GAM Kiaya talks about “what it takes” to beat major regions at Worlds 2022

Liu YiCun/Riot Games

Through GAM’s worlds run so far, Kiaya has stood out as a player with an incredibly high level of skill, despite the team’s overall results. We sat with him to ask about Vietnam’s time away from international competition, as well as his development as a player.

Worlds 2022 has been the first appearance of Vietnam at a world championship since 2019, and many of the region’s top players have never participated at an international event.

Trần ‘Kiaya’ Duy Sang is not one of those players. He’s been with GAM since 2018 and has played at multiple world championships, and in multiple roles. When it comes to international competition in Vietnam, few active players have as much experience as Kiaya.

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Yet, Kiaya is only 21. Competing since 2017, his entire adult life has been dedicated to League of Legends – and it shows.

GAM Kiaya is dedicated to his craft

We talked to Kiaya on one of GAMs “off days” from competition, something GAM were kind enough to give us the time for. Sure, they weren’t competing on-stage, but all the players were hard at work in their practice room. Đỗ ‘Levi’ Duy Khánh was right back to practicing after we had talked to him, and mid laner Đặng ‘Kati’ Thanh Phê was playing a solo queue game in the background.

These players are incredibly busy and dedicated to improving. Kiaya couldn’t wait to get back to the big stage for what could be their last day of competition.

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“I actually feel anxious and a bit tense in these off days that I don’t play. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been on the international stage, so I’m eager to play every game I can.”

Throughout our time together, Kiaya was beaming. Few players could maintain this level of excitement after how difficult their first days of competition were, but he just seemed happy to be here, competing at the biggest competition in the world after such a long time away.

This excitement is mirrored by everyone at GAM. Despite their tough experience at Worlds so far, they’re cracking jokes and keeping their heads held high through every obstacle.

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Kiaya is the best top laner in Vietnam right now, and his thirst for competition surely plays a big part in his continued improvement. But Kiaya wasn’t always the best top laner, even within GAM.

“Having competition is a good thing. As you know, I went through a period where I was in direct competition with Zeros for the best top laner in Vietnam.”

This was a direct competition that Kiaya wasn’t exactly winning. Kiaya’s time as a roleswapped mid laner on GAM with Phạm ‘Zeros’ Minh Lộc in the top lane gave them a brief period of prosperity within their region, though they weren’t able to replicate that success internationally in GAM’s Worlds 2019 run.

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Kiaya has gone on to surpass Zeros and reach new heights.

“Through that period, I’ve improved significantly. Healthy competition is great. I’ll take on that challenge any day.”

Down, but not out

Through all the hardship, Kiaya has persevered and earned his spot on top of the VCS. Players must endure a lot in Vietnam, especially when it comes to practicing in Korean solo queue. Levi revealed to us that Vietnamese pros practice at high ping against some of the world’s best players.

“We’re definitely at a disadvantage. I think that, in these harsh conditions, it’s actually increased my skills, abilities, and mechanics. In the Korean server, you are matching against top, world-class players. With the deficit to the ping on top of that, it gives me the motivation to try harder.”

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Through the trials and tribulations that have come with missing an international competition, and a harsh practice environment when it comes to ping, many players from Vietnam have an incredibly high level of individual skill.

We wanted to ask Kiaya about the biggest difference between Vietnam’s best top laners and some of the top laners he’s played against at the event.

“There are key things that make top lane in Vietnam different from top laners we’re seeing in the World Championship. They lack the experience and confidence to play in big games.”

“In regard to their skill, they are very skillful. Their mechanics are amazing. For some, I’d say their mechanics are as good as or better than other top laners in the world. What they lack is the confidence and the ability to believe in themselves.”

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Unfortunately, confidence is something that’s built over time. For the new generation of Vietnamese players, they’ll need that experience playing around the world to bring their region to new heights.

But having a seasoned top laner with a great deal of experience at the top of the region certainly helps raise the level of competition.

Kiaya is the gold standard when it comes to top laners in the VCS, a player that does have the confidence and experience to go toe-to-toe with the very best players in the world. So why not compete in another region?

Lifting up the VCS one international tournament at a time

This wouldn’t be the first time a GAM player travelled outside of the VCS. Levi played around the world before coming back to Vietnam. He and players like SoFM have shown the excellence of Vietnamese players through their time in other regions, but Kiaya isn’t ready to make the shift just yet.

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“I’ve definitely thought about playing abroad before. But, I think my ability is yet to be sufficient. The most important thing is to be able to communicate well in a foreign language. There are many aspects I have to prepare before going abroad.”

“For now, I’m focusing on playing well and setting the standard in the league. I’m hoping to have a chance to have more international exposure, to improve my skills and ability. Perhaps, in the future, I’ll have the chance to play abroad.”

Don’t mistake Kiaya’s decision to stick with the VCS for a lack of ambition. He still wants to play at international competitions and show the strength of his region.

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“I definitely think we’ll improve with more international exposure. I can’t speak to the result yet. But, if we were to be defeated, it’d sound the alarm saying that we need to try much harder, that our region needs to make much more effort to show the world that we are a strong region. That we have what it takes to play against the major regions.”

“After this world championship, I think our team and other VCS teams will have the opportunity to reflect and improve ourselves in the future.”

He had one final message for GAM fans before the rest of their Worlds run. Though the odds aren’t in their favor, Kiaya’s prepared to go into battle with a smile.

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“I really want to say thank you to everyone, especially fans who are travelling so far to watch us play and cheer for us. I really appreciate it. We’ll try our very best to play at our best in every match to show our gratitude.”