ENCE and forZe each picked up wins Thursday to set up a head-to-head matchup in the Group D upper-bracket final at the ESL Pro League Season 17 in Saint Julian's, Malta.
In the day's two upper-bracket semifinals, ENCE swept Rare Atom 2-0 and forZe downed Team Spirit 2-1 to set up Sunday's battlefor the top of Group D -- the fourth and final group at the event. Both losing teams dropped to the middle bracket.
In the opening round of the middle bracket, Team Liquid won 2-0 over ATK and Natus Vincere defeated Astralis 2-1. Each losing team fell to the group's lower bracket.
The $850,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament began on Feb. 22 with 32 teams divided into four groups for the triple-elimination opening round.
The group-stage winners move into the quarterfinals, with the group runners-up heading to the Round of 12 as high seeds. The four third-place teams enter in the Round of 16 as high seeds, and the four fourth-place teams go to the Round of 16 as low seeds.
The tournament champion will receive $200,000 plus berths in the Intel Extreme Masters Cologne this summer and the BLAST Premier World Final in December.
ENCE put up Thursday's most dominant showing, outscoring Rare Atom 32-14 in their sweep -- winning 16-3 on Overpass and 16-12 on Nuke. Israel's Guy "NertZ" Iluz led all players with 42 kills for ENCE, while Pawel "dycha" Dycha of Poland produced a match-best plus-18 kills-to-deaths differential.
The victorious forZe crew flipped its opening map against Spirit, turning around an 8-2 deficit in a 14-0 burst to take Mirage 16-8. Spirit tied the match with a 16-7 victory on Anubis, which included their own 12-0 run. The final map was a 16-4 runaway for forZe on Ancient to clinch the win. Aleksandr "zorte" Zagodyrenko powered forZe's all-Russian squad with 54 kills and a plus-29 K/D differential.
Liquid took successive maps in their mid-bracket sweep over ATK, claiming Mirage 16-12 and Overpass 16-7. American Josh "oSee" Ohm topped Liquid with 45 kills and a match-high plus-19 K/D differential, while ATK's Michael "Swisher" Schmid led all players with 46 kills.
NaVi used a critical 9-0 spurt to take their opening map 16-11 on Ancient before Astralis evened things with a 16-3 rout on Overpass. NaVi trailed 7-2 on Inferno before rallying for a 16-12 triumph. Ukraine's Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev carried NaVi with 57 kills and a plus-10 K/D ratio to lead all players.
Group A play finished on Feb. 26 with Cloud9 coming in first, Outsiders in second, G2 Esports in third and Fnatic in fourth. Group B action ended on March 5 with Heroic in first, followed by MOUZ, FURIA Esports and Movistar Riders. In Group C, which concluded Sunday, the top four, in order, were Team Vitality, FaZe Clan, paiN Gaming and 00 Nation.
Group D play continues on Friday with two matches:
--Team Spirit vs. Team Liquid (mid-bracket semifinal)
--Rare Atom vs. Natus Vincere (mid-bracket semifinal)
ESL Pro League Season 17 prize pool and points distribution:
1. $200,000, 3,000 BLAST Premier points, qualification for Intel Extreme Masters Cologne and BLAST Premier World Final
2. $90,000, 2,000 BLAST Premier points
3-4. $50,000, 1,200 BLAST Premier points
5-8. $35,000, 500 BLAST Premier points
17-20. $15,000 -- Eternal Fire, BIG, Ninjas in Pyjamas
21-28. $8,000 -- MIBR, IHC Esports, SAW, Complexity Gaming, OG, Grayhound Gaming
29-32. $4,000 -- Evil Geniuses, Imperial Esports, Rooster
--Field Level Media