The penultimate day of the Challengers stage started with some really exciting Counter-Strike gameplay. Team Liquid and NIP ensured their Legends Status by winning their respective matches on Day 4. The first two games were between teams with a 2-0 score in the Swiss stage. In order to advance to the next stage, a team has to win 3 matches in the Challengers stage.
Team Liquid edge past Vega Squadron on Cache
The third day of the Challengers stage started with Team Liquid taking on Vega Squadron in the initial match. Team Liquid chose Cache as their map pick in order to gain an advantage with the open nature of the map. The match started with Vega winning the pistol rounds and the subsequent gun rounds. Team Liquid did not seem to have an answer on the fourth either. However after a strategic choice and the correct mid-round calls they were able to finally get a round on board by eliminating all Vega Squadron players. They won the subsequent round as well, but the economy was a big problem for Liquid on the CT side. Vega Squadron looked all set for a strong T side half before Liquid pulled back in the last few rounds of the Map. Twistzzz had a very impressive last round of the half thanks to his excellent crosshair placement. Team liquid was always in a position to trade frags and end up with a superior body count.
The second half of the map started with Team liquid showing us their dominance on the T side of the map. They had some really impressive
strategies which left Vega Squadron squandering for money. Without adequate nades and often with a force buy, Vega Squadron quickly fell behind Team liquid. Despite having an 8-7 halftime score (favouring Vega Squadron), Team Liquid quickly marched to 15-12. With threematch points for Team Liquid, this looked like an easy task for the North American players. However, Vega Squadron had a decent buy after three consecutive round losses. They were able to hold down Liquid and secure overtime.
The Overtime rounds between the two teams were extremely close. Once again we saw the tug of war between the two teams. While Team liquid won the first two rounds, Vega Squadron was quick to reply with the next two. This tied up the score at 17-17 before Team liquid was able to finish out the match with a 19-17 scoreline. With this win, they become the first team to earn their Legends spot for the Majors. They will next play on September 12th and will have ample time to prepare for their opponents.
The Ninjas win over Astralis after an intense quadruple Overtime match
The Ninjas in Pyjamas is probably one of the most fan-favourite teams in Counter-Strike. Despite not having a strong performance, NIP has always commanded a strong fan following. They were unable to qualify for the last two majors despite the best efforts from Get_Right and F0rest. NIP faced off against Astralis in the qualification match for the Legends stage. It was a tough task since NIP is generally considered inferior to Astralis in their current form.
But this NIP roster was here to play. They did not have a good start to the match. Get_Right was notably absent from the scoreboard for much of the first half. His performance notwithstanding, Lekro and Rez were able to lift the team up as they barely managed 5 rounds on their CT half. Astralis looked in full control of the map and NIPs economy as well. With several force-buys and repeated resets, NIP just looked distraught and not at the same level as Astralis.
The second half started, however with NIP dominating the first few rounds despite Astralis winning the pistol. NIP was quickly able to close the gap in rounds to 11-9 from the halftime score of 10-5. This was followed by a few more rounds to reach 13-13. The Astralis economy was completely broken at this time. NIP was able to squeeze out the remaining two rounds as they had 2 match points to claim victory. But as we will see throughout the match, Astralis just did not want to give up. They fought till the very end and ensured that the map would go to
The back and forth between the two teams continued through Overtime. With NIP often taking the early lead and ensuring they have a chance to win the game in Overtime, it always looked like the Ninjas would win. But you should never count Astralis out; the Danes were always able to come back and ensure they have another chance to potentially win the map. NIP had 4 instances where they were on map point and could have secured a victory. But Astralis’ insistence along with some excellent movement through the map ensured that Astralis was always threatening another Overtime. The game went on to quadruple overtimes before NIP was able to finally secure victory against Astralis.
These two teams have a long history when it comes to playing against each other. However, in this match, it was the young guns in Rez and Lekro who ensured that NIP was able to put forth a strong performance. This was definitely an upset as very few expected NIP to be able to win against the ‘World’s best team’. With this loss, Astralis’ dominance does look shaky, especially as they were also unable to defeat North Gaming during Dreamhack Cup Masters Stockholm.
NIP and Liquid move to the Legends Stage
With these overtime victories, NIP and Team Liquid become the first teams to qualify for the Legends stage. This also ensures that they will not have to play in the Major qualifiers for the next CS: GO Major. The top eight teams from the Challengers stage proceed to the Legends stage. With NIP and Liquid already securing their position, there is still place for six more teams to qualify to the Legends stage.
The matches are currently live on Twitch.