While the 2020 LoL World Championship drew much interest and many viewers, on the other side of the world there was a player that was quietly recharging for the next year: 100 Thieves' top laner and All-LCS second team Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho, who had a remarkable summer split.
While most players return home to see their families during the off-season, issues kept Ssumday anchored to the United States. But as a seasoned veteran, he dealt with the situation like a pro: staying fit and watching Worlds. In an interview with Inven, he shared his perspectives about Worlds, the LCS, and had some advice for the younger players in the league.
How have you been doing? I thought you were in Korea since you uploaded pictures of Korean food.
Actually, I really did want to go to Korea, but I’m currently working on my permanent residence, so I can’t leave the country for now. I’m still in the States, but all the stores are closed because of the COVID-19 situation. I’m just staying home, not going anywhere.
Then… What do you do?
I just play games at home. I’ve been playing Maple Story. [laughs]
I saw you post pictures of Korean dishes. Are you trying to make a new hobby? Or did you just miss Korean food?
I've liked cooking. It’s fun, to make these dishes and eat them. But it’s also kind of tiring. You know, it takes several hours to make that, from buying the ingredients to actually cooking the food… I mostly had food delivered, but since there’s not much to do at home, I’ve been trying to cook. Even though I made it, I think it’s delicious.
Doesn’t it get really lonely from time to time?
The situation is the situation… I heard that we might be able to travel abroad next year… To Korea maybe. I’m just thinking of staying put for this offseason.
Don’t you get homesick or anything?
Maybe if this was my first year in the States, or if I didn’t know anything, I could have gotten homesick, but I’m quite adapted to the situation, so I’m alright. Obviously, I do want to see my friends and family. If I was really exhausted and homesick, I might have postponed the application for permanent residency, but it was the most important thing for me and my future.
So you’re not even able to meet other people that you originally knew who are in the States?
In the first place, I’m not that much of an “insider” so I don’t know that many people. And everyone is probably quite busy. The stove league will start soon, and people who need jobs will look for positions they can work in.
Speaking of people who you’ve known for long, how’s Ryu?
I heard that he’s going to the army next month. Around December… Everyone’s really reaching the maximum age that they can postpone the military service. I’m getting anxious as well. [laughs]
Have you been watching Worlds?
I watched almost all the games up to the group stage. I transitioned my lifestyle to the Worlds’ timezone but returned to PST from the quarterfinals. So I only watched the games that I was interested in.
Then you’ve watched almost all of them. Were there any players or teams that caught your eye?
Everyone said that DAMWON Gaming was really good. They were a lot better than I thought so I was really surprised. They showed really dominating performances.
Then among the players, would you say Nuguri?
Yes. I’d say Nuguri’s performance stuck in my head the most.
Do you remember talking about Nuguri in an interview with me last year? You had said that “he’s fun to watch, and that he seems like a player that might be difficult to play as a teammate”. In my opinion, Nuguri’s completely changed over the year. What do you think?
Did we? [Laughs] I don’t remember. Anyways, you can’t just ignore experience; I believe Nuguri’s improved a lot through experience. It’s really good if a player can gather all the aggro, make the opponents think of him in the game. Through that, his teammates can make other plays more comfortably. I think he’s a great player that he can pull off such plays in such a big competition. It kind of means that he’s not afraid of making mistakes.
What do you think about the LCS’ results at Worlds?
I did watch all the NA matches in the group stage. As a player who’s active in the LCS, it was really sad. I’ve been in the NA for quite long, so I really want teams to do well… But they were stomped so hard. [Laughs] I remember turning it off because I couldn’t watch anymore.
But Team Liquid and FlyQuest had good games, no? I think they left an impact in some of their games.
I thought FlyQuest could do well on an international stage. Their players all have a lot of experience. POE or IgNar have been quite far at Worlds too. I thought they might be able to get to the quarterfinals, but I felt sorry that they were eliminated at the group stage.
I personally don’t think that NA’s prowess is drastically apart from the other regions, but all three teams didn’t make it through groups. What do you think the reason is?
In the top lane, I don’t think Broken Blade, Solo, or Impact would fall too much behind in a 1v1 against… Let’s take Nuguri, one of the best top laners at this competition. They aren’t that much behind Nuguri, but the problem is that this is a team game.
