South Korea's LCK dominated last year's League of Legends World Championship and the best the region has to offer are back with the LCK Spring Split 2023 having started this week.
The S-Tier event started on Wednesday and runs through until March, with ten teams competing for a prize pool of just over $300,000.
The LCK Spring 2023 begins with a double round-robin group stage in which each team plays one another twice in best-of-three formats and the top six sides in the standings at the end of the group stage reach the playoffs, with the top two advancing directly to the semi-finals.
The playoffs work in a double-elimination format with all matches best-of-five encounters and the winners and runners-up will qualify for the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational 2023 - one of the most prestigious international events in the calendar.
The LCK is loaded with quality outfits, including the two finalists from Worlds 2022 - T1 and DRX - as well as other big-hitters such as Gen.G and Dplus KIA, formerly known as DWG KIA and DAMWON Gaming.
And there is even more incentive for the LCK's best and brightest to excel regionally this year with the end-of-season World Championship taking place in South Korea.
On Saturday there are two matches to look forward to in the LCK Spring 2023 as heavyweights Gen.G and DRX lock horns first, before a battle between Kwangdong Freecs and BRION.
|What||Gen.G vs DRX|
|When||01.00 ET, Saturday January 21st|
|How to watch||LCK Twitch channel|
|Odds||Gen.G -225, DRX +162|
Gen.G and DRX are two of the biggest names not only in the LCK, but on the League of Legends circuit as a whole, but both succumbed to defeats on the opening day of action in the LCK Spring 2023.
In fairness to both sides though, their openers were tough.
DRX fell to a 2-0 defeat against a strong Dplus KIA side which was reinforced in the off-season by the addition of Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu, while Gen.G slipped to a loss by the same scoreline against the ever impressive T1.
Already the pressure is on both of these sides heading into their second matches of the respective seasons and Gen.G are marginal favorites to win this one with DRX.
DRX of course deserve respect as defending world champions but their triumph at Worlds 2022 came as a huge shock to many given they had hardly set their regional divisions alight earlier in the year and their roster has been decimated in the off-season.
It is therefore perhaps unrealistic to expect them to take the LCK Spring 2023 by the scruff of its neck.
As for Gen.G, they were among the favourites to lift the Summoner's Cup last year but have an arguably weaker roster at their disposal this time around with their star ADC Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk having moved across to China's LPL and Son "Lehends" Si-woo joining KT Rolster.
They responded to those losses by promoting 17-year-old Kim "Peyz" Su-hwan from their challenger team and signing Yoo "Delight" Hwan-joong from Fredit BRION and it remains to be seen if those new additions will be successful.
There are doubts surrounding both of these sides and with that in mind, this could go the distance, so back over 2.5 maps at +100.
|What||Kwangdong Freecs vs BRION|
|When||03.30 ET, Saturday January 21st|
|How to watch||LCK Twitch channel|
|Odds||Kwangdong Freecs +110, BRION -150|
There was not a lot between these sides last season with both making the playoffs in the LCK Spring 2022 and then both missing out on the top six in the LCK Summer and over 2.5 maps could also be the wisest bet in the day's second encounter at -110.
Kwangdong Freecs are an unknown entity after a full roster rebuild ahead of the spring, while it remains to be seen how new signings Kim "Karis" Hong-jo and Lee "Effort" Sang-ho will fare for BRION.
BRION at least started the LCK Spring 2023 on the front foot with victory over Nongshim RedForce, although punters should not read too much into the opening defeat sustained by Kwangdong Freecs given it was against a Hanwha Life Esports side many expect to challenge for the title.
At such an early stage in the season, punters should be wary of rushing to back either side, but a high-scoring game could well be on the cards between two evenly matched outfits.