The 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs is heating up.

After edging out Suning in Round 1, and knocking Top Esports out of Worlds 2021 contention in Round 2, LNG Esports faced off against 2021 MSI champions Royal Never Give Up in Round 3.

Most casters, analysts, and talent predicted that Royal Never Give Up would take this series to advance to the next round. They were wrong.

LNG icon heavily punished RNG Xiaohu’s deep teleport in game one

LNG Esports were up two games to none against Royal Never Give Up, before pulling through for a game four victory to take the series 3-1.

Still, LNG Esports didn’t win in a way you expected them to. In fact, for most games in this 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs series, they trailed in the mid game. The gold graph says it all.

RNG vs LNG Esports in Round 3 of the 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs, game one post-game results
RNG vs LNG game one results
Credit: LPL

In game one, Royal Never Give Up were up by as much as 6,000 gold over their opponents. At 25 minutes, they were still leading by more than 4,000.

Attempting Baron, they got it down to half HP, but LNG Esports did not jump the gun. Smartly positioning around the pit, they had Hu “Ale” Jia-Le’s Viego on one side, three on the other, and Xie “icon” Tian-Yu at the back.

The moment Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao channeled Teleport, icon held his mark, repositioned slightly, and timed LeBlanc’s Ethereal Chains perfectly onto Kennen the moment he appeared.

Bursting down a key player of Royal Never Give Up’s wombo combo caused the team to scatter. Honing in on their prey, LNG Esports divided and conquered for four kills, the Baron, and most importantly, tempo.

The gold lead narrowed, and when the next Baron was started by RNG, LNG Esports had the confidence to be much more decisive. Before Xiaohu’s Kennen could complete Teleport, LNG took advantage of the 4v4.

icon’s LeBlanc sitting on three items — Luden’s Echo, Rabadon’s Deathcap, and Void Staff — went all in with Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong’s Volibear to eliminate Yan “Wei” Yang-Wei from the fight. Without a jungler, without Smite, without their primary initiator, Royal Never Give Up fell piece by piece, and dropped game one.

LNG Esports play to their team composition’s win condition in game two

Neither team held substantial gold leads in game two — until LNG Esports found a prime opportunity 22 minutes in.

RNG vs LNG Esports in Round 3 of the 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs, game two post-game results
Credit: LPL

Threatening the first Baron by denying vision, LNG Esports forced Royal Never Give Up to facecheck the choke point leading to the river. Here, the value of Liao “Iwandy” Ding-Yang’s unconventional support Trundle paid off.

A well-timed, perfectly placed Pillar of Ice isolated RNG’s Xin Zhao and Rell from the rest of the team. On top of that, LNG had a Teleport advantage, and icon’s Renekton, though 0/7/3, flashed in without hesitation to dive their backline.

Just like game one, this fight caused Royal Never Give Up to lose momentum and control. Once Ale’s Jax scaled up, no one could match him in the side lane, which put LNG Esports up 2-0.

The Realm Warp of the century by LNG icon clutches victory in game four

After Royal Never Give Up clawed back a win in game three, it was do or die in game four. The most intense game of the series saw both teams going back and forth multiple times throughout the long 45-minute game.

RNG vs LNG Esports in Round 3 of the 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs, game four post-game results
Credit: LPL

Once again, the gold graph speaks louder than words. At one point, LNG Esports were up 4,300 gold, but a team fight at Baron 38 minutes in gave RNG the upper hand.

Trading kill for kill, Chen “GALA” Wei on Ezreal played his heart out in the eventual 2v3 with the support of veteran Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming’s Braum, scoring a momentous ace against LNG Esports.

However, just as quick as GALA was about to save the series, it was LNG icon who pulled off the biggest brain move so far in the 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs.

After securing Baron, they spotted GALA in the mid lane solo pushing the wave. Using Realm Warp, he teleported the team right next to Ezreal, who simply could not escape.

By the time Xiaohu’s Mundo completed Teleport, it was too late. In the middle of the enemy team, he too, fell, along with the outcome of the series.

Despite trailing in gold, or in icon’s case, feeding seven deaths on Renekton, LNG Esports persevered. As a team, they’ve shown to be masters at capitalizing on mistakes from mid to late game, and finding opportunities in the moments that matter.

Looking at this series, will an on-form FunPlus Phoenix be sharp and clean enough to close out games fast against LNG?

LNG Esports and FunPlus Phoenix will compete in Round 4 of the 2021 LPL Summer Playoffs upper bracket on August 21 at 5:00 p.m. Watch the English livestream on LPL’s official YouTube and Twitch channel.

READ MORE: LNG icon has played 8 champions in 9 LPL Summer Playoffs games