VKLiooon is the first female to be crowned Hearthstone Grandmasters Champion

Esports struggles with gender equality a lot more than it should. There are some fantastic players in just about every game out there, yet for some reason or another, few ever make it big on an international level. Even the Overwatch League, one of the most popular esports leagues in the world, features only one female player across the 20 teams of 6 players each. That’s… not great.

Xiaomeng “VKLiooon” Li, or simply Lion as her fans call her, didn’t let that stop her though. She breezed through the competition at the BlizzCon Hearthstone Grandmasters competition and fought her way to victory. It wasn’t a close call either – she defeated her opponent 3-0 and thus set two records at once!

Xiaomeng "VKLiooon" Li First Female ever to win Hearthstoe Grandmasters

© Blizzard Entertainment


She became the first woman to win a global Hearthstone tournament, and the first woman to ever win a BlizzCon championship at the same time. She also catapulted herself to (almost) the top of another list – she is now the second-highest paid female esports players this year! The only player ahead of her is Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, a StarCraft 2 competitor.

In a post-game interview, the talented Hearthstone player said:

I want to say to girls who want to compete that it could be challenging, you may encounter so many difficulties, but as long as you made up your mind, you should never give it up. You should try your best, always work on your technique, keep your chin down, be humble, learn, and progress.”

Despite her obvious joy at winning the trophy at Blizzard’s biggest event, she stayed courteous and humble the entire time.

VKLiooon win Hearthstone randmasters at BlizzCon 2019

© Blizzard Entertainment

An inspiration for many

Lion’s humble interview powerfully outlines what went unsaid – while many misogynists deny it, gaming skill really isn’t based on gender. It’s easy to dismiss female gamers, but the simple truth is, they are not yet afforded the same chances male players are. Cultural barriers, the undeniably huge issue of racism and sexism in the industry and sometimes simply bad luck prevent skilled female players from realising their potential.

Some tournaments, although they are few and far between, outright ban female players from participating, and, thanks to the ever-persistent attitude that esports is a purely male discipline, talented female players often veer away from competitive playing and towards content creation, for example.

Players like VKLiooon are exactly what the industry needs – talented women who can pave the way for even more skilled players to join the top ranks. At the moment, none of the 100 most well-paid esports pros is female – neither Scarlett nor Lion managed to crack the top 100, despite having several hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings to their name respectively.

After the tournament, the official Hearthstone Twitter published a great quote from their newest champ:

“This is the best way to strike back at those people who doubted me only because I am a girl. It proves that girls can be strong pro players, just as guys do.”