The opening day of The Bucharest Minor was full of tough competition as Group A battled to see who among them would be the first to make it into the playoff’s Upper Bracket.
Things kicked off with a series between the top seed from China, Keen Gaming facing off against European power Ninjas in Pyjamas. This is the first time the two teams have faced each other during the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit.
Keen looked completely prepared for their opponent right out the gate as they steamrolled their way to a 21-minute victory. Through the entire first game, NiP looked totally outclassed, managing to take only one tower and just four kills in comparison to Keen’s 33.
One of Keen’s strengths against the more established squad was their use of unconventional tactics that fall outside of the normal meta. This was a clear example of distinct regional differences, as Keen used several builds that are more common in the China scene rather than Europe.
Those less standard picks worked well through the first game but after a nice draft by NiP, they looked a lot more comfortable during game two. The 26-minute contest wasn’t totally one-sided, but the final minutes were all NiP as they managed to close things out and even the series up 1-1.
During game three, it looked obvious early that NiP wasn’t at the top of their game. Though the match lasted over 36 minutes, Keen was in control almost the entire time. With a final kill differential of 47-14 and NiP only claiming a single structure, Keen was the first team in the event with a series win.
The second matchup in Group A was the flaming hot Gambit Esports – who just took first after beating OG at WePlay! Dota 2 Winter Madness – and the sole North American representative, Team Team.
Gambit was the heavy favorite going into the match, but Team Team surprised a lot of people by opening things up with a game one victory. Both teams were evenly matched through the majority of the 35-minute match, but during the last five is when TT really put it all together.
In just those final minutes, TT managed to wipe Gambit twice and sealed the first win of the series for themselves. But after that impressive burst, TT never really got the chance to do it again.
Game two was complete domination for Gambit. They tore through TT’s defenses while still playing things safe enough to control the entire map. With a K/D ratio of 22-2, Gambit tied the series up and made a statement while doing so.
TT managed to find some footing in game three, but it wasn’t enough to force Gambit’s hand. The game lasted just under 37 minutes, with both teams keeping pace with each other to start off.
It took Gambit a little time, but eventually, they built a small lead and extended it as the game went on. By the end, Gambit had complete control and took the 2-1 win.
With the opening matches done, the two victorious teams met in the Winner’s Match to decide who would take the top seed out of their group.
Based on the previous rounds it looked like Keen and Gambit would have a very competitive series, but in the end, Gambit continued to build momentum.
Game one went about 32 minutes and was close at the beginning as both teams traded kills and built up their resources. It wasn’t until the second half of the game that Gambit really came alive and started pulling ahead.
After securing their lead and then the win in game one, Gambit didn’t slow down. They almost doubled Keen’s kills in the second game at 30 to 16 and only lost two of their structures. It still wasn’t a dominant display, but they outplayed their opponents by a fair margin.
Right after the Winner’s Match came the Loser’s Match, pitting NiP against TT to see who would be the first to drop into the lower side of the playoff bracket.
That series really could have gone either way, as both teams were almost evenly matched the entire way through.
Game one saw TT looking solid as they built a comfortable lead before getting outmaneuvered in the final stages and drop to 0-1 despite their excellent early play. The story didn’t get any better for them in game two, where they played in NiP to a 19-19 standstill in kills, but badly execute a late rotation that led to another loss.
As TT slid into the Lower Bracker, NiP went on to face Keen in a rematch of the very first match of the day.
Things looked interesting early, with NiP keeping pace with Keen to start the first game of the runback, but that quickly rang hollow. Keen picked up the pace late in game one and looked like their opening round selves as the capped a 34-minute victory.
Game two was much of the same, NiP playing defensive and looking to exploit small openings in their opponent’s strategy while Keen was more focused on building resources for the late game. That actually seemed to work in NiP’s favor for a good while, but despite a solid advantage in structures and positioning, their late game resources were lacking.
Keen finished their 2-0 sweep by forcing GGs after nearly 55 minutes of play, securing the second seed from their group while the European squad dropped into Lower Bracket.
With Group A’s outcome decided, Group B will start their own competition at 2 a.m CST Jan. 10, when Playmakers Esports take on EHOME.