Gambit top EMEA Pro League despite Alliance victory

The Russian squad proved once again that they're one of the best in the world.

Image via Gambit Esports

The final day of the first split’s regular season took place with concurrently running lobbies, so no teams would be handed an unfair advantage with knowledge of how other teams finished. Groups A and C featured Gambit, the pacesetters for EMEA, who were guaranteed a spot in the online playoffs regardless of the day’s outcome. Teams like Gambit, GMT, and Alliance were all searching for placement within the Pro League top 10, since those squads would receive a head start on points in playoffs. Quite a few teams in the lobby needed points to either secure playoffs or safety from the relegation zone. Among them, Natus Vincere loomed largest by reputation, with the Na’Vi squad sitting in 28th place—only three points away from the final playoff spot and just two points above the relegation zone. 

The lobby quickly congregated around Big Maude in the first match of the day as early circle pulls indicated the final zones finishing either on Rampart’s shop or in the paintball course just outside of it. The early rotation served GMT Esports well, who maintained their safe position around Big Maude, picking up kills where they could before finally pushing for the victory.

The play of the match, however, once again came from Gambit IGL Konstantin “Hardecki” Kozlov, who turned a kidnap play on Wraith into a one-man wrecking crew.

While GMT took the win and 11 kills with it, Gambit and Na’Vi were close behind after the first game, with the second and third place teams securing 10 and nine kills, respectively.

Game two took the competing teams to Lava Fissure. The multiple levels and buildings of the POI made for a chaotic endgame, with 10 teams still alive at the beginning of the final circle. With several of the lobbies top teams going down early in game two, it was all down to Rascals, who secured the best spot in the final circle and played the endgame to perfection.

While several teams were groups around the final house in the zone or on the low ground, with only a Valkyrie ultimate as an option, Rascals held a more open spot across from the house, with some rocks and a truck for cover. When all the teams in the house were forced to abandon their safe haven, they all fell into combat with each other, leaving an easy victory for Rascals after they swept up the remnants of those fights. The game put Rascals atop the lobby, with GMT and Gambit still close behind.

Game three’s zones didn’t deviate much from game two, with the circle pulling into the field between Countdown and Landslide. That field is notorious for the lack of cover, with only a handful of rocks and boxes available. To raise the stakes, the zone pulled to the south of the lone tower in the field, meaning the only “god spot” in the area wasn’t even available to play after round five. The final circle was set up to be a pure test of fighting and situational awareness. 

Naturally, up stepped Hardecki.

With both of his teammates down and out, you’d be forgiven for thinking the best-case scenario for Hardecki with seven other teams still alive would be to simply survive for an extra few seconds. Instead, the Gambit captain thrived amidst the chaos, finding every nook and cranny and staying overlooked by other teams fighting each other. Despite being the only solo player, he not only won the game for Gambit, but notched four more kills for his team as well. It was a masterclass in solo play, using his cover and extremely consistent Flatline shots to push other teams into each other before coming out with the clutch one-vs-two situation in the end. It was one of the best Apex plays in recent memory, if not ever, and he had the stats to prove it as well: six kills and over 2,200 damage, pushing Gambit to a commanding lead.

Game four featured an almost identical ending zone to game three, giving teams a chance to correct their mistakes from the previous game. This time, however, the lobby was much more willing to take fights earlier, and Gambit went out early. Instead, it was Alliance who took home the win.

With GMT and free agent squad NEW both down a player, Alliance recognized the situation and were careful not to overextend to finish off one team or the other. Their patience was rewarded with a rather easy win in the endgame, after GMT succumbed to the firepower of both Alliance and NEW, while NEW couldn’t pick up their third member before Alliance collapsed on them, sealing the game. The early exit for Gambit did mean GMT closed the gap between first and second considerably, however. The two teams were only separated by one point with two games left.

Alliance rattled the scoreboard with a second consecutive victory in game five, again playing patiently and not over-extending, only engaging when necessary. They were joined in their big game by second-place NEW, who jumped to the top of the lobby just ahead of Alliance.

With just one game remaining, the top five in the lobby were separated by just four points. At the other end of the lobby, teams like Na’Vi and Zeta Division needed a big final game if they wanted to qualify for playoffs.

The last game of the day featured a big game by a team desperately needing points, although it wouldn’t be Na’Vi or Zeta Division. Clean, the free agent squad featuring former TSM coach Martin “gdolphn” Skrydstrup, clutched up in a big way on the northern edge of the map.

The Climatizer zone was closely contested by multiple teams at the top of the lobby, but Clean came out on top. Ultimately, Alliance took the overall victory on the day, followed closely by Gambit. Clean’s victory elevated the squad’s finish to sixth.

With all games completed in EMEA, that finish was good enough for Gambit to finish first overall in Pro League’s first split, comfortably finishing above Alliance in second. The day was a huge one for NEW as well, whose third place in the final lobby secured a playoff spot. Meanwhile, both NaVi and Zeta Division slumped to disappointing finishes outside of the top 20, with NaVi only narrowly avoiding the relegation zone. 

With the first split’s regular-season play done, all that’s left of the split is playoffs and qualifiers, where teams from the Challenger Circuit compete with the relegation zone squads for a spot in the second Pro League split. For now, however, one thing is certain: Gambit is on top of EMEA, and everyone is simply chasing them.