At day one of The International Dota 2 Championships, there were heartbreaking conclusions and Cinderella stories alike.
After a majestic opening ceremony featuring a full orchestral performance and a welcome message on stage from Valve CEO Gabe Newell, TI5 opened with a pair of best-of-three matchups.
First, Chinese team LGD faced off against Russian squad Empire. Game one saw early, effective aggression from Empire that set LGD back to their base. But key mistakes from Empire allowed LGD to find their way back into the game, and the Chinese players soon claimed victory.
Empire reasserted themselves in game two, outdrafting LGD with a key pick in the form of the hero Anti-mage, decisively beating back their opponents. This would prove to be a short-lived triumph, as LGD ultimately won out in game three, securing their place in the top six of TI5, and guaranteeing them at least $1.2 million in winnings regardless of their future performance in the tournament.
The next best-of-three featured one of the breakout success stories of this year's International. Chinese team CDEC fought their way through the wild-card brackets after narrowly losing the Chinese regional qualifier to rivals Ehome, putting on a dominant performance at this year's group stages. CDEC continued this trend in a 2-0 thrashing of the talented but inconsistent Cloud9 squad, an otherwise fast series marred in part by network issues at event venue Key Arena, which necessitated almost forty minutes of delays in game two. Like LGD, CDEC has now secured their place in the TI5 top six, along with at least $1.2 million in prize money.
Both Empire and Cloud9 now find themselves in TI5's lower bracket, just one best-of-three loss from elimination.
But it was an even more dire scenario for the former International champions who found their way back to this year's competition, as each of those three teams faced elimination in a best-of-one match.
Korean team MVP.Phoenix faced off against TI4 champions Newbee in a best-of-one match that would send the loser home. Newbee had struggled in the group stages, eliciting questions about their staying power after their surprise run to win the title at TI4, and the Chinese squad ultimately fell in a close match.
Struggling fan favorite Na'Vi (pictured above) also sat on the brink of an early return to their native Ukraine. Their opponent was TI4 runner-ups Vici Gaming, who had had their own stumbles in the group stage after a difficult year with high profile lineup and position changes. Still, the Chinese team was able to eek out a narrow win against the Ukrainian squad, who still walked away from the main stage to loud chants of "Na'Vi."
The night closed with TI2 winners Invictus Gaming facing off against MVP.Hot6, an offshoot of MVP.Pheonix. IG had performed inconsistently in TI5's group stages, but proved more than a match for Hot6, taking an early, even game and turning it around in convincing fashion in one of the faster games of the day. This leaves IG as the only remaining TI champion competing in this year's International. Before IG and MVP.Hot6's game, Russian team Virtus Pro also eliminated dark horse Fnatic in a similarly commanding performance.
The International will continue on Tuesday with the beginning of upper bracket matches. Learn more about where to watch TI5, and learn more about watching competitive Dota 2 in our video below.