The defending champions of IEM Oakland are back in the grand finals.
After an intense three-game series against SK Gaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas took down the recent EPICENTER champions, in what could easily be described as the Swede’s biggest triumph in 2017.
The series started on one of the Brazilian’s best-known maps, Overpass, and right off the bat, it was evident why the map is a staple of the squad’s arsenal. Entry-fragger Fernando “fer” Alvarenga punished NiP time and time again, as the 26-year-old completely stopped NiP dead in their tracks before they had the chance to deploy their strategies. Looming over the Swedish team on their own side of the map, SK Gaming quickly began winning several consecutive rounds.
Rikard “Xizt” Landström pulled off the first major victory for NiP in the opening half: In a last-ditch effort to stop SK Gaming from defusing the bomb on the A site, Xizt miraculously sprayed down the remaining Brazilian players—which gave NiP a crucial brief respite.
Despite Xizt’s heroic effort, however, SK Gaming proceeded to win two more rounds—putting their lead at 7-1 early in the first half. The tide eventually turned, and the Swedes came back in emphatic fashion, trailing SK Gaming by only one round at the end of the first half. The Swedes appeared to have finally come online, even if they gave away the second pistol round of the map—NiP built upon their comeback in the first half and only gave up two rounds during the second half. Playing on one of their favorite maps, SK Gaming were defeated 16-9.
The second map of the series, Cache, proved to follow a similar pattern to Overpass. SK Gaming broke away from the Swedes and accrued an early lead in the map’s opening half. NiP seemed to have an answer earlier on this time around, but gave away what looked to be a guaranteed round due to a sneaky defuse by Marcelo “coldzera” David.
NiP were once again forced to play catch-up with SK Gaming—but luckily for the Swedish side, Fredrik “REZ” Sterner appeared to be more than up for the task. The 19-year-old entry-fragger secured several crucial kills in multiple rounds, leaving his teammates far behind him in terms of frags. REZ’s performance was definitely the most crucial factor in NiP’s comeback, but despite flashes of brilliance throughout the second half, which included four consecutive kills by Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund on the 20th round, SK Gaming’s grip of Cache proved to be too strong.
The deciding map of the series was Inferno, and for the first time in this series, NiP didn’t provide SK Gaming with an easy start. Instead, both sides constantly traded rounds throughout the opening half with constant battles occurring across the map. The first half ended with an 8-7 scoreline in favor of NiP.
Switching sides, REZ continued the rampage he had started on Cache, and never let up the aggression against the Brazilians. NiP began to run away from SK Gaming in the final map, and after a tactical timeout, the Swedes found the weak point in SK Gaming’s defense: The B bomb site.
Deploying several perfectly-timed molotovs, NiP began to overrun the site consistently, despite quite literally playing with fire after SK Gaming had become aware of the strategy. Ultimately, NiP’s faith in the execute was rewarded, as the Swedes broke through the Brazilian defense once again to put themselves on match point. The final round looked as if it was played as a mere formality, as NiP simply overran SK Gaming—sending the Swedes to their second consecutive IEM Oakland grand final.
NiP will play the winner of Cloud9 vs. FaZe Clan on Nov. 19 at 3:15pm CT.