Written By Mostafeto - 2021-05-01
Earlier in March, Riot Games announced the VCT Stage 2 Masters - Reykjavík. Since then, each region has had Challenger tournaments to find the most deserving candidates to travel to Iceland and have a shot at being crowned the champion of the first international VCT event of the year-long program.
As usual, all eyes went to North America and Europe, with its plethora of talent and high-profile Counter-Strike: Global Offensive switching to the scene within the past few months, including the likes of Timothy "autimatic" Ta and Ricky "floppy" Kemery.
The latter region specifically had 8 of its finest teams compete in the Challengers Playoffs to determine the final 2 teams making it to the world stage. These teams were namely Guild Esports, FunPlus Phoenix, Futbolist, Oxygen Esports, Fnatic, Team Liquid, BBL Esports, and Gambit Esports.
Those 8 teams were split into groups, A and B, with each one producing two teams from their respective winners and losers brackets to compete in the playoffs bracket. FunPlus Phoenix, Gambit Esports, BBL Esports, and Team Liquid were put in Group A. On the other hand, FNATIC, Oxygen Esports, Futbolist, and Guild Esports battled it out in Group B.
The first match to kick off the tournament pitted FunPlus Phoenix against Gambit Esports. As predicted by relatively 90% of THESPIKE.GG’s userbase, Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow and co managed to go through to the upper bracket finals straight away, pushing their opponents to the lower bracket.
Meanwhile, BBL Esports took on Team Liquid, which proved to be a closer match than expected. The Turkish organization managed to push Team Liquid to map 3 after winning Haven then followed by 13-8 and 13-6 scorelines in favor of their opponents on Ascent and Bind respectively.
The elimination match between the losers of the previous two matches, Gambit Esports and BBL Esports, saw both of them doing their best to hang on to their hopes of making it to Iceland. The Russian roster was able to take down BBL Esports with a quick 2-0, finishing Ascent and Icebox with 13-3 and 13-7 scorelines respectively.
The most anticipated match of Group A was definitely Team Liquid versus FunPlus Phoenix, with the latter having the upper hand in the head-to-head matchup, winning 4 out of the 5 last encounters. However, statistics mean nothing when the stakes are this high, and Team Liquid delivered a sensational performance, securing their playoffs spot and pushing FunPlus Phoenix to the lower bracket final for a second shot at qualification.
Unfortunately, even the second chance wasn’t enough for them to make it through, as Gambit Esports didn’t forget who put them in this situation in the first place and were out for revenge. After two relatively close maps, Gambit Esports got the upper hand on both Icebox and Split with 13-10 and 13-9 respectively.
FNATIC started off Group B’s action with their matchup against Oxygen Esports, which didn’t last long after a quick 2-0 victory and an impressive performance from Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev, recording a 379 ACS and 53 kills across the two maps.
Futbolist and Guild Esports went in the favor of the latter, booking their spot against FNATIC for the winners bracket final and keeping their hopes of making it to playoffs alive. Leo "Leo" Jannesson stood out from the crowd during this match, putting up a 309 ACS and 45 kills to help his team.
Turkish fans had it rough in Group B’s elimination match, pitting Futbolist and Oxygen Esports against each other, where one of them had to go home. Eventually, Oxygen Esports proved to be the better team on the day, keeping their dream alive.
The thrilling matchup of FNATIC and Guild Esports unfortunately didn’t take us to map 3, but with FNATIC having won the most recent encounter during the Challenger 2 - Play-Ins/Play-Offs, they had the mental advantage going into this. Ascent ended in 13-10 in favor of FNATIC and after a strong effort to stay in it from Guild Esports, they faulted to clutch it when it went to overtime on Bind.
Considering they didn’t have the highest of morales going into this, Oxygen Esports managed to win the lower bracket final against Guild Esports to secure the fourth and final spot in the playoffs bracket.
Facing up against the final Turkish team in the mix, Oxygen, Liquid dominated. The first map was a 13-0 on Haven, which was even Oxygen’s map pick! There’s not much to say when a performance was that dominant. Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom dropped 407 ACS and things weren’t looking good for Turkey.
Oxygen grabbed infinitely more rounds on the second map - for a grand total of 3. Liquid were firing on all cylinders, and couldn’t be stopped. Liquid booked their spot as the first team confirmed for Iceland.
In a closer series, Fnatic matched up against Gambit. Gambit had been carrying the hopes of the CIS region the whole way through, but Fnatic had found their stride with new additions Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev and Martin "MAGNUM" Penkov and weren’t looking back.
Icebox was Gambit’s map pick and the map they had dominated teams on the whole event long, but it would go in Fnatic’s favour. Derke ran a great Jett to take things by a surprisingly large margin of 13-6.
That left Bind. If Icebox had always been Gambit’s best map, the same was true of Fnatic’s Bind. Gambit found much more footing here, with Nikita "d3ffo" Sudakov top fragging for them as a Skye of all agents. But Fnatic are just far too practiced on this map to drop it. It would go 13-11 in their favour, and set them up as the second team headed to Iceland.
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