The semifinals of the 2023 League of Legends (LoL) World Championship kicked off on Saturday (11 November) with a clash between two LoL Pro League (LPL) powerhouses in Weibo Gaming (WBG) and Bilibili Gaming (BLG) for a spot in the Grand Finals.
And after an intense best-of-five series, WBG defeated BLG in a 3-2 upset to get one step closer to the Summoner's Cup.
Although having different trajectories throughout the LPL Summer Season, both BLG and WBG had a pretty similar journey at Worlds. BLG placed first in the LPL Regular Summer season, earning them 23 Championship points and a spot in the World Championship.
The squad had to go through five rounds in the Swiss Stage at Worlds, where they won their first match against KT Rolster but lost their second match against JDG. They returned in Round 3 and won against Fnatic 2-1.
After being handed a 2-0 defeat by T1, they bounced back in the final round of the Swiss Stage, conquering G2 with a 2-1 win to secure a spot in the playoffs.
In an electrifying quarterfinals showdown, BLG faced off against LoL Championship Korea (LCK) Champions Gen.G. The match unfolded in a tense 5-game battle, culminating in a thrilling 3-2 upset victory for BLG.
Meanwhile, despite finishing sixth in the Summer Regular Season and being eliminated in the Lower Bracket Quarterfinals of the LPL Summer Playoffs, Weibo Gaming secured a spot at Worlds through the LPL Regional Finals, where they caused an upset by defeating the 2021 World Champions, EDward Gaming.
At Worlds, Weibo faced scepticism due to their inconsistency. Although they defeated NRG in the first round, they suffered a crushing loss to the LoL European Championship (LEC) first seed, G2, in the second round. Another setback followed in the third round against the South Korean team KT Rolster.
However, WBG made a strong comeback in the fourth round, sweeping MAD Lions 2-0. They continued their success by taking down another LEC team, Fnatic, 2-1 in the fifth round, securing qualification for the Knockout Stage.
In the Quarterfinals, WBG continued to prove that they were the dark horses of the competition, completing a 3-0 sweep against fellow underdog team NRG.
How Weibo pulled off the 3-2 upset against BLG
In the first game, WBG went for Rumble for the top lane, Neeko mid, and then prioritised Aphelios and Milio in the bot lane. An unconventional Bel’veth was also picked in the jungle to round out their team composition.
On the flip side, BLG adhered to the current meta, selecting Xayah and Rell in the bot lane, Syndra mid, Vi in the jungle, and Aatrox top.
Weibo completely dominated the laning phase and punished BLG in team fights. Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok on Rumble tilted the balance in WBG's favour, creating a 5,000-gold lead. At the same time, Wei "Weiwei" Bo-Han’s Bel’veth became unstoppable, making it extremely rough for BLG to find opportunities to make a comeback.
And after a dominant 29-minute encounter, WBG take down BLG’s Nexus to win the first game.
In the second game, BLG prioritised Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin signature Jax, and Peng "XUN" Li-Xun’s Vi in the jungle. They then took a page off T1’s playbook, bringing out Sylas in the mid lane, and the Varus-Ashe combination in the bot lane.
Weibo Gaming started off on the right foot once again, with TheShy continuing to shut down Bin again in the top lane.
However, BLG found a way to cripple WBG’s bot lane, giving way for BLG to gain a gold lead against their opponents.
As Weibo fell apart in the bot lane, BLG capitalised on their mistakes, winning team fights to get a gold lead soar up to 12,000.
BLG were able to claim the Baron to attempt to close out the second game. However, despite BLG’s Baron buff, WBG held on, stopping their opponents from taking their team’s base.
And finally, after a 32-minute encounter and a 24-12 kill lead, BLG finally destroyed WBG’s base to win the second game and extend the series.
Both teams tried to mix it up in the third game, with Weibo Gaming taking the Varus-Ashe combination for themselves, and picking Graves as an unconventional top lane pick for TheShy. They then rounded their team composition up with Syndra mid for follow-up CC and Poppy in the jungle to protect their Double ADC combination.
