The story of the prodigy, the boy genius, the wunderkind – this is nothing new to the world of esports. From Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok over in League of Legends, to Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan in Dota, and Cho “Maru” Seong Ju in StarCraft II, pretty much every competitive video game has seen really young kids show awe-inspiring levels of talent and mechanical skill.
Dota 2’s youngest prodigy goes by the name of Abed Azel Yusop, known simply by his in-game handle “Abed”. At just 16 years of age, he became the world’s first Dota 2 player with ten thousand points of solo matchmaking rating. He was also the first Filipino player to reach 9,000 MMR, which he achieved in March earlier this year. The fact that he reached these milestones in a region completely different from where he hails from (and we all know how games in the NA server go) makes it all the more impressive.
As the son of the owner of an internet cafe in the province of Cavite in the Philippines, Abed was exposed to video games at an extremely young age. He picked the original WarCraft III DotA up as a result of this, and quickly became known amongst his childhood friends as the best player on the block. He continued to hone his skill in Dota while keeping up with his studies, and picked Dota 2 up soon after.
“My family has been very supportive of me, even from my early days of playing Dota. We always discuss things freely and they constantly help me in balancing my life so that my studies are not affected.”
– Abed, speaking to esprts.com
By most accounts, Abed is a superstar in the same vein as the aforementioned SumaiL, as well as other similar talents such as Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and Anathan “ana” Pham. But without a premier LAN championship under his belt, and The International 2017 looming over the horizon… the boy still has something to prove.
From his days as a “pubstar” in 2014, getting picked up by professional teams thereafter, and then moving to North America to join Team Onyx (now Digital Chaos), Abed’s journey has actually only begun. Indeed, as the highest-ranked player in the entire world, he has put the Dota playerbase on notice, but this means little to a professional player without the results to back it up.
As we’ve seen with “Miracle-” and “ana”, players with immensely high MMR are almost always worth every single point – which we have also seen with Abed in his many displays of mechanical skill. It’s no secret that he can play Dota, but unlike his peers, he is still unproven on the big stage. Time and time again, a tier 1 LAN victory has eluded his grasp, as his team always seems to get knocked out early before they can get some momentum started. Abed himself has stressed the importance of a positive mentality in the face of such obstacles:
“In the professional scene I believe the most important thing is that players are mentally and emotionally stable in order to minimize the negative effects of anxiety. It’s important that you keep focused on moving forward and improving as a player regardless of a win or loss. That is the kind of mentality that pushes you forward through the rough times.”
– Abed, speaking to esprts.com
Going into TI7, though, he and the rest of DC should have a significant amount of push behind them. After nearly dropping out of the North American qualifiers thanks to a three-way tie that went the distance, Digital Chaos rallied and made it to the grand finals. Once there, they proved to Team Freedom that they were the better team, and punched their ticket to TI as a result.
Such a resounding victory did wonders for DC’s chemistry and cohesion as a unit. As a team with a roster that features players from different backgrounds, forming a healthy relationship between teammates in the gaming house can be a challenge – and should a team be unable to do so, it can translate to poor in-game performance. But if there’s one takeaway from their qualifying run, it’s that they’re figuring things out at a respectable pace.
This bodes well for Abed. After a few years of hard work, practice, and dedication, he is ready to take his career to the next level – and at such a tender age, too. Against teams that are much stronger on paper and in practice, it will take a massive amount of effort from him and his teammates to place well at TI7, but they have the tools to do it. They just need to put it all together in Seattle.
But all things considered, they don’t have to win the tournament in order for Abed to cement his place as one of the greatest in the game. He certainly wouldn’t be the first to say that winning TI is a task that only the toughest can complete, and the pressure of playing at the grandest stage of them all can make even the best crack when it really matters. A top 4 or top 3 result would be enough for Abed to break into the upper echelons of Dota – but of course, he would love nothing more than to win it all.
With the right conditions and the heart he possesses, perhaps he can finally complete his journey in Seattle this year.