Let’s say that the most points that can be gained in the top lane is 2. If Nuguri takes 1.3 points and I get 0.7 points, we should have a lane that can bring back 1.3 points, but all of the lanes are similar. They fall behind a little bit. If you put that together, the difference gets too big that you can’t win as a team. There needs to be something like an exit, a way to resolve the problems, but we don’t have that. That’s the biggest reason.
Then do you mean that the level of individual performance is the problem?
Yes. I think that’s the fundamentals of this game, and looking at the game as a whole, that difference seems bigger.
Of course, there would be issues with the macro as well, but I think the problem is bigger with individual performance. There are parts where other players could compensate if one player lacks, but… There are holes here and there. Even if one person is doing his part, he gets swept along and the team loses their chance.
What needs to be improved in the LCS as a region to get better results on international stages, at Worlds?
Well… This would be something that’s really cliched, but the LCS should practice a lot more and learn what other regions do by watching them. Things like laning selfishly, learning to snowball properly, and so on. I think NA is kind of concentrating too much on macro. If you can win without fighting through macro, that’s good, but in the current LoL, it’s really hard.
Isn’t that the old LCK style? Winning without teamfights, winning without kills?
Yes. It was like that back then, but now, the objectives are really important and all the teams play much better now. Even if the macro is really precise and tight, you won’t be able to avoid teamfights.
There are some people who want the best-of-3 format back. How do you think it’ll be if the LCS transitions back to best-of-3?
I’m not sure. Both formats have pros and cons. From a viewers’ point, I think best-of-3's would be more fun. They would be able to watch more games… But on the other hand, there might be less unique picks. There would be less fighting towards the end of the season in the standings.
I think it would be more tiring for the players since there are more games.
Obviously, it’s different going home after playing just one game and playing three games on one day, but it all depends on winning or losing. Even if we play several games, that day is a happy day, if we lose, we’re down all day [Laughs]. The number of games doesn’t really matter. The most we’d play in a day would be five, if it was a best-of-5, but we play that much during practice too. I don’t think it would matter that much.
You’re the oldest member on the team. Even in the whole LCS, you’re one of the oldest players with the most experience. Are there any young prospects that you’re keeping an eye on?
I think our jungler and support are really young and good. They have potential. Contractz is a player who’s still young but has a LOT of experience already. He’s even been to Worlds. It’s only been like two years since our support, Poome, started playing LoL, and only about six months since his debut. I think he’s really doing well. He doesn’t get intimidated at all during the LCS games, which is a big strength.
There are plans for games when we play. With Contractz, it’s really flexible, so it’s comfortable to play. Some players get frustrated when the game goes differently from what we planned. In that case, players who play with them could get uncomfortable. If I make a small mistake that makes a plan go wrong, that person’s mentality can be shattered, which would also affect me. In that matter, Contractz is really flexible. He’s really quick with giving and accepting feedback. He makes players that play with him feel very comfortable.
Poome reminds me of my old teammate, Hachani. He understands the game very well and is really straightforward. When someone makes a mistake, he brings it up and speaks specifically about it. It could hurt the feelings of who has to accept that, but if you think of it differently, being direct like that can be more positive to fix. When we give him feedback, he’s also very quick in accepting and adjusting. Since Poome has a strong opinion on things, there are things he wants regarding shotcalls. He’s good in that way.
As for other teams… I don’t know about other teams much… Just those players who everyone knows… Like Tactical. I knew he would do well since I’ve met him a lot in solo queue.
Do you see the rookies’ potentials when you meet them in solo queue?
I do, but it’s not always right [Laughs]. But I often do, yes.
Listening to what you’re saying, it seems like their potentials are immeasurable.
Yeah. They’re still really young… I’m jealous of them [Laughs].
Have you tried all the new champions?
I haven’t tried yet, but I watched a lot. Riot released so many champions at once. I think Yone is a great champion when he’s used properly in mid lane. He’s really similar to Yasuo but has different pros and cons. He might be difficult to use in team games, but if he gets buffed or if the meta changes, he could be used quite often.
Samira is a champion that would be really strong if she appears in pro play immediately. If there’s a proper counter, it might be difficult, but her scaling is OP, so if a good player plays her, she’ll be really good.
I heard that Samira could go to any lane.
I saw a video of Samira once. She went to top lane and got a pentakill in a 1v5 situation… Obviously, the performance is like a mad movie, but still, I think she’ll get nerfed more.
