Acend topples Gambit to win VCT Champions 2021

By Kenneth Williams


Dec 12, 2021

Reading time: 8 min

Acend has taken the first-ever Valorant Champions Tour with a 3-2 victory over Gambit in the grand finals.

The European roster took the inaugural VCT final with a back-and-forth series against the favorite. Acend’s playoff run included solid victories over Team Secret and Team Liquid before the razor-close final series. The match featured multiple comebacks and insane clutches from both sides. Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek distinguished himself as the MVP with multiple crutches and insane plays in the toughest Valorant tournament of the year. Acend will now enter the 2022 VCT season as the team to watch.

Gambit stage massive Breeze comeback game one

After the map picking phase, Gambit chose to start on Breeze while Acend chose Ascent. A successful pistol round gave Acend an early economic advantage but that was derailed in round three thanks to a couple of unexpected early picks. Now on the back foot, Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt stepped up with essentially a one-versus-four clutch. The great play on KAY/O immediately put a halt to Gambit’s momentum shift.

Recognizing its economic advantage, Acend began to slow down the pace and use Breeze’s infamously long sightlines to its advantage. The squad began to rack up rounds on defense thanks to more phenomenal sniping from cNed’s Jett. Multiple unsuccessful ecos from Gambit led to a 9-1 scoreline, but a last-minute breakthrough earned two more rounds heading into the switch.

Staring death in the face, Gambit immediately rallied back into the fight. The defensive core of Killjoy, Viper, and Sova began paying dividends with several airtight site defenses. Excellent fragging from zeek and Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński put Acendup to 10, but the Russian side’s momentum barely faltered. A site attempt after A site attempt fell to multiple clever crossfires. Acend’s map to lose quickly became Gambit’s map to win.

Now at Gambit’s 10 rounds to Acend’s 11, Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin scored 12 kills in a row without dying to top the scoreboard. Not even a tactical timeout from Acend could hamper Gambit’s mental game. If anything, it gave the Russians a renewed sense of confidence. Round 24 was a nailbiter, but one last A site defense earned Gambit the first map in the best-of-five.

Acend bounce back on Ascent

Map two started with a production gaffe that listed an Omen pick for Gambit, but that quickly swapped to Skye for Bogdan “Sheydos” Naumov. Gambit quickly wrapped up the pistol, but Acend clawed back with several precise Sheriff shots. The pan-European team secured the first gun round as well, which led a lighting-quick B take and a successful defense.

The domination continued throughout the first half with fast hits to both sites and very clever information plays from Igor “Redgar” Vlasov’s Astra. A 6-1 scoreline prompted a tactical pause from the Russians which brought a second round. Acend proved it was a fluke by taking round 9, but a monster spray from Sheydos kept Gambit alive in the first half. Gambit secured a fourth round to evade the dreaded 3-9 curse and even picked up a fifth right before the half.

Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi’s Sova usually plays a more passive role, but multiple aggressive peaks secured several rounds in the second half. A three-versus-four save prompted by Gambit’s dwindling economy put Acend on map point. A final huge ultimate from BONECOLD cemented a 1-1 scoreline.

Chronicle and nATs dunk on ACEND for map three

The draft for game three included an unexpected Brimstone for Gambit’s Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov. A shock triple by nATs in the pistol round secured the early advantage on the newest map, Fracture. That spiraled into four more rounds for Gambit, prompting a tactical timeout. A sneaky defuse from starxo finally earned a foothold for Acend, but it didn’t last long.

Gambit immediately responded with extreme aggression. A flank from Chronicle shut down an eco attempt before it even began with a triple kill in the enemy spawn. Clever walls from Sheydos’ Sage prevented almost every retake opportunity. Gambit celebrated its 6-1 lead during a tech pause with cheeky taunts and plenty of eye contact with the cameras. 

Round 10 looked like a potential comeback starter with multiple ultimates and a full buy for Acend, but nATs continued his phenomenal play with a surprise double kill on the flank. His scoreline at the end of round 10 was 16 kills and zero deaths. Gambit led 11-1 at the swap with 36 combined kills between nATs and Chronicle. 

A pistol round blitz ended with a flawless victory for Gambit, who promptly celebrated with teabags across the site. Gambit followed it up with a five-man spawn rush, which was the most successful round for Acend in the entire map. A save later and Gambit closed out the Fracture 13-3 stomp with another flawless round.

Acend takes Fracture in overtime

Acend chose Icebox as the staging ground for a potential comeback. The commentators noted how neither team was comfortable on the map, but Gambit’s momentum gave it a clear advantage. The Russian side’s phenomenal performance on Fracture shone through immediately, with a pick and a plant just 14 seconds in. Acend rebuffed the intense aggression with a successful retake.

