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The International 2019 will feature only two players who have attended all the TI tournaments, from 2011 to 2019. Perhaps it’s not arbitrary at all to see two of the greatest team captains the Dota 2 pro scene has ever had fighting this year not only at their ninth The International, but actually being two of the biggest favourites to achieve something that nobody has done before, claim a second Aegis of Champions. 

Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi share a long Dota history together and somewhat a very similar path to success through their long professional careers. They both started to play back in the DotA days, when the game we know today as Dota 2 was a Warcraft III custom map. In 2011, the very first The International crowned Puppey, back then a member of Natus Vincere, as Champion. Although we are now nine years later from that moment, the first-ever Aegis claimed will never be forgotten by the Dota 2 fans and the Na’Vi roster that was engraved on the most precious Dota 2 trophy.

Puppey with Na'Vi at TI1

Puppey reached the TI grand finals the next two years with Na’Vi, but he’s never been able to replicate the feat from 2011. In 2013 he and KuroKy were playing side by side for Na’Vi. For most of the Dota 2 community, the TI3 Grand Finals is among the best that was ever played on The International stage. Perhaps the only one that can eclipse it is the TI8 final showdown between OG and PSG.LGD, but what nobody can take away from either Puppey or KuroKy is their truly incredible resilience and capacity to stay at the top of the competitive scene through all this time.

Both of them left Na’Vi in the aftermath of TI4 to start something completely new. It was in fact KuroKy’s idea to start a player-owned organization. At first, he teamed up with Johan “N0tail” Sundstein and both of them brought along a friend of theirs to fill in the roster. KuroKy called on Puppey and N0tail invited his old-time friend Tal “Fly” Aizik. However, the one who founded the first Dota 2 player-owned organization was Puppey who named the new squad Team Secret. Puppey and KuroKy’s archenemy from Alliance, Gustav “s4” Magnusson, joined in and so the first iteration of Team Secret was ready to go.

Kuro and Puppey played side by side at TI5 as well but finished top 8, perhaps a disappointing result for both of them as Kuro moved out from Secret and created a team of his own, 5Jungz. The post TI5 era coincided with a new system Valve was implementing for the professional scene. Dota Major Championships featured in the 2015- 20216 season three majors, each with a $3000,000 prize pool and the immediate success of 5Jungz attracted Team Liquid’s interest. Two months after the team was formed, 5Jungz got signed by one of the largest esports organization and two years later, Team Liquid and KuroKy became the TI7 Champions.

Team Liquid Champions at TI7

Puppey and KuroKy results at The International

The InternationalPuppeyKuroKy
20111st place (Na’Vi)13th-16th (
20122nd (Na’Vi)13th-16th (mousesports)
20132nd (Na’Vi)2nd (Na’Vi)
20147th-8th (Na’Vi)7th-8th (Na’Vi)
20157th-8th (Team Secret)7th-8th (Team Secret)
201613th-16th (Team Secret)7th-8th (Team Liquid)
20179th-12th (Team Secret)1st (Team Liquid)
20185th-6th (Team Secret)4th (Team Liquid)

Heading into TI9, both Team Secret and Team Liquid are top contenders for the title. Perhaps Team secret is the biggest favourite to win it all given their crushing run through the 2018 – 2019 Competitive season. Team Liquid, on the other hand, have struggled to stay at the very top since TI7 and only very late in the current season they made their first roster change.  Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen was swapped for Aliwi “w33” Omar and at EPICENTER Major at the end of May 2019, the only tournament pre TI9 where they showed their new line-up, they finished on the second place at the end of hard-fought grand finals against Vici Gaming. All eyes will be on Liquid in China, as everyone is curious if the roster change was the right move. Of course, Team Secret are also on everyone’s radar since they come to Shanghai as the 2018-2019 DPC rankings leaders.

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