Despite entering the event as the favorites to win, the Ukrainian squad opened in Shanghai with an upset loss at the hands of Vici Gaming. Not only was the loss an upset, but Na’Vi was stomped twice during the three-game series.
Right from the start on Inferno, things seemed off for Na’Vi. Despite winning a pistol round courtesy of Egor “flamie” Vasilyev, the team failed to convert and dropped the next three rounds to Vici. The team stopped the bleeding with a pair of wins, but found no quarter from there as Vici took match point by breaking off 13 straight rounds.
That loss seemed to wake Na’Vi up for a time. Playing on its choice of map in Train, a monster 27-kill performance from Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev rattled Vici Gaming and propelled Na’Vi to a 16-6 victory.
The good times ended there for the Ukrainians. Despite another strong performance from s1mple, the deciding showdown on Nuke opened with a big first half for Vici Gaming. The Chinese team leveraged the map’s CT side advantage to take a 10-5 lead. While that can be a manageable deficit, Na’Vi flopped hard in the second half as Vici Gaming pressing its advantage and closed things out 16-7.
This is a tough blow for Na’Vi, but not necessarily an unexpected one. Though the top CIS organization posted a strong third-place showing at the 2019 Katowice Major, rumors of interpersonal strife have followed the team, as has an inability to consistently capitalize on big games from star player s1mple. Though it may or may not have found some harmony outside the game in recent months, those in-game issues remain.
By the end of the series, s1mple owned a K/D of 62-41, a +21 difference. The next best on the team was Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev at -2.
That said, there is no way to dismiss the stellar performance of Vici Gaming.
Though it washed out of the Challengers Stage with a 2-3 record, Vici Gaming put on a breakout performance at the Katowice Major. Despite facing overwhelmingly tough competition, it managed to post convincing wins over Fnatic and Cloud9 in the tournament and looked strong in defeat opposite Ninjas in Pyjamas and Team Vitality. Vici Gaming has stuck by its roster in the days since, a move which could pay off for the brand in the long term.
Natus Vincere may have taken a tough loss, but it still has a lot of Counter-Strike left to play in Shanghai. It will look to rebound in a best-of-three series opposite BIG in round two. Meanwhile, Vici Gaming will look to convert its momentum into another win opposite FaZe Clan.