To Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, the year 2019 wasn’t the best. Although always considered one of the best top laners in the LCS, Ssumday had to sacrifice and compensate for the team. It would have been a difficult time for him, having failed to reach the playoffs for the first time, and later, being sent to the academy team. Still, Ssumday managed to lead the 100 Thieves Academy to the championship.
After the season was over, he took some time to re-energize himself, traveling with friends, and by simply doing nothing at all at home. Interrupting one of his ‘doing nothing’ days, I caught up with Ssumday for a chat.
Has it been about five months since the last time? When did you get back to Korea?
I arrived on the 6th of September. If I came back as scheduled, I would have had a hard time because of the typhoon, but fortunately, I came back a day earlier.
When are you going back?
It’s not yet decided, but I think it’ll be December.
It seems that you went on a trip with Arrow and Ryu. How was it?
Yes, I did. We went to Vancouver without planning much. We just looked for places to have a break, eat tasty food. We also went riding bikes in Stanley Park. After that, we went to Seattle and went to the original Starbucks.
When we were going to Seattle from Vancouver, we took a bus, and someone recognized Ryu. There are times when people recognize Ryu in places like airports, asking, “Are you still playing?” (Laughs) I think he’s the most famous among us. I heard that when he went to Japan, a couple recognized him from the Faker Zed video and talked to him about that.
When you make plans with them, who usually leads?
We all talked about it together. We all agreed to go on a trip together during the offseason. I gave the idea of going to Vancouver. We went to the finals in Detroit and went straight to Vancouver, then Seattle.
So it’s you who’s in charge of "shotcalling"?
Actually, all three of us have a hard time making decisions. Ryu is usually the most difficult to satisfy. He doesn’t give any ideas but dislikes a lot of stuff. (Laughs) I think I’m the most decisive among us.
You posted on Twitter that you were depressed a few days ago. What happened?
I watching random Youtube videos when I came upon a Baron steal ranking video. No.1 was Score getting Baron stolen with 2 HP left… So I looked up our games in 2016. I remember that a lot of criticism fell on me. When I was watching, I thought I didn’t deserve that much criticism, although I saw that I wasn’t that good. I lacked understanding of the matchup itself, and that was magnified since we lost. And when I tweeted, it was late night… People tend to get emotional in the middle of the night. (Laughs)
I saw fans trying to console you.
I’m always so very thankful to those fans. There are people who say nice things through DMs too. Some people even tell me about their own good news. Last time, a Chinese fan told me that she got married and had a son. Joy doubles when shared, right?
Let’s look back at the past year. Things didn't go too well...
Personally, 2019 was a very hard year for me. It’s been about 3 years since I came to the US, and this year was the only time that I missed the playoffs. I was even called down to the academy… It was a very hard and stressful year.
What was the most stressful over the year? Was it the results or being sent to the academy team?
The most stressful thing was that there wasn’t much that I can do. Even if I tried hard, not much changed, so that stressed me a lot. The results didn’t change much regardless of my efforts.
Can you talk about how the process was of you being sent to the academy team?
As we went on a long losing streak, the team needed to make some changes. One of the changes was trying different members. We were testing different compositions of players and the decision was made that I would go to the academy team. I was quite depressed because I thought I didn’t do anything wrong… But I thought it was a difficult decision for the team too, and I accepted the team decision.
While we were attempting changes, we tried playing Ryu in scrims, tried sending Bang to the academy team, Aphromoo as well. We tried a lot of things for about a week. I think the academy players had a hard time as well. It was really tiring.
To find something that’s at least a bit positive would be that you dominated the academy league and won the championship.
Yes. It was an honorable death. (Laughs) But it’s still better than losing after being sent to the academy. A trophy’s still a trophy, which is meaningful and it feels that I helped out the academy players achieve that. In the LCS Arena, the 100 Thieves academy championship banner is up now.
Right. Isn’t it the first banner for 100 Thieves?
Yes. Although it’s an academy championship, it’s the first banner for 100 Thieves. There aren’t that many teams up there… TL, TSM, C9, CLG...
Your contract is through 2020. What are your plans for next year?
For me, it would be best if I stay with 100 Thieves, but nothing’s final yet, so I would need to talk to the team more. Although I really want to continue playing in 100 Thieves, my future is important, so I can’t say for sure. For now, I trust the team.
Papasmithy has joined 100 Thieves. Have you met him? What do you think about him?
I heard that he joined, but I haven’t met him yet. I heard that he’s coming as the GM. There are a lot of things that GMs are responsible for. When I see him on social media, I can see he’s really popular and experienced. I guess he would have something special that comes from his vast experience. I’m looking forward to meeting Papasmithy.
Something we can’t pass up is about Worlds. The groups are drawn… Let’s get past all the obvious and make it simple. Which group do you think is easier, group A or C?
Well… It’s hard, but I think group A would be easier? It’s really close, but group A seems a tiny bit easier.
It is early to predict, but who do you think would win the championship?
I think either SKT or G2 will win. To pick one… I guess G2?
How far do you think NA teams would go?
Last year, no one really had high expectations for NA teams, but C9 made it to the semifinals. I’m not sure how far apart NA is from other leagues, but I think the 9.19 patch would be important. If they’re lucky, NA might reach the semis again. The matchup and patches are important. In that matter, I think Team Liquid has an edge. If C9 makes it through groups, they would do well also. There are so many variables. (Laughs)
Talking about Worlds, I remember the first time I went to Worlds back in 2015. It was in EU and it was nearly my first time being abroad, so it was really hard to maintain my condition. I’m guessing that they’ll manage themselves well, but Griffin and DAMWON should keep that in mind and put in some effort in maintaining their conditions. You know, they don’t have much international tournament experience. It’s odd that only Korea has these rookie teams to Worlds. All the other major regions are veteran teams. As for SKT, they would do well anyways.
Speaking of DAMWON, how do you think Nuguri is?
It’s fun to watch. I also like that type of playstyle. There are many variables and hard to predict. However, I think it would be difficult to play as a teammate. In a recent interview I read on Inven, DAMWON coach Kim Jeong-soo said that it’s hard to communicate with Nuguri.
In my team, we have FakeGod. He keeps watching Nuguri VODs and tries to copy his plays - like taking Kleptomancy on Camille. He does that, goes in, and dies. (Laughs) I once told him not to do that. There are many conditions where it’s alright to play like that. If all three lanes are pushing hard, that might be a good way to play, but if he’s the only one that’s up front pushing lane, it’s really easy to be targeted. If that snowballs, the game gets really difficult.
Do you hope LCS does well?
Of course! I’m an honorary American. (Laughs) I’m curious how far Clutch would go. Their performance has a lot of ups and downs. Team Liquid is really strong, but somehow their performance in international stages isn’t at their best. They did make it to the finals at the MSI. Since they have CoreJJ this year who has a World Championship, I have high expectations for them. C9 has always been good at Worlds - they got to semis last year. I’m cheering for all three teams.
Worlds would be on 9.19. Which champion do you think would be strong?
In general, Riot nerfed strong champions and buffed weak ones. I don’t think there are many overbalanced champions. Rumor says that Yuumi is unusable though. I think Gragas would appear the most often. And I think Pantheon would be OP. He would be too strong that he won’t appear due to being banned all the time.
Any last comments?
This year was very regretful for me, but there’s always next season, next year, and years to come after that. So please keep cheering for me! Thank you.