Following the end of a messy group stage for several top-level teams, the struggles for OG and Team Liquid, who were both eliminated from ESL One Birmingham.
By the time playoffs started, Alliance, Forward Gaming, Keen Gaming, and Ninjas in Pyjamas had all been sent home as well after finishing with the worst records in their respective groups.
In Group A, NiP only managed to win a single series against Forward. That left them with a mediocre 4-6 record and after OG split their series with Liquid, they became the second team eliminated from the event. Forward was the first elimination, with just a 2-8 record, after only taking a game off of Liquid and TNC Predator.
Meanwhile, Group B was a lot more clear, with fewer splits. In fact, it became apparent early which teams were going to be fighting for their tournament lives heading into the final day.
Alliance was in a similar boat to Forward after losing every close game and only managing to pick up two wins, both against LGD Gaming. But that still wasn’t enough to save them from elimination.
Keen Gaming looked solid early on, with a sweep against Alliance and taking a game off of Team Secret, but they fell apart in the matches between those showings. Two 0-2 losses knocked them to the final elimination spot, but they still had a chance to save themselves with a win over Gambit Esports in the final game of the entire stage.
If Keen won, they would eliminate Gambit and move on, but Gambit instead doused the Chinese team’s hopes. It was a quick 2-0, with one match lasting just 19 minutes as Gambit strolled into the playoffs and Keen were sent packing early for the third event in a row.
Moving into the main event, the playoffs started hot with Liquid and Gambit battling in the lower bracket. Liquid was the favorite and despite being much more experienced than Gambit, Gambit pulled through in the longer matches.
Liquid had a handle on things early, but by the end of the laning phase, Gambit had a slight advantage. That difference only grew as the CIS squad rallied behind Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin and his Sand King and shut down Liquid’s game, which featured a successful Aegis steal.
Game two saw Liquid rebound behind Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi’s signature Morphling play and his great use of spacing. It was a 30-minute game that put both sides into a crucial decision-making position for the third game’s draft.
Liquid once more drafted Morphling, matching it with a Broodmother and their own Sand King to further zone their opponents. Gambit answered by pulling completely ditching their previous attempt and going with an Earth Spirit and Templar Assassin mixup.
That Broodmother pick ended up being the downfall of Liquid. Gambit focused on the slower hero, killing Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen, and forcing him from the lanes. It got to the point where Liquid had to actively defend MATUMBAMAN, which allowed Gambit a wider range of attack options.
Eventually, Liquid was forced to spend resources to in buyback, but Gambit just ran them over again to secure the victory.
The final first-round matchup was a battle between two European powers, OG and Secret. Unlike the previous series, Secret was the one in control from the start. Secret piled on the kills early and often, not letting OG rest or gather their defenses as they took game one.
At match point, Secret pulled out Mars for Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg in draft, something they had done several times in groups, to very mixed results. It ended up being a key factor for them in the second game as they blew through OG in another quick win.
Matches continue June 1 at 6am CT, when Secret will try to best TNC in order to make it into the next round.