With a five-game victory over Evil Geniuses in the lower bracket finals of the 2022 League of Legends Championship in front of a crowded United Center in Chicago on Saturday, 100 Thieves moved significantly closer to winning the region’s most coveted League of Legends prize and their second championship. In the North American playoffs, this was the eighth of eleven series to go the full distance.

How the defending champions EG would perform without ace AD carry Danny, who skipped Finals weekend in Chicago to concentrate on his mental health, immediately emerged as the weekend’s most important topic. Muhammed Hasan “Kaori” Entürk, an Academy ADC, was chosen to take the place of the Rookie of the Year from the previous year. The Turkish player, who was 21 years old, was a star in the academy scene in 2022 and seized a significant opportunity to establish himself on the largest platform.

Similar to how the LCS Summer Playoffs as a whole, the storylines and expectations surrounding this series changed drastically before and throughout the showdown between the league’s two reigning champions. After an erratic playoff and the revelation of the last-minute roster switch, EG went from being an unbeatable first seed to being huge underdogs. However, throughout the series, after showing signs of their previous form early on, they returned to being champions-apparent. Following their ascent to the godlike form that propelled them to victory last year, 100T continued that momentum into their playoff run, which featured a reverse sweep of “superteam” Team Liquid. 100T struggled through the regular split.

Despite all of that, Cloud9’s comeback was the highlight of the tournament as they loomed at the back of the bracket and were now playing the greatest League of Legends in the area.

If the strain of the situation wasn’t enough, EG’s game one draft, which selected Lucian and Nami for the first time in all of 2022, increased the pressure on Kaori to perform. Kaori and Vulcan, though, were excellent. They made their breakthrough by taking advantage of a poor top lane battle by 100T, while top laners Ornn of Impact and Viktor of jojopyun performed excellent teamfights to assist Kaori’s razor-sharp Lucian play. Azir and Senna’s combination in 100T had little chance of going online in an EG front-to-back domination display.

As they had banned Lucian in the first cycle, 100T issued a challenge to the Geniuses’ replacement AD carry, challenging him to play a different style in game two. Sivir and Yuumi were “handshaken” into EG’s Zeri and Lulu lane by the two sides. In game two, jojopyun on Akali swiftly rose to the status of rookie superstar. He recorded many single kills against Abbedagge for his first significant performance in the series. But when Ssumday’s Fiora, which he counterpicked into Impact’s Aatrox, made mincemeat of EG to put his team within striking distance, 100T managed to change the game’s momentum. The victory for 100T was secured by a last interception on jojopyun (in an otherwise excellent game for the rookie).

Despite a side change in game three, Abbedagge won Azir for EG’s third consecutive game, Lucian and Nami returned to the bottom lane, while Jojopyun and Impact secured some of their most recognizable champions in Sylas and Gangplank. At the 14-minute mark, the first Herald collided with the Thieves’ bottom lane tier one tower, giving the bottom side of EG’s map a massive 6,000-gold advantage. It was by far either side’s most commanding opening period in the series up to that moment. The Geniuses followed the game plan perfectly: bottom lane takes the lead, passes the ball to Sylas and Gangplank, and lets the game finish itself.The biggest win margin in the whole 2022 competition season was the 21,700-gold difference.

Despite two victories on Lucian and Nami and the combo being available in the draft for EG, they decided to break with tradition and lock in Sivir and Yuumi instead. Taliyah for Abbedagge and Sion for Impact both made their series debuts. Over 3,000 net gold were won by 100T thanks to a sharp, assured fight around the first Drake of the match, giving them a sizable advantage as the mid-game began. The Thieves slowly drained the defending champions of their money and objectives as the minutes ticked by and nothing happened on the map as they trudged into a crucial fifth game.

The last game of the day saw brand-new draft modifications from both teams, with Soraka and Gwen for 100T entering the stage for the first time and Ahri for EG. The early game did have activity that led to a stolen Herald for EG, nabbing them two towers in the top lane in return for two dragons for 100T. However, no kills were swapped at all until roughly the 19-minute mark in a tense, winner-take-all game. Thanks to an Azir ultimate guillotine during the battle surrounding the third dragon, the Thieves were able to win the game. Ocean Soul and the series were theirs ten minutes later.

The next League of Legends match for EG will take place on September 29 at the Worlds Play-In stage in Mexico City. More importantly, 100T has secured a position in their third consecutive domestic finals and punched their ticket to the Group Stage in New York City. They will compete against C9 in this edition, which begins on Sunday at 3 p.m. CT in front of another sold-out audience in Chicago.