- UPDATE: 03/02 — From March 9, the LPL will start to organize three matches (in Bo3) per day instead of two to catch up with the western leagues. With this more sustained pace of competition, the regular season of Spring Split 2020 will end on April 19th.
Riot Games has just announced the resumption of the LPL, the Chinese League of Legends professional division, which has been suspended since the end of January due to the coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan province. Officials have moved up the date of Monday 9 March to restart the competition, while the return of western broadcasting is expected from 15 March on both Youtube and Twitch.tv. Prior to the official resumption, the organizers had planned live broadcasted training sessions between the different teams.
However, the Chinese branch of Riot Games has set its conditions in the face of an increasingly uncertain health situation in the country. The rest of the Spring Split 2020 matches will be played online "until the possibility of reopening access to the stadiums in a peaceful manner", says Riot Games in its press release. To ensure the fairness and impartiality of the matches, the league has planned to have referees on-site at each match, a format never before seen in the history of professional leagues.
As a final requirement of the LPL, all players will be subject to a controlled quarantine period of fourteen days before returning to their gaming house. Players immobilized in quarantine zones will be able to resume competition from home.
A championship at a standstill as the Mid-Season Invitational approaches
The LPL's statements do not commit any changes to the schedule of Spring Split 2020, in a league with the largest number of teams in the world: seventeen in total. In China, only one week of competition could be played before the outbreak, while the LEC is already entering its sixth week of matches in Berlin.
In an earlier statement, John Needham, Head of Esports at Riot Games, also indicated that the date of the Mid-Season Invitational had been postponed due to the situation in China. The event — which still has neither an official date nor venue — would be able to host this year's world champion region, despite a significant delay.
Of all the possible avenues, that of a more sustained match pace seems difficult to envisage: the LPL is unlikely to manage to catch up with the competing leagues. China, on the other hand, could consider forgoing the return matches and refrain from playing Spring Split beyond the fifth week of the calendar.
In any case, the LPL champion will arrive unprepared against fit and trained teams. This will give LCS and Cloud9, still undefeated since the beginning of the season across the Atlantic, a chance to make their mark.