The Legend of Clement “Puppey” Ivanov’s Decade Long Appearances in The International

The Legend of Clement “Puppey” Ivanov’s Decade-Long Appearances in The International

He was there from the very beginning and his legacy will last long after he’s gone.

Dota 2 is blessed with many veteran players with many claims to fame. However, there is only one legend who can claim the most appearances in The International and that’s Clement “Puppey” Ivanov.  

The Estonian giant is truly one of the Old Guards of the Dota scene, playing professionally even before the rise of Dota 2. He has a long and storied career, built on tenacity and a true lover of the game.

A Rising Star in the Dark Ages

Puppey’s career started at the grassroots Dota scene in Europe, playing in online public games until he was recruited. His first tournament as a professional Dota player was in 2007 with Xero Skill at the age of 14. Aside from being a team made up of young, unknown but skilled players, XsK failed to make a splash and disbanded after a year.

It’s around this time that the young Puppey would bounce around from team to team, playing tournament after tournament. Such was the landscape of early Dota esports but Puppey never stopped playing and persevering despite all the highs and lows, the setbacks and lackluster results.

His biggest break would come with his recruitment to Natus Vincere, also known as Na’Vi, in 2011. The team gelled together quickly and were already taking wins in big online tournaments. However, the real prize was The International, Dota 2’s very first tournament and the world’s first million dollar esports tournament. With only a few weeks to prepare, there was a lot of pressure for all the invited teams to analyze and understand this new but familiar game. It was a historical moment in esports and it would be Na’Vi who would make history as the first Dota 2 International champions.

The Legend of Clement “Puppey” Ivanov’s Decade Long Appearances in The International
Na’Vi’s team for The International 2012. From left to right: Sergey “ARS-ART” Revin, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, Oleksandr “XBOCT” Dashkevych, and Dmitriy “LighTofHeaveN” Kupriyanov. (Photo from Dota 2 The International)
A Familiar Face in The International

This was the start of Puppey’s record number of appearances in The International. First in dominant fashion, Na’Vi would return to The International’s grand finals stage two more times in 2012 and 2013 with Puppey as the team captain. The team’s strength was waning in 2014 as they exited the tournament in 7th. It was here that Puppey decided it was time for a change.

Soon after the conclusion of the 2014 International, it was announced that Puppey along with other close friends and Dota 2 pro players were establishing their own team. Team Secret, as it came to be known, would then start dominating the pro scene. They would have podium finishes in major and minor tournaments alike and reach The International in their debut year.

Puppey with Team Secret at the StarLadder i-League Invitational 2017
Puppey with Team Secret at the StarLadder i-League Invitational 2017. (Photo from StarLadder)

Team Secret would remain Puppey’s home in the coming years, even when its founding members moved on to different teams. And like clockwork, Puppey and Team Secret would consistently return to The International stage. What made it more exciting was the team looked like they were getting better and better every time.

In 2015 onwards they flopped around in the lower brackets but in 2018 they finished at 5th. Then the following year they reached the semi-finals and placed 4th. In 2021 they made it to 3rd and in 2022 they had a heartbreaking 2nd place finish. Surely 2023 would be their year.

A Solemn Finish

Unfortunately, 2023 was just not Puppey’s year. After failing to qualify for any of the year’s Majors, Team Secret would lose their last chance to enter The International to Quest Esports.

As sobering as this result is for Puppey, it’s doubtful that anyone will ever eclipse his legacy in The International. He’s had 11 straight appearances in the biggest Dota 2 tournament in the world. Four of those were in the grand finals, making him the player with the most grand finals, top 4, and top 8 placements in The International. This also makes him the oldest player to compete in The International at the ripe age of 32. 

Puppey leads Team Secret as they enter The International 2022 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium
Puppey leads Team Secret as they enter The International 2022 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. (Photo from Dota 2 The International)

While this year’s International is not the same without Puppey, the living legend has certainly earned himself some time to breathe. He has already established himself in Dota 2 history and we patiently wait for his return to the big stage.

Banner photo from Dota 2 The International.

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