Liquid are the third team to clinch a spot in the IEM Katowice playoff stage following a hard-fought win over Vitality, who took the lead in the series in an overtime Nuke victory but looked somewhat the pace in the remainder of the series as Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo powered their team to victory. Meanwhile, Gambit claimed another scalp against world No.6 Heroic thanks to an imperious display by Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov, and are now just one victory away from reaching the playoffs.
The main-stream series began with a blistering start from Vitality, who romped to a 6-0 lead on the CT side of Nuke with some great fragging output by Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and Cédric “RpK” Guipouy. Liquid responded in a low-economy round thanks to a quad-kill by EliGE, and used that momentum to rally back and bring the deficit to just three rounds before the break.
Vitality came out of the break the livelier of the two sides, winning five of the opening six rounds of the half to get within striking distance of victory. Liquid tightened up after that and took the upper hand, coming back from five map points down to force overtime. However, their efforts would be in vain as Vitality won two rounds in each half to lock down the map.
The French team carried their momentum into Vertigo as they hopped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but the landscape of the game changed once Liquid had money in the bank. Apart from a brief period of respite for Vitality thanks to two great rounds by Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, the rest of the half was dominated by the North Americans, who took ten rounds into the break. Liquid showed no signs of slowing down after the side switch, and even though things got a bit testy after Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier gave the French side a lifeline with a stunning Desert Eagle quad-kill, they would be able to close out the map comfortably.
Liquid took control from the outset on Mirage and finished the half on double-digit territory as Vitality were against the ropes for most of their CT side and could not string rounds together. It was roles reversed after the break as the North Americans could not hold the opposition back in the early stages, but a comeback was beyond Vitality: EliGE and FalleN stepped up to the plate and pulled the team over the finishing line as apEX‘s troops seemed to run out of gas in the dying stages.
Meanwhile, viewers on the secondary stream were treated to a back-and-forth brawl that had spirited comeback attempts thwarted in the closing stages of Overpass and Inferno. After those two closely-contested maps, Mirage ended up being a demolition job as Gambit breezed past their opponents in a game that saw them win all five clutch situations, three of which by sh1ro, who posted a 1.85 rating.