With a dominant 3-0 sweep of Gambit Esports in the Grand Finals of ESL One Katowice 2019, Team Secret have fully secured themselves as the top dogs leading to the International 2019 (TI9).

The European powerhouse posted a tournament-best 9-1 record in the Group Stage en route to a sweep of the main event. They first met Ninjas in Pyjamas (NIP) in the first round of the Upper Bracket, followed by Gambit in the Upper Bracket Finals. It was a relatively easy path to the finals for Secret, as they had only one game — their first against NIP — go over 30 minutes.

Gambit 2-0’d the struggling TI8 champions OG to secure a rematch with Secret in the finals.

Game 1 saw Secret run an unusual tri-core of Viper, Morphling, and Bounty Hunter. While Gambit had a more orthodox lineup headed by a carry Terrorblade, they could do little to fight back against an overwhelming assault by Secret that forced the GG call at 31 minutes. Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg on Bounty Hunter was particularly instrumental in controlling Gambit in the midgame, giving his teammates the needed space to take over the game.

Game 2 saw Gambit put up a more of a fight against Secret, who opted for a high-damage carry duo of Vengeful Spirit and Troll Warlord. Both teams drew the laning stage and most of the midgame fights, but Gambit looked to pull away with a net worth advantage at 28 minutes. Once the late game came however, Michał “Nisha” Jankowski on Troll Warlord proved too much to handle–  with Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng on Vengeful Spirit finishing with a game-high 11 kills to boot — Secret eventually turned things around to take the game after 44 minutes.

Both teams looked to decide things in the lategame by picking up hard carries, with Secret going for Antimage while Gambit went with Naga Siren. Even so, both teams opted for early aggression to better set their respective carries up for success. However, it was Secret who ended up with the better trades, with Zai on Enigma crucial in controlling the teamfights. Even Naga Siren trying to stall the game, Secret was unstoppable as they forced Gambit to concede after 37 minutes.

Secret took home the grand prize of US$125,000, while Gambit settled for a US$65,000 in consolation. Zai also won the tournament MVP award and will be taking home a Mercedes Benz for it.

Having already secured a direct invite to TI9 by winning the Chongqing Major over Virtus Pro, Secret are now the early front-runners for the Aegis of Champions. While it is too early to tell whether Secret’s captain, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, will become the first-ever two-time TI winner or not, his team is clearly showing they are the top contenders this year.