I haven’t really seen Seraphine yet. I only saw her skillset… In my opinion, she wouldn’t be used as much. That type is mostly used in the Ardent Censer meta. I don’t think she’ll be used that much since the meta doesn’t suit her that well. But since she’s pretty, a lot of one-tricks might appear [Laughs].
Some people say that Yone might have been played a lot if he was available for this Worlds.
I don’t think he would appear that much in top lane unless it’s a counter pick, but he could be good in mid lane. Yone’s a champion that carries a lot in solo queue… But when he’s on my team, he’s not that good [Laughs]. It’s the same as “my team’s Yasuo”.
There are big changes in items forecast for the next season. Did you have a look? I think it’s getting too complex.
I haven’t really tried yet, but there could be more changes. I’m not sure, but whenever LoL changed, people said that this is the end of it, but everyone adapted well. It probably would be the same.
I went to Riot several times when the balance team invited me to try out the patches during the preseason. I thought to myself at that time, "If I retire, how would it be if I start working in the balance team?" But I don’t think I’ll be smart enough to do it [Laughs]. There are too many things to consider for the balance. Those people worked so hard for all of the new stuff — I believe everything would be good.
If you really were to go to the balance team, would you buff the champions that you like?
Maybe that, yes, but I’d probably make something that others don’t play well but I do. Maybe a champion that’s really strong if it’s in the right hands, but really weak if not. There has to be a high skill ceiling to be fun and cool.
Hey, that’s like Yasuo!
That’s why I like Yasuo [Laughs].
Did you see TheShy play “incredible” picks in solo queue? Like Ashe, Aphelios… How do you think it is?
Yeah, I saw him. I also saw him play Syndra. I think it’s alright to play in solo queue. I also blind pick Garen, play Tryndamere, or Cassiopeia. I think it’s probably because TheShy likes marksmen champions? He plays Kalista or Lucian, even in pro play, and also did well with them. Champions like Ashe could be targeted and countered in pro play, so I don’t think he’ll pick them.
On the other hand, it’s really fun to play those champions in solo queue. When you always play “sweaty” champions like Renekton or Maokai, it’s really fun to hit those melee champions with Ashe [Laughs].
Like this, LoL is always changing. This might be one of the reasons why LoL has been so popular for such a long time. As for you, you’re active as a pro player for quite long. What’s your secret to being active for such a long time?
There are several things, but one of the most important things is to be consistent. To be consistent in self-management and not being lazy. There are changes coming all the time in LoL, so you need to work harder every time to catch up with the changes. Having a competitive spirit is also really important. You need to analyze why you lost, why you weren’t able to play like your opponent. You need to analyze, study, and practice. If this continues, all that can happen is improvement.
I’m also quite strict about myself, so I’m not satisfied that easily. Even in games where I play really well, I find parts where I didn’t play that well and try to improve that. I think that helped me a lot in my career. Sometimes, this could work as a disadvantage, but I believe this is more of a strength than a disadvantage.
This would be really helpful to the rookies. Would you have any advice for players who are new to the scene?
Even if I don’t say anything, I believe everyone knows what they have to do. Right now, it’s much harder to become a pro gamer than before. They’ve probably gone through a lot to become a pro gamer. There’s not much advice to give.
If there is a piece of advice, I hope they feel grateful that they’re good at gaming, and feel grateful for all the love they receive from the fans. The most important factor is to enjoy playing as a pro gamer, to survive for a long time in this competitive scene. Of course, I’ll be playing a lot longer from now on as well [Laughs].
I really, really hope that you’re active for a long, long time. Is it still really enjoyable for you to play on that stage?
When we win, it’s really fun. But sometimes… Even with a lot of hard work, we lose. In those situations, I’m sometimes really discouraged. It feels that all the hard work doesn’t fruit. We also struggle with negative comments. Because of that, I try to avoid playing LoL in the offseason. It’s really troublesome if I burn out. And LoL is more fun if you play after a break.
I still have to work really hard since there are more than enough people that enjoy my plays and performance. I don’t want to disappoint them. As a matter of fact, it’s still really fun to play… Although from time to time, I also get really angry while playing like all of you [Laughs].
It’s really hard to keep the rage down, right? [Laughs] I think it’s time to wrap up now. Do you have any last comments?
I’m always grateful to those who enjoy watching me play. I’ll continue to do my best so that I could deliver high-quality and enjoyable performances. Thank you!