Clever lurking from nATs put Gambit on the board, but Acend responded with an aggressive eco that crippled Gambit’s economy. cNed followed it up with his trademark aggressive pushes to make a 4-2 scoreline in his favor. Chronicle responded with a triple kill of his own in a round that seemed guaranteed for Acend. 

Despite the frequent momentum shifts, Acend began grinding out a substantial lead for the first half. starxo and cNed tagged in and out as the star fragger while nasty flicks from BONECOLD supported them. Gambit narrowly avoided the 9-3 curse with a scrambled site defense in round 11. With ACEND up 7-5, the two squads entered the potential last half of the Valorant Champions Tour season.

The two teams traded rounds up to an 8-8 scoreline, but an impressive lineup from Gambit finally secured an economic, mental, and round advantage in one fell swoop. Acend stayed competitive with a thrifty win in round 19. zeek capitalized on the momentum with an extremely aggressive peek that put his team in a successful five-on-three. 

Gambit fired back with a slower pace, setting traps and expending heavy utility to bait overcommitments from ACEND. The strategy earned multiple consecutive rounds for Gambit, but cNed’s sharp aim earned an 11-11 tie. Nikita “D3FFO” Sudakov showed up huge with two snipes to put his team on tournament point, but Acend responded with an extremely quick bomb plant to push things into overtime.

Some intricate rotations combined with clutch fragging from starxo earned the first round for ACEND. A default setup turned into a whirlwind round as Acend cleanly took overtime and pushed a fifth and final map for the VCT grand finals.

Acend seal the deal to defeat Gambit, win VCT Champions 2021

Map five on Split would determine the victor of 2021’s inaugural Valorant Champions Tour. BONECOLD chose Omen for the deciding game, which the commentators noted as a strange pick. ACEND started with a dominant pistol round and a swift retake on B site. The European team followed it up with an insane heaven hold from BONECOLD, who boldly repeeked to earn four frags. Gambit spent the first gun round taking mid control before pouring out of heaven to claim the third round. 

Recognizing that nATs was the only one defending B site, Gambit pivoted towards the right side of the map. ACEND clearly had coordinated its retakes in advance, quickly earning a 6-1 scoreline. The plan of allowing Gambit into the site and playing for the retake was working perfectly. BONECOLD top fragging on Omen was also completely unexpected. Gambit finally earned a second round by the thinnest of margins.

Shaken but not stirred, starxo contributed key frags in round nine to maintain the advantage for ACEND. Forced into an eco, Gambit scored a thrifty to earn its third round of the first half. An aggressive Killjoy ultimate from Chronicle secured mid, but it failed to allow an entry into either site. He corrected his mistake by flanking heaven and securing a plant on B site. cNed failed the one-on-two clutch due to time, leading to a fourth round for Gambit.

Now with some momentum behind it, Gambit went for a risky fake play. D3FFO rang shots on the B site while the spike was planted A. What was supposed to be a simple diversion turned into a man advantage and a free spike. If Gambit made a comeback in the second half, it would all come down to D3FFO’s fake play.

Gambit is famous for its incredible defensive play on Split, so the 7-5 scoreline favoring ACEND was even closer than it looked. The pan-Europeans confidently took the pistol round, but Gambit fired back by anticipating site rushes and countering them with every tool they had. Hiding in smokes and ducking in corners brought it close, but a tactical pause from ACEND stifled the momentum. Two close rounds brought the pan-Europeans to 11-8, just two rounds away from a VCT championship.

With the mental, economic, and ultimate advantage in its favor, ACEND charged into B site looking for tournament point. Two quick frags from starxo secured 12 rounds. Two early picks looked like the nail in the coffin for Gambit. Another pair from cNed put Redgar in the one-on-five clutch. One headshot later, ACEND earned the first ever VCT championship and the lion’s share of the $1 million prize pool.

Who is Acend?

Acend is an esports organization that competes in multiple games between the European and CIS regions. Acend entered into Valorant in 2021 by signing the bulk of a roster formerly sponsored by Raise Your Edge Gaming, and competed in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds before that.

Acend’s roster is made up of the following players:

  • Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi
  • Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek
  • Vladyslav “Kiles” Shvets
  • Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński
  • Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt

While much of European and North American Valorant is built around recycled Counter-Strike professional players, Acend has a roster of young talent that are effectively native Valorant players. Though some have experience in Counter-Strike and Fortnite, Acend is mostly made up of young players who are getting their legs in esports with Valorant.