The second annual eSports Varsity made a triumphant return last week, seeing Imperial take home the trophy after seeing off UCL in a series of matches. Over the course of numerous matches, across seven different games, players from both sides experienced joy, anguish, and success, in a gripping day of gaming.

The day started with a Bo5 series of Overwatch - the crowd favourite.

Despite a bit of a shaky start, a substitution was made after the first loss and Imperial came out with a bang, taking all 3 games with significant margins. The Overwatch competitive pool has grown rapidly over the year, with four Imperial teams (of 7-8 players each) looking to participate in the coming season of the National University Esports League (NUEL). Part of this increase in number is due to the standard of playing demonstrated at Varsity by the 1st team, who are currently comprised only of players ranked Master or Grandmaster (top 3% and 1% of the game). They train quite often and rigorously, discussing strategies in detail. Clearly, their efforts did not go to waste as they showed UCL who was boss. The MVP was Raymond “Lood” Li, the captain of the team.

Gauging by the sound of the crowd, it was very obvious that OW Varsity was very entertaining overall. The best moment was definitely our mercy throwing off their widow with some 900IQ strafing (side-stepping) on Temple of Anubis! (there’s a clip to this moment and the crowd loved it. Basically our player was taunting UCL sniper).

In the Starcraft 2 matches Imperial made short work of UCL, winning four out of the five matches, across games that included all races. The matches were casted by IC alumni, who were able to provide stellar support from the sidelines, ensuring a tension-filled experience for all those watching.

Imperial came into the League of Legends matches with a sense of having something to prove, after their team was placed lower than UCL’s a few months ago in the NUEL. They seemed to take UCL’s team by surprise, then, when they won the first two games within an hour – a rather speedy turn of events when matches usually last 40 minute apiece. Imperial showed a great deal of coordination and overall skill, going for a vision-oriented strategy that saw them placing more than double the number of wards placed by UCL. MVP went to Chris “Carniflexin” Swain, for his stellar performance across Ryze and Azir. Chris and his team will also be participating in a LoL tournament against Cambridge this coming week – as a medic who has transferred from Cambridge to Imperial, it will be interesting to see how Chris fares against his alma mater!

This sense of needing to prove something continued in the Counter Strike: Global Offensive match, which was played on the map de_inferno – the same map where UCL beat Imperial last year in a best-of-two tournament. Only one match was played this time, but that was long enough for Imperial to stake their claim, playing a solid terrorist side in the first half, and facing down a UCL side reluctant to be defeated in the second. Overall the match went to ICL, with the final score standing at 16-8.

There was less of a sense of needing to prove something in the Rocket League matches, but nevertheless Imperial dominated in the best-of-five tournament, winning 3:1 – an impressive comeback after the first match went convincingly to UCL. Two close games ran into overtime, but the players were all very friendly, helped out by a great shoutcaster highlighting every “Calculated” shot and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. A number of own-goals highlighted the frenetic, high-octane nature of the matches, which were followed by relaxed games of dropshot (where UCL won), and hoops (where ICL triumphed).

The matches across the rest of the day highlighted some of the skills of the highest-performing players at Imperial and UCL. Both teams had a top-1000 player in Europe for their Hearthstone matches, which were carried by UCL after an unlucky turn of events. The casters again managed to get everyone pumped, and there was a great energy among the spectators. This energy could also be found in the Super Smash Bros Melee matches, in which UCL entered with an advantage, having had more frequent practice in tournaments. After not taking the first match too seriously, however, UCL realised what a threat Imperial could be, and carried the next two matches. The final match delivered a raucous turn of events, as Imperial very nearly made a comeback, taking none continuous stocks – not quite enough to win the match, but more than enough to leave us on the edge of our seats.

There was only time to play one match of DoTA, but both teams made sure it was worth watching. UCL entered the match with two top 1000 in Europe players, while Imperial had one former top-1000 on their side. Picking hero, Imperial managed to hold their own at the beginning of the game, but a couple of bad choices meant things snowballed, and the victory went to UCL.

While naturally highlighting the skills of players across both sides, the eSports varsity also went a long way in showcasing the importance of getting in great casters, and how the audience members really made the day one to remember – no wonder tickets were sold out! Keep an eye out next year, when Imperial will head to UCL for away matches, and will be keen to defend their title.