Written By TheRussianEwok - 2021-07-06
Last weekend Stage 3 kicked off around the world with the Open and Closed Qualifiers taking place in Europe for this week’s VCT 2021 - Stage 3 - Europe - Challengers 1 tournament.
This qualifier acts as the first step on the way to qualifying for Stage 3's Berlin Major and the first real test for a number of refreshed teams including G2 Esports.
With 319 teams and over 300 matches played at this stage there were a number of upsets and tight games throughout, most of which unfortunately weren’t caught on stream. Team Heretics’ suffered one of these defeats as their new look roster -- which includes four new players including Patryk "paTiTek" Fabrowski and Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks from G2 -- lost in a 2-0 scoreline to the Belgian roster of BK ROG Esports, 8-13, 11-13.
Both of these maps saw BK take an impressive lead with 10-2 on map one’s attacks being insurmountable despite Heretic’s best efforts. Map two then saw BK win six straight rounds to take their own defensive half in an 8-4 scoreline before a 1v1 win by Sofian "b2kk" Delimi over paTiTek ended the map at 11-13 on Split.
BK ROG then went on to make it through the Open Qualifier with a very close 15-13 scoreline on map three against Czech squad of Team Sampi in the decider match.
Two other teams which recently made major changes were OG Esports and Team Finest who both saw the recent additions of two new players and a coach and who met in the tightest match of Stage 3 so far in the Round of 32.
This meeting ended in three straight overtimes at 15-13, 13-15, 15-13 to Finest with Daniel "ponkt" Punkt going 34-18 on map one, Nikita "trexx" Cherednichenko going 30-18 on map two, and then, despite losing the match, Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson went 30-19 on map three.
This map three loss from OG despite a number of impressive individual performances was in part due to a 1v2 win from Ben "RECIDENT" Battash, and somewhat of a misplay from Tomas "Destrian" Linikas in overtime:
G2 Esports meanwhile, had a much easier time in the qualifiers as in their debut with their full roster they managed to breeze past their opponents without dropping a single map and with them averaging a 13-4 scoreline across the qualifier in a rather impressive run.
Following this, on Wednesday to Friday these eight qualified teams joined the eight top teams from Stage 2 to compete in the double-elimination Closed Qualifiers in which the top eight passed to the upcoming Challengers 1 tournament.
With the eight invited teams of Fnatic, Team Liquid, FunPlus Phoenix, Acend, Guild Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team BDS, and Team Vitality now all joining the fray, the competition level suddenly kicked up a gear as shown by the early exit of NiP.
Despite making no roster changes this year so far and managing to previously qualify for both the VCT 2021 - Stage 1 - Europe Masters and both Stage 2 Challengers events, NiP definitely struggled here. After a close upper-bracket loss against Alliance (10-13, 13-11, 10-13), they then went out in two straight maps against Team Finest in a straight 8-13, 7-13 scoreline as, even though Yaroslav "Jady" Nikolaev achieved both the top kill count and rating, all five of Finest’s players performed better than NiP’s second best.
Finest themselves went on to lose 2-0 against BDS Esports in the decider game to miss out on Challengers 1 while BDS were only in the losers bracket due to a 2-0 loss of their own against the Stage 1 EU Masters champions of Acend.
After failing to even qualify for the Challengers Playoff event during Stage 2, Acend has since opted to bring on another ex-G2 player of Aleksander "zeek" Zygmunt onto the roster which has certainly worked well for them as they remain the only team to have not lost a map during the qualifier.
Completely separately to these games saw the titanic matchup between G2 Esports and Fnatic for a Challengers spot after G2 only narrowly beat Vitality the day prior while Fnatic entered as the second best team in the World from Stage 2.
Starting on Bind, the two teams kept pretty even in the first half as Fnatic took a slight 7-5 lead on their attacks. They advanced this to 9-5 as the sides switched before G2 won eight straight rounds to take the map as Oscar Cañellas "m1xwell" Colocho secured 23 kills to just three deaths across this half.
Following this, Haven then saw another close game with G2 this time taking the 7-5 offensive lead, however, Fnatic quickly tied it up and the two teams remained equal into overtime. Despite the map having been offense favoured so far, five out of six overtime rounds were won by the defenders with the lone attack win giving the map and series to G2 Esports:
Despite this loss, Fnatic did manage to salvage things in the lower-bracket with a 2-1 win over Wave Esports to ensure progress onwards to the Challenger event regardless, however, their loss is a really big message to the rest of EMEA that G2’s back and a serious contender.
These results mean that the eight teams of Liquid, G2, Acend, Guild, Fnatic, Rix, BDS, and FPX have progressed to the double-elimination Challengers 1 event which will run from Wednesday to Sunday this week.
Here the top four teams will progress onwards to the VCT 2021 - Stage 3 - EMEA - Challengers Playoffs to fight for a Major spot while the remaining four get an automatic invite to the VCT 2021 - Stage 3 - Europe - Challengers 2 tournament at the end of the month.
The schedule for this will be as follows:
thespike.gg will cover these games as usual this coming week as Stage 3 kicks into gear with its first main event. Check back here to see the usual news and stats coverage of the games as they come.
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