By Jason Parker
December 10, 2019
The SEA Games 2019 have been pretty awesome. I love seeing a real sporting event displaying the talent of esports players from across their region.
Though I did not see any discussion points for Arena of Valor, Thailand took home the gold there. They were followed up by Indonesia and Vietnam, respectively. It sounds like those countries, alongside The Philippines were the most dominant. What I’m curious about, is what the viewing numbers were like. Could we see a shift in how Olympic-style sporting events treat esports? I sure hope so.
The SEA Games officially awarded the first Hearthstone gold medal, and it’s to Malaysia! Dr. Yew Weng Kean (Electrical Engineering Ph.D.) defeated Thailand’s Werit Popan 3-1. That’s a pretty major victory, and perhaps the best part? They’re an assistant professor.
That’s right, someone in the educational field, with a Doctorate won a SEA Games gold medal for playing Hearthstone. Heriot-Watt University’s assistant professor hopefully silenced some esports critics. There are many people who say that spending time gaming means you won’t (or can’t) succeed in education or your career. Dr. Kean has clearly proven that’s not the case.
Dr. Kean spoke to Bernama after the presentation, to say the following:
“This gold medal means a lot to me and Malaysia, because it is our first medal for eSports in SEA Games history. I feel amazing, happy and grateful. I believed that I can make history by contributing a medal to the country and I feel great to have achieved it.
eSports is a trend now and will stay regardless of what we do. Parents should look at it from a positive side, because gaming can actually improve your thinking, critical and strategic skills.
These are all the necessary skills to life. But kids should have balance between gaming, healthy activities and studies. If you are gaming all the time without improvement in studies, you are not going very far.”
This news makes me happier than I can express. Gaming isn’t a waste of time, and it’s not something that ultimately goes nowhere. Sure, not everyone will win a gold medal or take home a world championship trophy. Not everyone will make tons of money.
But the possibility is there. The more we get behind esports, the more people that work hard and have the talent can make their way into this business.
Sounds like some of these matches were out and out stomps! Caviar Napoleon “EnDerr” Acampado demolished Thomas “Blysk” Kopankiewicz in a 4-1 mash to claim the SEA Games gold medal for The Philippines. This best of five sounds like it was intense, but not so great for Blysk.
EnDerr won the first two matches and Blysk made his mark by pushing a game three victory. Unfortunately, history repeated itself. Blysk dropped the next two matches. During the tournament’s opener, these two players faced off. Acampado won 2-1.
Blysk takes home the silver medal and Tran “MeomaikA” Hong Phuc takes bronze for Vietnam, there’s no shame in that. It’s still a tremendous moment for esports. The Philippines is showing its dominance across esports. They have taken home three gold medals so far!
Filipino esports stars weren’t done yet! Team Sibol out of The Philippines took on the best in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, proving they were the kings. During the 30th SEA Games in San Juan City, Team Sibol took another gold medal.
The Indonesian team they faced had some of this year’s Mobile Legends: Bang Bang world champions on it, so it seemed like things could be dicey. While the Filipino team took game 1, the Indonesian team won the next 2, back-to-back.
With one match away from victory, the Filipino team fought back in, bringing it to the final match, game 5. Many people thought it would be a long, drawn-out epic final battle, but alas! Team Sibol picked up an early lead, and with 9-1 on the board, defeated the Indonesian team in 15 minutes.
Sure, 50-minute games are impressive, but this is what I like to see. A brutal stomp for the last match, one team showing beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the best of the best. Led by Karl Gabriel “KarlTzy” Nepomuceno and his hero Esmeralda, their teamwork was really on display in this final battle.
Team Sibol is powered by Smart. This win confirmed their third gold medal at the SEA Games. They defeated the Thai team 3-2, in Dota 2 on Monday. Apparently, Sibol had a dominant run through the group phase, demolishing anyone in their path.
Things were a bit harder for the Thailand team though. They dropped into losers thanks to a loss to Vietnam but swept Laos out to move forward. Vietnam and Thailand did battle again, but fate was kinder to Thailand this time.
The matches were back and forth. By game 4, the score was tied 2-2. Sibol’s Elder Titan, Drow Ranger and Outworld Devourer were paying big dividends. But what they were doing just wasn’t quite enough to defeat the opposing team out of Thailand.
Sibol’s Dota 2 coach Paolo Bago spoke about the team’s morale during the crushing game 4 loss:
“I was afraid that the team were going to feel dejected after the loss in Game 4 but surprisingly when I got on stage, they knew. They knew what I saw our mistake which was the switch between Viper and Morphling. From there we cleared our heads. We just thought there’s no medal, there’s no series, it’s just one best-of-one in front of us. Once we knew we were on the same page, it was easy to reset our mindset.”
Game 5 was interesting too. Thailand went for tri-lane in the bottom lane, which was causing problems for Team Sibol. Thailand was getting stronger and stronger, but all it takes is one fight to turn it all around; that game in Roshan’s pit. Sibol picked up the lead thanks to John Vargas’ work. A fed Phantom Lancer got on the board. Thailand could do nothing to stop the tide of violence coming from Sibol.
That means the Philippines took home three gold medals so far and Vietnam claimed silver. Bago had some final words concerning his team:
“We were very excited with the victory and the gold medal. We didn’t expect it go this way but we’re very happy with the win. There was a lot of twist and turns but we couldn’t be any prouder.”
GG, Team Sibol.
The final day of the esports portion of the SEA Games took place on Tuesday, December 10 in San Juan, Manila. After many intense battles, only Thailand and The Philippines made their way to the top 4. That’s an outcome I definitely did not expect.
The Upper Bracket finals were Thailand’s Nopparut “Book” Hempamorn against The Philippines’ Alexandrea Gabrielle “AK Laverez. However, Thailand battered their Filipino brethren, making their way into the grand finals.
Lower Brackets had The Philippines’ Andreij Hosea “Doujin” Albar, besting Thailand’s own Rachawin “Shin Akuma” Tanasoontorngoon in the semi-finals. Can I just say that’s the best FGC name I’ve seen in ages? I love Shin Akuma, so now I’m automatically rooting for Tanasoontorngoon to win.
Sadly, this was not meant to be. Laverez made an incredible comeback. Albar defeated Tanasoontorngoon, only to be put away by Laverez.
Laverez and Nopparut did battle in the Grand Finals. Book only had to win one set, while Laverez had to win a pair of best-of-fives. Laverez did his best, but was defeated 3-2 by Book, who claimed the gold medal for Thailand. That was their second esports gold medal at the event. The Philippines took both the silver and bronze for Tekken.
This became another first for the SEA Games! This is the first time a country won two spots on the same podium. I hope these players keep practicing! There’s a lot of fun stuff coming for Tekken in 2020, and I hope esports are back again at SEA 2020.