The LAN finals for season 3 of the ESL Pro League kicked off yesterday, and it had plenty of nail-biting Counter-Strike action. Eight teams in total have made it to the finals, including four from Europe and four from North America.
The double-elimination group stage opened with a one-two punch of surprise results, as both favorite teams from Group A suffered upsets. US team OpTic Gaming, who have never played in a LAN tournament in Europe before, gave Astralis a severe wake-up call in the opening match. Facing them in a best-of-1 series on Inferno, OpTic played a strong first half on the Terrorist side, taking nine rounds and holding the Danish superstars to six. After half-time, OpTic played an immensely strong Counter-Terrorist side and took seven rounds while only giving up one.
In the group's equally surprising second game, Brazilian MLG Columbus champions Luminosity were upset by G2 Gaming. After dominating the French-Belgian squad 11-4 in the first half of the map, Luminosity basically collapsed. G2 put 12 rounds on the board and only gave up a single round, putting the final score at 16-12 in their favour.
That meant Astralis and Luminosity would face each other in the first elimination series of the finals. The best-of-3 series turned out to be a real nail biter. Astralis took the first map, Dust2, after trailing Luminosity 7-8 at halftime. Strong CT play in the second half saw them close the game 16-9.
The following two maps, Overpass and Train, were even closer, with Astralis holding 9-6 leads at halftime of both games. Yet in both games Luminosity took charge on their CT half and pulled off amazing clutch plays and retakes, with team captian Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo in particularly showing how lethal he can be with the AWP. Astralis' Nicolai "devi1ce" Reedtz played great games as well, but to no avail. Luminosity took the series 2-1, and Astralis are heading home.
G2 went on to beat OpTic Gaming 16-7 in the winners match, putting them in the semifinal. OpTic will face Luminosity in a bo3 series late this afternoon, to determine who goes home and who gets the second semifinal spot in group A.
In group B, the much rejuvinated Ninjas in Pyjamas pulled a massive comeback in their opening game against Team Liquid. Playing on Dust2, the US team's strongest map, the Ninjas looked like they were on the ropes at halftime, getting only two rounds on the boards as Terrorists while Liquid locked up 13. But the Swedish team reversed that score in the second half, putting in 13 rounds of their own while only letting up two. Eight of those round wins came as Liquid were sitting on match point, putting the game into overtime.
In overtime, Liquid again pulled ahead early with a 15-18 score before crashing again, and Ninjas in Pyjamas closed the game at 22-18.
Fnatic dispatched Cloud9 16-10 in their opening game, meaning the winners match for the semifinal spot was an all-Swedish affair. With Fnatic's superstar Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer still being out of the game due to an injury, Ninjas in Pyjamas were the clear favourites. NiP predictably won the game 16-9, putting them in the semifinals.
Cloud9 and Team Liquid will face each other in a bo3 series as the first match of the day, starting around 13:00 BST / 14:00 CEST. The winner will face Fnatic for the second semifinal spot in group B, while the loser goes back to the States.
You can watch the action on the ESL twitch channel.