Steven R. February 20, 2019
Natus Vincere and Team Liquid are off to a strong start in Katowice.
The veteran teams both took clean wins to start their runs in the New Legends Stage, besting G2 Esports and Avangar, respectively. But while both managed to advance to 1-0, they reached that point in very different ways.
Na’Vi entered Katowice with a number of questions about the CIS team’s status. Despite being heavily credentialed and retaining the services of international star Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, rumors of strife in the roster have lingered for over a year. The team has been successful, but the analyst desk openly speculated that roster changes are inevitable regardless of how Na’Vi perform at the Katowice Major.
If infighting is happening, it didn’t show up in competition. Na’Vi looked dominant against G2 Esports, with s1mple posting strong numbers and Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev topping the scoreboard. While G2 Esports looked formidable towards the end of the New Challengers Stage, those performances didn’t translate to success against Na’Vi, who took a convincing 16-7 win.
Liquid’s path to victory was slightly more fraught. Despite being heavy underdogs, Avangar proved quite the challenge for Team Liquid early on.
The game seemed to be headed towards a quick end when Liquid ran to a 7-3 start on Overpass’ attacking side, but an overwhelming display by Alexey "qikert" Golubev allowed Avangar to rally back and nearly take the win. Liquid would return fire with seven straight rounds in the second half to steal the map 16-12, but only did so thanks to a pair of clutch plays from Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken.
With these wins, Na’Vi and Liquid lock down a guaranteed spot in the 2019 Berlin Major and move a bit closer to a berth in the Champions Stage playoffs. Both teams need two more series wins in order to advance and make a run at major championship glory.