After 1-13: Gambit turn series, win Playoffs

posted by SmittyW.,
Gambit Esports recovered from an abysmal first map against SuperMassive Blaze in the Grand Finals of the EMEA Challengers Playoffs. Acend and G2 Esports placed third and fourth. Gambit Esports won the Stage 3 EMEA Challengers Playoffs Grand Final on Sunday. The CIS team defeated the Turkish champion Papara SuperMassive Blaze 3-1, claiming €32,500 and EMEA’s top seed at Masters Berlin. Star player Ayaz 'nAts' Akhmetshin and his teammates overcame a 1-13 defeat on map one, which would have completely disheartened almost any other team. But the Russians kept their cool and won the series with three consecutive map wins over their opponents.

Besides Gambit and SMB, Acend and G2 Esports will travel to Berlin in September to attend the third Masters event, where the four teams will play the global elite.

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SMB and Gambit demolish European opposition

The Turkish fans knew this all along, but SuperMassive Blaze showed why they are a force to be reckoned with during the Playoffs. Eliminating FunPlus Phoenix in their first game and totally obliterating G2 Esports in their second, the outfit of Sage ace Mehmet 'Turko' Özen found themselves in the Upper Bracket Finals against Acend. EU’s number one was the team to beat before the tournament, and SMB made it work. Although the Turks lost the first map 13-6, they recovered from being down 0-1 in maps thanks to the impeccable performance of Sentinel player pAura, and turned the series around 2-1.

Gambit’s run to the Grand Final wasn’t any less impressive. Being cast down into the Lower Bracket by Acend, they beat Team Liquid and G2 Esports before taking their revenge against Acend in the Lower Bracket Finals 3-1. Their final test would be against SMB in the overall finals – a team which had looked unbeatable up until that point.

SMB untouchable?

On the first map, Ascent, it looked like Gambit were not up for the task. Starting as attackers, they couldn’t find an opening against SMB, who outclassed them across the board. In particular, Baran 'Izzy' Yılmaz’s Jett and Eren 'Brave' Kasırga’s Omen shut down any attempt from the Russians. Gambit were down 0-12 after changing sides and could only win one pistol round as defenders before they had to admit defeat (1-13).

It takes a lot to recover from that, but captain Igor 'Redgar' Vlasov managed to keep his players motivated and they stabilised after several tough rounds on Split. Switching from the attacking to the defending side, Gambit gained more confidence and we saw what their individual players are capable of. Even Turko wasn’t able to deny Gambit’s victory and the Russians took the map 13-11.

Gambit are back in the game

On Bind, map three in this series, nAts came into play in a major way. Before the match, he was a much discussed player on the panel and was even dubbed EMEA’s best Sentinel by FPX mastermind Kiril 'ANGE1' Karasiow. In the Grand Final he hadn’t been as impactful as one might have expected. However, in game three he showed what he can do, displaying a more than solid performance on Viper, racking up 19 frags. Meanwhile, SMB had trouble adjusting to the shifting power balance and couldn’t handle what Gambit was throwing at them. They lost the map 5-13 and all of a sudden it was match point for Gambit.

The fourth map would be played on Haven, which was SMB’s pick. But if the fans of the Turkish champions expected a spectacular turnaround, they were to be disappointed. Gambit was now in full flow, aiming for the victory that had appeared on the horizon. Once more it was nAts – this time on Cypher – who dominated his opponents. But also his teammate Timofey 'Chronicle' Khromov, who picked Brimstone, made it look easy and contributed much to Gambit’s performance.

By halftime, Gambit boasted a solid 9-3 lead and turned it into a 13-3 victory with ease. They did it. Gambit, who faced two elimination matches before coming into the finals, took down the best team up until that point. With their victory, Gambit was finally able to claim a cross-regional tournament win after being eliminated in the round-of-four in the last Playoffs.

EU’s predominance is broken

With six European teams entering the tournament, EU was arguably the most favoured region. Powerhouses such as Acend, Team Liquid, and G2 Esports were considered favourites before the tournament by many fans and experts. However, the first days of the Playoffs had already proved that the EU teams were far from invincible, when Team Liquid were cast down to the Lower Bracket by Natus Vincere for example.

Acend played a very strong tournament. First, the team of duelist virtuoso Mehmet Yağız 'cNed' İpek defeated NaVi 2-0, overcame Gambit with a convincing 2-1, but then they faced two losses in a row, eliminating them from the Playoffs. With this solid third place, Acend have qualified for Berlin as one of EMEA’s representatives in the global tournament.

The second EU team going to Berlin will be G2 Esports. Spanish ace Oscar 'mixwell' Cañellas and company feared for their tournament lives after a disastrous 0-2 loss against SMB (4-13 and 5-13). G2 managed to turn a 0-1 disadvantage around against Giants Gaming in the decisive match to advance to the top 4.

Meanwhile, Team Liquid failed to qualify for their second Masters, but they came within a whisker of doing so. On the deciding map against Gambit they displayed a killer comeback, almost turning the series after being down 4-10. They took the game to overtime, but nAts and Chronicle (who else?) carried Gambit to victory (16-14).

All results from the EMEA Challengers Playoffs Stage 3

1stGambit Esports€32,500qualifies for M3
2ndPapara SuperMassive Blaze€15,500qualifies for M3
3rdAcend€10,000qualifies for M3
4thG2 Esports€7,500qualifies for M3
5th-6thTeam Liquid€4,50050
Giants Gaming€4,50050
Guild Esports€2,50040
9th-12thOxygen Esports€1,50030
FunPlus Phoenix€1,50030
Natus Vincere€1,50030

Field for Masters Berlin complete

As of last week, our line-up for the upcoming Masters Berlin has been determined. EMEA will be represented by four teams in Germany's captial: SMB, Gambit Esports, G2 Esports and Acend. Notable contenders from other regions include the winners of Masters Reykjavík Sentinels (NA) and their rivals 100 Thieves (NA), as well as the Korean champions Vision Strikers.

SuperMassive BlazeEMEAGambit EsportsEMEA
AcendEMEAG2 EsportsEMEA
SentinelsNA100 ThievesNA
Team EnvyNAKRÜ EsportsLATAM
Havan LibertyBRVivo KeydBR
Vision StrikersKRF4QKR
Bren EsportsSEAPaper RexSEA

16 teams will fight at Masters Berlin, the second global VCT tournament ever, from 10-19 September. Apart from a considerable amount of money and many points, teams will compete for direct qualification to VALORANT Champions, the first official VALORANT world championship, set to take place in December. If you want to know who else might attend VCT's most prestigious event later on, have a look at our article about the Last Chance Qualifier.

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Photo credit: Gambit Esports / Riot Games