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Going into the 2021 League of Legends World Championship, a lot of fans and analysts had questions about the strength of the South Korean fourth seed, Hanwha Life Esports. After a pretty rough summer that left Hanwha out of the League of Legends Champions Korea playoffs altogether, HLE sat at the bottom of the LCK 2021 regional finals, needing to defeat both Liiv SANDBOX and Nongshim RedForce to qualify for Worlds. With a combined 1-3 record against the pair that summer split, their chances didn’t look great.
Somehow, however, the team was resuscitated in their short break between the regular season and regional finals, and they sprinted through the gauntlet with an overall 6-1 record in their first two series. They later met T1 to determine their Worlds seed and lost to them 3-2, but Hanwha had secured their ticket to Iceland, set to begin their Worlds 2021 journey in the play-in stage.
Their shaky summer into explosive back-to-back series into that final series loss left many confused about what to expect from HLE, but the play-ins showed a bit more of what they have in store.
The general narrative around HLE is “Chovy vs. the world.” The former Griffin mid laner, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, is often characterized as the savior of his team. He is often by far the best performer of his squad, and this year has been no different. LCK color caster Maurits “Chronicler” Jan Meeusen said the team struggles with a “lack of solid macro execution” and challenged the Chovy vs. Nine narrative that’s followed HLE this season.
Chovy, Chronicler said, seemed a “bit disjointed” during play-ins, even as Hanwha Life breezed past most of their competition. Chovy was tied for the lowest kill participation in the Worlds 2021 play-ins among regular starters at only 43.9%. Hanwha Life found the majority of their kills during play-ins without Chovy’s direct involvement, and that might be a good sign for South Korea’s fourth seed.
Hanwha bot laner Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, Chronicler said, had “improved exponentially,” and their jungler, Kim “Willer” Jeong-hyeon, had incredible improvement alongside him, starting back in the gauntlet.
“Even though mechanically he has some mediocre games,” Chronicler said, “his presence and pathing have been incredible.”
Chovy’s untimely performance dip could be an early sign for a long winter ahead, starting with Hanwha’s elimination from Worlds in the group stage as they face off against PSG Talon, Royal Never Give Up, and Fnatic in an up-for-grabs Group C. But his team’s new growth could indicate an upcoming spring for the team that could result in a fresh HLE that we’ve not seen much this year.
Only time will tell, and there isn’t much left till groups kick off. Check out the opening match, featuring the LCK first seed DWG KIA and the League of Legends Pro League second seed, FunPlus Phoenix ,at 7 a.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 11 on lolesports.com to earn drops and rewards for watching.
League of Legends esports reporter and photographer for half a decade. Sometimes I try to touch grass.