Meanwhile, BLG tried to add more attack damage to their mid lane with Akali, and attempting to counter WBG’s bot lane with Kalista and Caitlyn in the bot lane. They then picked Aatrox for the top lane and Vi in the jungle.
Weibo Gaming’s TheShy continued to dominate until the mid-game, allowing his team to gain a small gold lead and take down four turrets.
BLG tried to take down Weibo’s backline time and again, but failed, with TheShy’s Graves so far ahead, obliterating Xun and Bin over and over in team fights and Weiwei’s Poppy protecting their carries all the way.
BLG scattered, desperate to take any win in any team fight, but failed to push any lanes forward, or find any wins as the game progressed.
And after just 27 minutes and a 13-4 kill lead, WBG destroyed BLG’s Nexus to win the second game and take their team to match point.
In the fourth game, BLG continued to go for what they know, taking Orianna mid, Sejuani in the Jungle, and Jax top. They then took Aphelios and Bard in the bot lane.
Weibo continued to push the envelope in the drafting phase, taking the tanky Rell in the Jungle and Syndra mid, but going for Ashe and Heimerdinger in the bot lane—then to everyone’s delight, bringing out Quinn top to counter Jax and Sejuani.
Weibo made early game mistakes in the river while contesting for the first Dragon that resulted in two early kills against them, and the gold going to Elk’s Aphelios’s pocket.
BLG continued to successful pick off WBG in team fights, but Weibo controlled the map, making it hard for BLG to capitalise on their Rift Herald win.
However, BLG’s Luo "ON" Wen-Jun were able to set up a lot of spells using Bard, and keeping his team protected and mobile with the “magical journey.”
With most of WBG’s team members severely behind, BLG continued to snowball with Zeng "Yagao" Qi and ON popping off in a team fight for the Baron that finished off WBG in a clean ace.
And after a dominant 26-minute match, BLG destroyed WBG’s base with an 18-3 kill lead to win the game and take the series to Silver Scrapes.
In the fifth game decider, Weibo went back to basics, prioritising Maokai in the jungle, and Azir mid. They then went for Ornn top, and Kalista bot, with Renata Glasc.
Meanwhile BLG went for K’sante top, Sejuani in the jungle, and then prioritised long range with Jayce mid, and Caitlyn-Lux in the bot lane.
Weibo began well in the laning phase, with the bot placing pressure on Elk and ON, after a successful Maokai gank. The tournament’s Dark Horses continued to control the game, with BLG low on damage early on, and Weibo’s Kalista ahead of everyone else in the game.
BLG started focusing on TheShy, allowing them to catch up and keeping the gold dead even. In a fight for the Dragon, BLG take over the team fight, knocking down Ornn early, push out the carries and take the fight to gain a gold advantage.
However, Weibo found a way to turn the tides around again, winning a crucial team fight after BLG attempted to steal the Baron. BLG fell apart, finding it difficult to move around with crippling ultimates from Renata, Maokai, and Ornn.
With Weibo claiming Soul Point, BLG rushed the Baron allowing their team to still remain in the game. However, WBG won another team fight for the Dragon Soul, with Wang "Light" Guang-Yu’s Kalista stealing the Dragon and Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song’s Renata turning the fight around with the Hostile Takeover ultimate.
Although BLG fought til the very end to prevent Weibo from destroying their Nexus, Weibo Gaming barreled down on them at their base to end the game in 35 minutes with a 20-15 kill lead.
With their victory, Weibo Gaming will move forward to the grand finals, where they are guaranteed at least a second-place finish at Worlds.
This will be Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao's first time in the Grand Finals at Worlds, after seven attempts at taking the only title that evaded him his entire career. On top of this, it would be Crisp's second time in the Grand Finals, after winning Worlds in 2019 under FunPlus Phoenix.
This is also TheShy's second time at the Grand Finals, after winning Worlds in 2018 under Invictus Gaming, also taking the semifinals Player of the Game honours.
Meanwhile, BLG bow out of the competition in 3rd-4th place and will be taking home US$178,000.
Weibo Gaming will be facing the winner of the semifinal match between JDG and T1 at the Grand Finals. The Worlds 2023 Grand Finals will be on 19 November (Sunday) at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul at 4:00 PM Singapore Time.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.