In an appearance that started with promise in the 2023 League of Legends World Championship, Team Liquid ultimately bowed out of the international tournament, dropping their third successive match in the Swiss Stage to become one of the first teams eliminated from the event in that phase.
By losing to Korea’s T1–which saw the North American rattle their Korean counterparts to the limit–and reigning LCS champions NRG in consecutive fashion, TL were paired with Vietnam’s GAM Esports as one of the 0-2 matches that decided the first two eliminated teams in the Swiss Stage, thus putting the LCS’ third-seeded team’s Worlds 2023 journey quickly in jeopardy.
Unfortunately for them, despite being favored to progress to the fourth round of Swiss, TL lost 2-1 to GAM, thus completing one of the most improbable results in recent Worlds memory while also simultaneously adding yet another painful chapter to the NA org’s ongoing string of disappointing exits from Worlds.
Following the series against GAM, BLIX talked to TL’s AD Carry Sean “Yeon” Sung for an interview to cover what went wrong in the team’s Worlds 2023 participation, what contributed to the defeat to GAM, how he viewed his individual performance and more.
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Commiserations on that tough loss against GAM. It was a tough way to go out for you and the team. I want to start by asking what's going through your mind right now with this result fresh in your mind.
Sean "Yeon" Sung: It sucks. It sucks being one of the first teams out of Worlds by going 0-3.
BLIX: In the series, TL went down in Game 1, then came back to win Game 2 but then saw GAM snowball the series away in Game 3. Why do you think TL wasn't able to put up the same performance that you guys have shown prior to this event?
Yeon: Personally, as a team, I think we've lost a lot of weapons that we were able to do and suddenly, we were losing our own identity. And towards the end, where we lost on the things that we were winning on, we were trying to get more things and then we started forgetting how to play basic games and concepts that we always used during the entire year. I think we've definitely had forgotten all that as the stress continued. Towards the end, all the scrims were going poorly, and everyone was hitting their limit, in my opinion. The biggest thing for me was that I personally lost a lot of confidence in my play.
BLIX: Why do you think that happened when it came to you and your confidence in particular?
Yeon: I think that everything that [could have] went wrong went wrong for me and, as a team especially, that was not going smooth. Scrims were not going smoothly–just nothing was going right and I could feel my own performance deteriorating very rapidly and day by day as well as the countdown continued for the next days.
BLIX: Then I guess you started feeling that pressure and the gradual rise of stakes as a result, right?
Yeon: Yeah. This is just mostly because I was not playing the best in my opinion. My form was definitely at one of the lowest points in [addition to] my confidence. And as a team, I think we were all just struggling to play a coordinated team game as well.
BLIX: Looking back at this team's run in Worlds 2023, you guys had a promising start with that match against T1, but then things came to this current point. Given the things that you talked about, what do you think is one thing that you feel the team should have been able to do much more easily compared to what was actually shown?
Yeon: I definitely think that we should have held stronger concepts on our weapons and our basic gameplay. I think we definitely were forgetting almost everything. As time went on and the more we lost, the more we tried to do more, so definitely next time, I would make sure I really go through the basics together if we're starting to lose a little bit and figure out why we're losing.
BLIX: Taking the focus on your play in particular, despite the disappointing finish in your first appearance in this competition, you were able to get some good experience by taking on the likes of T1, NRG and GAM. What is one takeaway that you've learned from taking this entire experience of being in Worlds and taking the world's best players?
Yeon: The biggest thing I've learned is definitely that I shouldn't lose my player identity, or I make sure I have a firm grasp on it because I've definitely lost that feeling of what my role should be towards the end of the games, especially.
BLIX: Was there a moment in time in which you started feeling you guys weren't going to do well in this event?
Yeon: It's definitely when you have really bad scrims, you could definitely feel like you're gonna get s**t on, or if my day was really bad on solo-queue plus bad scrims is like that. I think those are the key points where we just don't get anything out of scrims, and we just get rolled, not because the enemy team is too good but because we're lacking in our own basics.
BLIX: With TL’s run coming to an end, NA is now down to two teams in this competition (NRG and Cloud9). What are your thoughts on the other two teams’ potential run in the event from this point onwards?
Yeon: I'm not too sure because I did not pay that close attention [to them], but I hope they do well.
BLIX: I know you already covered your takeaways and how you will use this for next year, but I still want to cover next year. What do you think is going to be the number one thing you're going to be focusing on for next year?
Yeon: I'm definitely going to try to become one of the strongest players instead of trying to figure out what I want to do. I think I figured out what kind of player I want to be now.