The latest installment of the greatest rivalry in the NALCS will have large implications on things far beyond the semifinals. The winner will guarantee themselves a trip to Worlds regardless of the outcome of the finals, while the loser may have to play through the gauntlet in order to reach the international tournament. The previous matchup in the playoffs saw CLG taking a close 3-2 victory over TSM in the finals of the spring split, but TSM has beaten CLG twice in the matches they have played in the summer.
The teams both have playoff experience, with each member of the rosters save for TSM’s support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang playing in the finals of the prior split. Many of the players also played in past splits and international tournaments, with all of CLG’s roster returning from their second-place MSI finish.
TSM is coming off the best split in their history, with a 17-1 record. They also were honored with every member of their team making the All-Pro squads, including four first team mentions. Their coach, Parth “Parth” Naidu, won coach of the split.
CLG, by comparison, has had a lackluster summer split. After a spring split victory and an extraordinary run at MSI they have not performed up to expectations. Though they managed to keep their record above .500 with a 10-8 mark, they sat in the middle of the league for much of the season and finished in fourth place. Support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black was the only member of CLG honored with a place on the All-Pro team, though their coach, Tony “Zikzlol” Gray was third in coach of the split voting.
A key matchup in the game will be between the mid laners, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg of TSM and Jae-hyun “Huhi” Choi of CLG. Bjergsen has had another MVP quality season with a 7.1 KDA Ratio and 8.8 CS per minute, both of which are top ten marks in the league. His champion pool is peerless and his play is excellent in almost every game. Look for him to pull out a pocket pick such as Zilean, on which he has a 7-0 record this season, if TSM need a win. Huhi, in comparison, has suffered criticism for his uneven play this split. He is the only player in North America to incorporate Aurelion Sol into his champion pool and may choose to bring it out to mix up the normal pool of mid lane picks.
The bottom lane may also be key to the game, with TSM’s All-Pro first team pair of Biofrost and ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng going up against aphromoo and ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes. Doublelift is acknowledged by many to be the top ADC in the NALCS and has shined this split on Sivir. He has played twelve games on the champion in this split, and has only lost one of them while accruing a 11.2 KDA Ratio. Stixxay, for his part, has played a solid Ashe with a 6-3 record.
The game will hinge on whether Bjergsen and the rest of TSM are able to exert the same of control over the game that they have all season. If this happens, the series will be a three game breeze. However, if aphromoo is able if lead CLG with effective macro play and shotcalling they could pull out the upset in four or five games and lock up their trip to Worlds.
The match will take place on August 21 at 12pm Pacific/3pm Eastern.