Its only been a year.
It feels like forever since Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg was in the mid-lane on a team. Maybe a commentary on me becoming older, potentially also a commentary on just how fast pace the esports environment is. His announcement after DAMWON and G2 Esports semi-finals match-up in 2020 stunned fans. While maybe an attempt to cope with the loss, fans were seemingly…fine.
I was driving to the grocery store at the time with an ex-girlfriend — a TSM fan — when the news broke. Her face when reading the news was similar to the face made after driving over a large pothole. It was an expression that could only be described as a ‘panicked calmness.’
Me: So, should we add the ABC store to the list of stops?
Ex: Nope. You know what, good for him. He’s going to be an excellent coach.
That seemed to be the common theme of responses — he’s going to kill it as a coach. While clearly there was some sadness to his departure, some shock as well, people were at peace. It comes with the context.
Prior to the 2020 season, it was two straight years of failed potential from TSM.
In 2018, the team would throw Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung into a line-up constructed to contend. Pairing his signing with the signings of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez, it was doomed from the start. Despite an amazing rookie season on Phoenix1, the jungler still needed time to learn the ropes and disappointing performances from Mithy kept TSM from Worlds for the first time in their history.
In 2019, the team would once again bring in a developmental piece. This time, it would be the signing of Turkish top-laner Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik. Even with high expectations for the line-up, head coach Anthony “Zikz” Gray and company did an excellent job at putting the top-laner in a position to succeed. A season with so much potential instead would collapse for a known reason but unknown causes. Several changes to the jungle role curbed any and every sense of progression.
Everyone within the TSM organization knew something had to change. Extending their franchise mid-laner’s contract to November 2021 was the start but more importantly, it would set the tone that an end was potentially in sight. It also seemed as if Bjergsen had say in the creation of this new line-up.
Spring wasn’t the greatest start.
His first LCS head coaching stint since 2015, Zhang “Peter” “Peter Zhang” Yi failed to develop a sense of direction for the team. Drafting choices would be criticized, especially their jungle Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. He would become another victim of TSM’s long list of failed jungle talents and his reputation would be smeared as a result of a leaked phone call from TSM’s then-President Leena Xu. The key offseason signing of Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup wouldn’t amount to much as he failed to establish any rhythm with Vincent “Biofrost” Wang outside of their Xayah-Rakan performances.
Meanwhile, Bjergsen was having a respectable split– topping mid-laners in gold difference at ten minutes, heavily involved in kill participation and wasn’t burdening his team with pointless deaths.
But he wouldn’t make an All-Pro appearance. Bjergsen was officially getting the LeBron James treatment. Sure, you’re really good. But you’re not first place so we’re going to give it to someone else that is overperforming their expectations.
TSM would complete an exhaustive overhaul team — new jungle, new coach, new marksman.
And it is what makes Bjergsen’s 2020 Summer performance so special.
It was a statistically brain-melting performance from him in the summer. It was still great without his name connected to it, don’t get me wrong.
|Rank Among Starting Mid-Laners|
But the story on the rift spoke to just how excellent he was. Promoting Mingyi “Spica” Lu to full-time starter felt like a death sentence however it would be his partnership with Bjergsen that would completely change TSM’s season.
In the summer of 2020, “TSM” stood for “Top Side of the Map.” Broken Blade would rank in the top three among top-laners in highest amount of jungle pressure. This would be complimented by Bjergsen preparing his lane and sometimes tracking with Spica to make a play in the top lane. It was such a welcomed adjustment from Bjergsen. Compared to other LCS mid-laners, Bjergsen was in the lower quartile of time spent in the mid-lane — roughly 30-40% per game.
Influencing the top of the map not only was critical in turning around TSM’s season, it was very much needed. Despite bringing back a legend in Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, it was not a great year for the marksman. Benched from Team Liquid due to motivational issues, he struggled to return to form. More importantly, TSM would swap out his support multiple times to attempt to fix what was truly a Doublelift problem.
In their grand finals matchup against FlyQuest, TSM would use this strategy to perfection. Colin “Solo” Earnest would be on the receiving end of a ton of praise after substituting in for the team and putting them on the right track. However, TSM did not care and instead would not allow him to play the game of League of Legends.
It worked. TSM won.
Bjergsen beat out an incredible Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen for first-team All-Pro in the summer for a reason. While not receiving the recognition of MVP for the regular season, he would receive five “Player of the Series” awards in TSM’s five victories. There’s a reason why TSM would field Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage after Bjergsen’s retirement because of similarities in the style shown. It was one of the biggest carrying jobs we had seen.
And then, their Worlds performance sucked.
Historically speaking, Bjerg has not been great at Worlds. It has been the biggest blemish on his resume. Is it a ‘nerves’ issue? Are international teams better about scouting him and TSM? In 2020, was it a COVID-environment problem?
Probably a mix of all three.
Bjergsen not showing up at Worlds truly killed any chance of TSM winning any matches. Despite getting leads in his lane, Broken Blade still showed struggles at taking full advantage of the resources. Doublelift still wasn’t performing well. Spica would have an excellent Worlds appearance given the circumstances. But Bjergsen couldn’t do Bjergsen things. Missed skill shots were of a plenty and mental lapses contributed to the 0-6 performance in the group stages.
Maybe it also lead to his decision to retire?
Bjergsen isn’t just returning, he’s returning into a super team situation.
Potentially for the second time in his career, the lineup won’t be fixated around his abilities. The construction of the rumored lineup is around the craft of Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. They brought in a better marksman, brought in a top laner that is better experienced with a high amount of resources and now there is Bjergsen. While he is the big-name signing, the headline that will draw the most attention, he won’t be the most important player to the success of this Team Liquid line-up.
It really does seem like this will be a year where Bjergsen will looking to really lock down the middle part of the map so that CoreJJ and Lucas “Santorin” Larsen can roam free. The community is excited to see his return to the stage however the platform, the team, the situation, it isn’t normal. We’ll learn a lot about this team relatively quickly. We’ll learn what the expectations are, what needs to be done.
And maybe, we’ll see the next evolution to Bjergsen’s game.
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