Team Spirit sweep LGD to become the first team in TI 2023's Grand Finals

Team Spirit will have the chance to become the second two-time The International champions after OG became the first in 2018 and 2019.

Team Spirit are the first team in the Grand Finals of The International 2023 after they soundly swept LGD Gaming, 2-0, in the upper bracket finals. (Photo: Valve Software)
Team Spirit are the first team in the Grand Finals of The International 2023 after they soundly swept LGD Gaming, 2-0, in the upper bracket finals. (Photo: Valve Software)

The second two-time Dota 2 world champion in the game's history could very well be crowned at The International (TI) 2023.

TI 2021 champions Team Spirit became the first Grand Finalists of TI 2023 after they soundly swept Chinese powerhouse LGD Gaming, 2-0, in the upper bracket finals on Sunday (29 October).

Spirit and LGD have been the two most dominant teams of the tournament heading into their upper bracket final clash.

The TI 2021 champions had a perfect 10-0 romp through the Road to the International Group Stage. They finished as the top seed of Group A with a spotless 8-0 record in phase one then bulldozed through North America's Shopify Rebellion in phase two en route to the Road to the International Playoffs.

In the first two rounds of the upper bracket, Spirit scored two-straight 2-1 victories to advance to the upper bracket finals, first over fellow Eastern European team then against Western European heavyweights Team Liquid.

Meanwhile, LGD finished the Group Stage as the top seed of Group D with a 7-1 record, which included a surprising 2-0 sweep over three-time Major champions Gaimin Gladiators. The Chinese squad then soundly swept South America's Vivo Keyd Stars to earn an upper bracket berth in the Playoffs.

LGD cruised their way to the upper bracket finals with back-to-back 2-0 sweeps over Eastern Europe's 9Pandas and fellow Chinese powerhouse Azure Ray.

While a spot in the Grand Finals was at stake, this latest clash between Spirit and LGD also had added drama from the history of these two teams.

The current LGD roster may be very different from the one that played in TI 2021, Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang and Zhang "y`" Yiping do still remain from that roster. Meanwhile, Spirit's new midlaner, Denis "Larl" Sigitov, will be looking to win his first Aegis while helping his teammates claim their second.

As is only fitting for any match between Spirit and LGD, game one was arguably the best of the entire tournament so far that also featured throwback picks to their TI 2021 finals clash.

Spirit drafted a high-scaling lineup with a lot of teamfight prowess, featuring Terrorblade for Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk, Kunkka for Larl, Shadow Demon for Myroslaw "Mira" Kolpalkov, and Elder Titan for Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov. Of course, Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov was on his signature Magnus pick.

Meanwhile, LGD looked to match their opponents with Chaos Knight for Guo "shiro" Xuanang, Centaur Warrunner for Li "Niu" Kongbo, Grimstroke for Lin "planet" Hao, and Ancient Apparition for y`. NothingToSay also had his signature mid Tinker.

Both teams were on relatively even footing through the early to mid game, before Spirit started pulling ahead at the 30-minute mark. But while the TI 2021 champions dominated the teamfights that took place out in the open, they had trouble pushing up LGD's high ground.

As a result, the action was stalled well into the late game, where both teams played just about the best Dota we've seen this year so far in a chaotic struggle for supremacy.

Collapse pulled off his usual magic on Magnus to continually pick off LGD heroes with Skewer and land multiple-hero Reverse Polarities.

However, the Chinese powerhouse would not back down as planet made good use of the Dark Portrait ability from his hero's Aghanim's Scepter upgrade on Yatoro, effectively giving LGD another hero in clashes. With Niu also becoming a nigh-unkillable tank, Spirit's attempts to end the game were constantly being repelled.

But while LGD's high ground defense continued to hold up, their struggles in teamfights outside of their base also persisted. As a result, Spirit's net worth lead only grew larger, which in turn allowed them to continually probe the enemy defenses for weaknesses.

Just like in TI 2021, Collapse was the difference-maker for Spirit in this game. Having acquired his hero's Horn Toss ability from Aghanim's Scepter, Collapse landed one Horn Toss-Skewer combo after another to score pickoffs on LGD and force them to use buybacks.

Despite LGD's best efforts to defend, they eventually used up all of their buybacks and could no longer muster a defense to stop Spirit from taking the game one win after a 76-minute thriller.

That hard-fought game one ended with Spirit narrowly leading in kills 37-35. Yatoro topped the kill board with 19 kills and 13 assists on six deaths while Collapse added nine kills and 20 assists on seven deaths.

Meanwhile, Niu put up a valiant 12 kills and 19 assists on eight deaths in the loss.

In game two, both teams looked to take things late with hypercarry picks on each side.

Spirit went with Morphling for Yatoro while putting Collapse on Chaos Knight as a secondary carry. Larl was on Kunkka once again, Mira had Dark Willow, and Miposhka picked Treant Protector to round out the lineup.

Meanwhile, LGD got Spectre for shiro while denying Spirit the Magnus pick by giving it to NothingToSay. The rest of their composition featured Niu on Doom, planet on Grimstroke, and y` on Witch Doctor.

Spirit built up a lead from the get-go, as Collapse shined in a dominant laning stage for the team despite playing a carry hero you won't typically see in the offlane. The TI 2021 champions also made a concerted effort to shut down shiro, scoring five kills on him through the first 23 minutes of the game.

Thanks to his team's hot start, Yatoro quickly came online and wreaked havoc on LGD in the midgame teamfights even as they started showing signs of life. By the 42-minute mark, Yatoro had already maxed out his inventory with Silver Edge, Swift Blink, Black King Bar, Manta Style, and Linken's Sphere, with his Power Treads relegated to the backpack.

Despite LGD's best efforts to claw their way back into the series, they could do little to stop Yatoro and Spirit from securing the 2-0 series sweep in 47 minutes.

Yatoro paced Spirit's 33-22 kill lead in the closeout game with an excellent line of 14 kills and eight assists on just one death. Collapse also pitched in with 12 kills and seven assists on seven deaths.

With their victory, Team Spirit have guaranteed themselves at least a second place finish as well as US$375,589 in winnings. They will await their opponents in the Grand Finals, where the Aegis of Champions the grand prize of US$1.4 million will be up for grabs.

Meanwhile, LGD Gaming will have a chance to force a rematch with Spirit in the lower bracket finals, where they will face the winner of the lower bracket semifinals between Gaimin Gladiators and Azure Ray.

TI 2023's Finals Weekend will be hosted in the Climate Pledge Arena from 27 to 29 October in Seattle. There, the eight remaining teams will be battling to decide who will be crowned as this year's Dota 2 world champions.

For everything you need to know about TI 2023, check here.

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