Chinese Dota Players Try to Soothe Grief with Conspiracy Theories and Memes

Following the conclusion of this year’s finals of the Dota 2 International Championship (Ti10), Chinese team PSG.LGD (LGD) dominated its bracket, only to lose the finals to the dark horse Team Spirit (TS) from Russia. While countless Chinese Dota players beat their chest in sorrow, LGD's sudden loss of mojo and enigmatic plays in the finals also left people confused and sparked heated discussion on the Internet.

The finals were played in a best-of-five format, with TS winning the first two games in a row. LGD then gradually found their form in games three and four, tying the series 2-2. Team Spirit found an inventive way to play the hero Magnus, utilizing an item in-game called Aghanim’s Shard to give Magnus unparalleled mobility and gaining an advantage in initiating group fights.

To everyone’s surprise, LGD didn't ban Magnus in the Final Game, but rather let TS use their signature hero to do their best work and take home the championship title.

After the game, Chinese players who had difficulty accepting LGD’s defeat have been hanging together on social media while expressing their puzzlement over LGD's play. The phrase "why not ban Magnus" was topped on Weibo hot search list, and countless memes brought a bit of comfort to the following painful Monday.

The topic “Why not ban Magnus” has over 70 million views on Weibo the next morning

Some players are even bolder to voice their doubts, questioning if "xiao8 and LGD ate spinach", meaning if they’re involved in match-fixing.

LGD's coach Zhang “xiao8” Ning, a former Ti4 champion, has been repeatedly rumored to be involved in match-fixing and gambling on match results. Zhang’s ex-wife also posted screenshots that look to be Zhang betting against his own team, which quickly went viral.

“xiao8” Zhang’s ex-wife posting a screenshot of him betting against his own team

 According to the official prize-pool distribution, the winner of the entire series was awarded 18.2 million USD (about 110 million CNY). This may seem like a huge sum of money, however after taxes, splitting between the organization and other parties, the actual take home for the individual players and coaches is relatively small. At least when compared to the money they can make from streaming, personal sponsorships, and of course, match-fixing. Additionally LGD previously had a financial crisis, and rumors claim they wanted to take a bigger cut of the prize money. It’s not difficult to see why fans have speculated thusly.

After Vladimir Putin congratulated TS for winning the championship, some new conspiracy theories also surfaced, such as "The hidden hand turns out to be the KGB" "the KGB monitored team LGD’s communication and directed TS on the spot" "Putin took an oil company as a bet". Such gossip is of course mostly for laughs, that being said, the sentiments behind these sorts of statements are felt by many fans.

Players Photoshopped a picture of Putin riding a mammoth. Mammoth is the nickname for Magnus in China, despite it actually being a rhino.

With higher expectations comes greater disappointment. Since the first Ti in 2011, Chinese teams have won 3 championships and have made accounted for half of the runners-up, but it’s also been 5 years since their last world title. While Chinese Dota players are eager to see a Chinese team hoist the Aegis trophy again, coming so close only to be beaten in the end is a bitter pill for fans to swallow.

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