The explosive start of the playoff stage for IEM Katowice 2021 saw both major favorites, Astralis & Natus Vincere given the boot.
The day started off with a Russian showdown, with Natus Vincere seeing down Gambit in what most fans would have given as an easy sway towards NaVi, especially considering they won last years rendition of IEM Katowice. However, in an unexpected reversal of expectations, Gambit at times made it look easy, with NaVi struggling to find the power they'd used to command a strong 1st place in BLAST Premier Spring Groups 2021 & BLAST Premier Global Final 2020 just several weeks ago.
Gambit, across just two maps took the best of 3, with a 16-12 on Overpass and 16-6 on Train. Overpass started as a fairly simple affair for Natus, taking the first 7 rounds 5-2. Gambit however activated their energy reserves, coming on to level 7-7 shortly before the team switch over. For a short time, NaVi was able to reply in kind, until a level 12-12, after which they started struggling to makes ends meet and for strategies to play out entirely, with Gambit taking control from there to take Overpass.
Gambit didn't slow down going into Train, dropping the initial pistol round but a force in round 2 saw them taking control of the economy to power straight to a massive 11-4 lead at the end of halftime. With Natus unable to figure out what went wrong, or why it went wrong, they managed just a further 2 rounds on the CT side, giving Gambit their huge 16-6 takedown of the former champions of Katowice.
If the viewers thought that was enough drama for one day, we got an unexpected early defeat of Astralis by the hands of Virtus.pro.
Astralis vs Virtus.pro took us across a tour of Overpass (16-10), Train (12-16), and finally Inferno (16-11). With the trio of buster, qikert & YEKINDAR not just performing but over-performing for Virtus.pro, Astralis struggled to connect the dots far too often. YEKINDAR gathered a colossal 75 kills, with Astralis' highest performing killer of device managing just 55. Early on in Overpass, Virtus.pro managed a giant 11:4 lead on the T side, whilst switching to CT saw only the smallest of let-ups, as they took another 5 rounds to Astralis' 6, closing 16-10. A reversal of fortune occurred on Train, Astralis managing to take 8 on both T & CT sides, closing down 16 to 12, after keeping ahead of the economy game which ultimately became there undoing on Inferno. Speaking of, switching to that map, Virtus was swift in its hammering, making sure Astralis only managed a few rounds at a time maximum, keeping their cash flow a point of contention, especially when it came down to key strategies that struggled to materialize due to the funding issues. Eventually, however, Virtus.pro proved the victors and sent Astralis home much earlier than people expected. This will be the earliest exit of Astralis, since they started competing regularly at the IEM Katowice tournaments.
Gambit will next face off against Spirit, and Virtus.pro are now runs into Liquid in tomorrows semi-finals.
Stay tuned, and as always, we'll bring you all the action of note here on Gamer Galaxy!