Evil Geniuses has taken home the top prize at Valorant Champions 2023 with a 3-1 victory over Paper Rex, and likely capped the career of Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie with a loss.
Comebacks aren’t unusual in esports, but Evil Geniuses turned its team around in a big way in 2023. Despite an early exit from the 2023 VCT Lock-In in Sao Paulo and a 1-4 start to its Americas League season, Evil Geniuses managed to take home the world championship. This secures the team the $1 million top prize. The victory also capped a strong, but not necessarily dominant run through the event.
Evil Geniuses kicked off Valorant Champions 2023 with a 2-0 finish in its group for a spot in the playoffs. The team beat EDward Gaming and Korea’s DRX in order to advance to the upper bracket finals but was sent into the lower bracket by Paper Rex. Evil Geniuses advanced to the finals with a hard-fought victory over LOUD and got its revenge on Paper Rex in the finals.
Evil Geniuses takes its time to surge past Paper Rex
The first map looked to be a slam dunk for Paper Rex. The team got off to a strong start on the attacking side on Split, with an 8-4 lead at the half. Evil Geniuses roared back and went 9-3 in return to deny overtime with a round to spare and secure a 13-10 victory.
The action moved to Ascent for map two and it seemed that it might go in a similar direction. Paper Rex went up 7-5 at halftime, which was followed by Evil Geniuses getting off to a hot start in the second half. The Southeast Asian squad regained its previous form with intense aggression and an overwhelming individual performance from Ilya “something” Petrov. This let Paper Rex surge to a 13-11 score to even the series.
After two competitive games, Evil Geniuses brought down the hammer on Bind. A strong 9-3 start by Evil Geniuses was followed by a similarly strong opening to the second half, which saw Evil Geniuses advance to match point with a 13-5 win.
That stiff loss didn’t bog down Paper Rex, though. The team traded rounds with Evil Geniuses in large part thanks to something’s dazzling shots with his Operator. As the game wore on, Alexander “jawgemo” Mor took control for Evil Geniuses and stifled Paper Rex’s hopes of a comeback. This let Evil Geniuses knot of the game 13-10 and secure the championship with a 3-1 series victory.
It also gave Evil Geniuses another world championship in a major esports game, with the Valorant title joining its trophies in Dota 2, Call of Duty, Halo, and a long list of fighting games.
Fans show support for Paper Rex, Jinggg despite loss
Jinggg stated he plans to leave competitive Valorant ahead of Valorant Champions 2023. The fan-favorite player on a popular team couldn’t quite finish the Cinderella story, but that didn’t stop fans from sending him love and well-wishes.
Jinggg helped to establish Southeast Asia and Paper Rex as a force in Valorant esports and became popular with fans thanks in part to his crafty Raze plays. He has several strong placements in a variety of official international VCT tournaments and appeared at Valorant Champions 2022, but never actually won a championship. Should Jinggg commit to retiring, it will break up a core roster for Paper Rex that has been in place since 2021.
It’s tough to say whether Jinggg will truly retire for good. Esports has seen many short-lived retirements over the years and while he indicated after the match that he still plans to step away, competitors across a long list of other titles have felt the itch to return after extended layoffs.
Why is Jinggg retiring?
Jinggg is retiring from Valorant esports to fulfill his compulsory military service. Singapore requires all male citizens to serve two years in the country’s armed forces.
Mandatory military service has been a frustrating fact across many esports, most notably as it relates to Korean players. League of Legends star Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has had this ghost hanging over his esports career for years now, but has still enjoyed a high level of success in the game.
Players returning from mandatory military service and successfully resuming an esports career is rare, but not unheard of. Professional Dota 2 player Park “March” Tae-won played in North America for several years but returned to Korea to serve in the military from 2016 to 2018. He returned to competition in 2018 and enjoyed the best competitive year of his career in 2019.
Jinggg will certainly face a stiff challenge if he wants to return, but other players have been able to do so.