section is not a “do these things and win TI” sort of list in terms of keys to success. Instead, success in this section will be marked in a team’s ability to play its best level of Dota and put itself in the best possible position to push as far up the event standings as it reasonably can.
Lead from the front with Gabbi and Armel
Across the entirety of this 2018-2019 season, the duo of Gabbi and Armel has averaged 16.21 kills per game. That number puts them at 4th among the TI9 participants in terms of highest average kills per game from a Carry/Mid duo (only counting matches played for the current team that a player is attending TI9 with), and should speak to the level of importance that the two play to TNC Predator’s potential success. Throughout this 2018-2019 campaign, TNC Predator has gone as the Gabbi/Armel duo has gone, and that trend appears to be one that will continue into the squad’s run in Shanghai. In that regard, it becomes even more important for the squad to do everything that it can to set up that duo of success and ensure that Gabbiy and Armel are given every possible opportunity to lead the team with strong performances. To this point in their careers, both players have seemed to thrive under the added pressure of carrying that kind of responsibility, but the pressure of the TI stage is something that often tends to elevate things to an even higher level. Between the two players, Gabbiy and Armel have a grand total of 1 TI appearance, with that lone appearance being the disappointing 13th-16th place run that Armel was a part of with TNC Predator at TI8. Despite the team’s somewhat poor position in the standings of that event, Armel put together strong performances with an average of 7.71 kills and 7.41 assists on 4.65 deaths per game in 17 matches. With another year of experience under the belt for Armel and a strong running mate in Gabbi, TNC Predator’s Carry/Mid duo will have plenty of opportunities to prove that it can lead this squad to success on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage.
Rely on and facilitate Kuku’s initiating abilities
As previously mentioned in Kuku’s portion of the roster section, the Offlaner has been relied upon frequently by this TNC Predator lineup for his versatility and play making skills. He has excelled in finding opportunities to initiate fights, whether on a single target or as the beginning of a large team fight. Those efforts have proven incredibly fruitful, as Kuku has averaged an impressive 13.01 assists per game across the entirety of this 2018-2019 season. That average comes in as the 3rd highest among the Offlaners that will be attending TI9, and his ability to find the right target at the right time is something that the rest of TNC Predator will hopefully look to exploit at every possible opportunity. To that end, the game plan for the squad with regards to Kuku should be to simply get allowing him to do the things that he has done all season long. While some squads have drifted towards using their Offlaner in a more farm oriented role, Kuku has excelled when he is given the green light to play a more aggressive style that emphasizes movement and ganking more than farming. To his credit, Kuku has certainly been able to find farm when needed, with heroes like Nature’s Prophet, Doom, and Necrophos popping up on occasion this season. However, pushing him away from the aggressive, play making style that has served Kuku so well seems like a disservice both to him and to TNC Predator as a whole, and the squad’s odds of finding success seem to be significantly higher if their Offlaner is let loose and allowed to play his preferred style at TI9.
Keep Tims and eyyou involved as much as possible
In the previous section about Gabbi and Armel’s importance to TNC Predator’s success, it was mentioned that the duo currently holds the 4th highest combined kills per game average among the Carry/Mid duos at TI9. However, those two aren’t the only pair of TNC Predator players that come into this event as leaders in their respective roles, as the Support duo of Tims and eyyou also stand among elite company heading into TI9. The two Support players have combined to average 28.81 assists per game in their matches with TNC Predator this season, with that combined average sitting at 2nd among the Support duos at TI9. The correlate makes a lot of sense if one thinks about it, as a team with a Carry/Mid duo that achieves a high number of average kills per match would also be generating an equally high number of assist opportunities based on that kill count. Of course, that isn’t always the case, and while some other squads may call upon their cores to create opportunities on their own, TNC Predator has been able to rely upon its Support duo to set up the rest of the squad for success. That trend absolutely has to continue in Shanghai for TNC Predator to have any measure of success though. While the trio of Gabbit, Armel, and Kuku are certainly capable of creating their own opportunities, the more of that burden that Tims and eyyou can take upon their own shoulders, the better the squad should be able to perform. So far this season, the Support duo has been able to do that by picking a strong mix of active and defensive heroes that have given them the flexibility to pursue and create kill opportunities while also supporting the squad through team fights and other engagements. The more involved Tims and eyyou have been in TNC Predator’s game plan, the more they have been able to contribute to the team’s success, and hopefully the duo can continue to create opportunities for success as the squad prepares itself to take on the world’s best squads on the TI stage.
Expectations at TI9
TNC Predator began this 2018-2019 season as a squad that many believed would be one of the clear leaders within the Southeast Asian region. At the beginning of the season, the team appeared to fit that billing, as the squad looked just as strong as it had been expected to be. However, the issue with Kuku’s ban and leave of absence marked a slump for the squad that severely affected its standing on the international level. The squad remained a force to be reckoned with on the home front, but its presence away from the Southeast Asian region regressed to a certain degree. It was only in the latter months of the season that the squad finally appeared to be recovering, putting together a late surge to claim its direct invite status for this event. The big question for TNC Predator heading into TI9 is whether the squad will be able to maintain the momentum that it built up in the second half of the season to compete with the elite teams in the field for this event.
At first glance, things don’t look overly favorable for TNC Predator, as the squad did not enjoy nearly as much exposure on the Pro Circuit stage as some of the other teams in the field for TI9. In fact, the team was actually tied for the fewest Pro Circuit appearances among the directly invited teams, and tied for the second fewest appearances across all of the TI9 participants in general. However, that lack of Pro Circuit appearances is somewhat deceptive, as the squad was able to accrue a sizable amount of experience against top level opposition both within its home region and on the international level. The team played 81 matches against its fellow TI9 participants over the course of the 2018-2019 season, and came away from those matches with a 41-40 overall record. That record isn’t exactly dominant by any means, but it does at least show that TNC Predator has managed to hold its own against some of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world despite not making as many Pro Circuit appearances as some of its fellow TI9 participants.
So TNC Predator comes into TI9 in a somewhat more favorable position than many will likely give the squad credit for, but is that better position really enough to make TNC Predator one of the leading contenders in the field for TI9 and a threat to claim the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai? The answer to that question is most likely no, as TNC Predator hasn’t quite been able to put together enough success against the top squads in the Pro Circuit Rankings to really be considered a favorite in the field. However, that doesn’t mean that the squad should have low expectations coming into this event, as TNC Predator showed quite a bit of strength on the international level over the final 2 months of this 2018-2019 campaign. If the team can continue to play at that kind of level coming into this event, then TNC Predator could easily find itself comfortably sitting in the top half of the event standings. in Shanghai.